The lost art of letter writing

The lost art of letter writing

Letter writing appears to be a lost art in this age of Facebook and Twitter, but my sister Mary Wu shares a bit about one of her long-time favourite hobbies that involves good old-fashioned pen and paper.

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My sister Mary engages in the art of penpalling
My sister Mary engages in the art of penpalling
Photo: Mary Wu
Expert Column
Amy Wu is a lecturer and campus newspaper advisor at Hong Kong Shue Yan University. She loves sharing her passion of writing with young people.
September 09, 2014
September 04, 2014

The following is written by Mary Wu

The rustic scents of various coffee beans around the globe invade my nostrils.  The light jazz and mellowed Indie music plays overhead.  The cup of hot tea warms my soul and cold hands.

I sit in the café that is cluttered with silent and solo introverts who are clinging to their technological gadgets as well as clustered teenagers gabbing about the latest fashions and throwing back their locks of hair to laugh and giggle.  It is all too ironic that a person only feels all the more alone in a room full of people. 

In a day in age filled with anxious people who are glued to their laptops, tablets, and iPads and literally connected to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, I am the one who sits serenely with my glitter and ballpoint pens, colourful cute stickers, and flowered stationary sheets.  My eyes scan and savour the flourished and personalised handwriting on paper from someone across the world who has taken the precious time to write a letter to me. 

People look at me with intrigue and ask, “Are you doing homework, or some kind of project?”

I smile serenely and simply say, “No, I write to people all over the world. I pen pal.”

Confusion and fascination light up in eyes and mouths are closed in speechlessness and wordlessness.

I started the lost art of penpalling when I was a teenager in the late 1990’s. It was the beginning of email, text messaging, Internet, technology, and falsified feelings of ‘connection’ to people when it was ‘connection’ to items. It was the ending era of a deep understanding and appreciation for face-to-face time filled with body gestures, facial expressions, and vocal intonations. Penpalling has carried me through the fast-paced 21st century to be fully present with another person’s thoughts and feelings all on precious paper.

To many, I am an anti-social dinosaur who is locked up in my old-fashioned and isolated ways. To myself, I am making efforts to keep the following alive: the lost art of letter-writing and handwriting, the post offices with unique and intricate stamps, the personal over the impersonal, and the human ability to truly count and enjoy the moments and valuable time with each other rather than with non-living devices and apps. When it comes right down to it, the lost greatest lost art is communication and putting in ticking time and work into relationships and people. 

So, as the jazz music plays, the bright high-definition screens of gadgets blind the majority. I am the minority and more than happy, connected, and content with pens and papers that hold every intention to keep this lost art of letter-writing and the personal relationship beating alive.

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