I recently reconnected with my maternal grandmother, who passed away nearly 36 years ago. The medium was a letter she wrote to me when I was a teenager. I don’t believe that any encounter happens by coincidence; I am certain the message was preserved for a time when I’d fully appreciate her words.
Referring to a letter I had written to her, she complimented my writing style, adding that my ability to communicate well would serve me later in life. Coming from the one who passed along the “writing gene,” the sentiments from long ago especially touch my heart. I can’t help but wonder about the journalism career the mother of eight might have chosen if she had lived in a different era with fewer responsibilities at home. Instead, she kept in touch with loved ones through handwritten letters that offered her opinions and advice, and spread the latest news. Today, I understand, too, that her corresponding was not only a means of staying connected; writing was also her creative release.
My grandmother wrote her letter to me in pen without any cross outs, and she was ninety years old! When I write a note in pen with the intention to make my words meaningful, I type a rough draft first for a guide to avoid mistakes on the stationery. I seriously doubt my grandmother wrote a rough draft of her letter to me. Nevertheless, she belonged to a generation that took time to consider what they wanted to say before making their words permanent. Thinking before acting meant being focused on the writing process and reviewing their correspondences carefully before posting them the old-fashioned way—i.e. handing them over to a mail carrier or dropping them in a mailbox. They took time to get their words right.
Ironically, now that technology allows us to compose and communicate a multitude of messages to the masses in no time, those who care to contemplate what they will say and then critique their words to ensure they have written something worth remembering—much less worth reading once—are rare. Considering how little the majority of us say in light of how much we post, no one should be surprised
if future generations view our communications as a huge waste of time.
Will our progeny treasure and keep our messages safe, or will they send our words to their virtual wastebaskets?
What do you say?
Sallie W. Boyles, a.k.a. Write Lady