The Death of Letter-Writing
I came across an opinion column lamenting the death of letter writing. Readers of this blog know that letter writing is not dead. There are enough of us who care about the hand-written word that the death knell shall not soon be heard...not in our lifetime at least. The column does however express the concerns many of us have. I offer you a couple quotes and then a link to The New York Times.
These are legitimate concerns. But a less remarked upon and equally worrisome question is what the death of letter writing — and its replacement by emailing — is doing to the process of creative writing itself. Before the advent of email, many writers maintained a healthy relationship with their correspondence; they found letter writing to be a useful complement to their main literary projects. Letters were not only a way to stay in touch with colleagues or test out ideas and themes on the page, but also a valuable method of easing into and out of a state of mind where they could pursue more daunting and in-depth writing.
Is email really such a different beast? I would argue that it is. I recently compiled a book about artists’ daily rituals, and as part of my research I spoke to several contemporary writers, painters and composers about their working habits. Nearly everyone was wary of the distractive potential of email. The novelist Nicholson Baker, for instance, told me that he tries to avoid checking email too early in the day because “it just does change everything. As soon as you have a couple of emails pending, the day has a different flavor.”
Did you know that Charles Darwin would lose sleep if he failed to respond to letters? 'Tis true according to the Times. You can read it here.