I am a letter writer. I always have been. As a child I had penpals I had never met. I made friends on holiday then kept in touch via post. These were the days before email and facebook, the days of pen and ink.
I am still a letter writer. I write emails, and have a facebook profile and I twitter. But I still write letters.
My favourite aspect of letter writing is the time lapse between popping that envelope in the post box and knowing it has arrived at its destination. There is nothing like going to bed knowing that your letter is winging its way across the country to arrive on the unexpecting recipient’s doormat next morning. Imagining their surprise when they receive something that isn’t a bill is so satisfying. Sometimes you receive something that isn’t a bill back, but that isn’t the point of the exercise. It’s about bringing a moment of happiness into someone’s life – or if not happiness, at least a moment’s pause. Reading a letter takes time. Personal letters force recipients to take some time out for themselves.
One of the things that most irritates me about the commute is the wasted time spent hanging around at stations wishing away the minutes until your train arrives, followed by the arduous, tiresome demi-hours spent sitting (or standing) doing, well, not very much really! Sometimes I read. Sometimes I write a blog post in one of my notebooks. Sometimes I catch up on missed Zzzzs. But mostly I stare out of the window and let my mind wander.
I love to write to people, but so often feel I don’t have time. This is at least partly because I put so much owness on the act of writing: the ideal that it should be done in quiet and solitude, possibly whilst reclining on my chaise longue with a pot of tea or glass of wine nearby… I feel that writing to someone is proof that you’ve taken time out to think of them. But maybe I need to accept that I don’t have time to take “out” in that manner any longer? Maybe letter writing could prove a productive use of my commuter hours?
On the train into work this morning I wrote two notelets: one is going over the ocean, the other just down the road by comparison. But by the time I got off the train I felt that I’d already accomplished something. And it’s not often I can say that by 7.45am!