Handwritten Perspectives


In most of today’s world, the paper letter or card has fallen to the wayside. Paper requires trees. Delivery takes time. Transportation of mail across the nation consumes valuable fuel. Contrast this with the instantaneous delivery of texts and emails, which can be efficiently copied, pasted, and sent anywhere in the blink of an eye, and the advantage of electronic messages quickly becomes apparent. A fast-paced, economical lifestyle has little use for handwritten, pen-on-paper communication.

Of course, there are moments when intent, not time, is the priority. A physical letter or card carries with it a sense of thoughtfulness, consideration, and sincerity. Some of this stems from the extra minutes the writer spends composing the message. You begin with a greeting and a few courteous phrases, and end with a salutation and your name. Proofreading is often involved, and without spellcheck, you actually think about the proper order of letters in a word. Handwritten messages are also highly personal: your handwriting is unique, from the slanted l’s to the curly q’s. The uneven spacing between characters and lines reminds the reader that the message came from a human hand, unlike the sterile, precise typefaces that show up on everything from advertisements to campaign messages to monthly bills.

Fortunately, letter writing does not require one to possess specialized tools or fancy equipment. Below, I’ve catalogued a few of my own commonplace and ordinary, yet well appreciated, letter writing items.

A pen and a pencil.

A. THE PEN.

A ballpoint is my favorite. Often, I use it to scrawl a couple of numbers or abbreviations, the rounded point etching inky grooves on the paper’s surface. Sometimes, older pens leave blobby splotches that smudge, or little gaps when the ink isn’t making it out of the pen anymore. To avoid the frustration that inevitably arises from this kind of situation, I tend to stock up on pens by the dozen.

B. THE PENCIL.

I remember using a Ticonderoga wood pencil, with the faceted, yellow-painted surface digging into my fingertips. Taking a dull pencil to a pencil sharpener was always satisfying. However, I haven’t used one for many years. For almost a decade, I have turned to a pair of black mechanical pencils, with spongy rubber grips and silver colored tips. I like that the lead comes in little plastic canisters that are shaped like elongated parallelograms, with gold and ruby red stickers wrapped around the top like a neck scarf.

C. THE MARKER.

The bold lines left behind by the soft, felted tips are always good when I want to get a point across.

An array of markers, pens, pencils, and pencil lead.
A loose stack of note paper

D. The loose page.

The soft swish of pages brushing past another as I flip them is a familiar sound. Most of the time, my papers are haphazardly stacked, with edges angled outwards and corners creased that prevent the stack from lying flat. I must have an aversion to staples and paper clips, because the pages are almost always loose. I also have a dislike for the sticky edges of Post-its, even if it means that the occasional vigorous motion sends my note papers scattering.

E. The card.

Several stacks of blank cards are squirreled away in a worn cardboard box at the top of my closet. Some have thick, rough textures that feel interesting to my fingertips and make me feel like I’m going to write something important. Others are flat and smooth, which makes me want to write in loops and cover the surface with ink.

A card, standing on its side.
An envelope.

F. The envelope.

Even simple envelopes can have many different folds. Some are full of triangles and have pointy flaps, perfect for tucking in. Some have short, rectangular flaps that make it easy to seal them shut. They’re like origami hugs for the message inside, to keep them safe and hidden from prying, curious eyes. I’m bemused by the concept of postcards, which are usually sent on their way without the protective guardianship of an envelope.

G. The stamp.

In essence, a stamp is a receipt and a proof of payment. Diminutive in size, they must be the only kind of receipt I ever collect. The pictures are little surprises that you see even before you open what’s inside. I like the scalloped edges; they provide a nice contrast to the straight edges of my envelopes.

Three letters with colorful stamps.

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