It is nice, I think, when I read about programs like Literacy through Letters and websites like lettrs. This is a program where:
Over 170 students at the Oliver Wolcott Technical High School participated in a full day tutorial on letter writing.The excitement of the students was matched by the teachers who loved the concept of slowing down, thinking, to write with purposeful permanence.
Why is this special? I admit it touches a personal note with me. I grew up during an era where email was non-existent to the common person. Computer geeks at prestigious universities had access to email in the eighties. The rest of us sat down and wrote out our letters. There was something exciting about getting a letter in the mail and I remember a number of times trying out various pen pal programs (none of which ever seemed to last since you don’t have much in common with a stranger across the country or globe). But, I think this idea of letter writing is special for three reasons. These reasons are also intrinsic in that I believe writing improves your game, so-to-speak. Here’s why:
Writing makes you think: Years ago, I used to teach writing, literature and Shakespeare – that sort of thing. I told my students each semester – “In order to write well, you must be able to think well and visa versa.” Good writers are good thinkers – especially when it comes to rhetorical writing. But, even if you are not attempting rhetoric in the form of an essay or whatnot, all writing is an exercise in convincing the reader – convincing the reader of your story, your point, etc. And in order to convince, you must organize your points, your story or your thoughts so they can be put on paper. Writing is an art that forces you through many thinking exercises in the process. It is also an exercise in problem solving. I love a good problem and play chess avidly because I enjoy solving puzzles and problems. Much of the writing I do in this forum involves user experience design, which I largely consider a problem-solving exercise. Writing has helped me over the years learn how to think through problems in other areas of my life.
Writing helps you in all forms of communication: Just as I noted above, you must be organized in your writing. That means organizing your thoughts so they can be expressed on paper in a way people can understand them. You’ll need more than 140 characters to do this. As much as I love Twitter, communication in our world today is severely lacking in many respects. Even the writing in the media lacks objectivity whether you read the liberal of conservative papers. You will find that as your writing improves, so will communication in other areas of your life. Instead tweeting or immediately posting something to your Facebook account, you’ll slow down and think through your message. Do misunderstand me, 140 characters can be powerful if they are thought through well. I am not against minimalism in writing or communication. But I think you only learn this through the process of writing in longer forms and the subsequent editing or revision one must go through.
Writing allows you to discover you: Write enough and you will eventually churn something out you never knew existed inside you. Writing is meditative in many ways – forcing us to reflect upon ourselves and move through a process of self-discovery. This is good for us. But, I won’t promise you will always like what you discover. Sit down and think about how much you really know about “you.” You will probably find there are things you don’t know, memories that were long gone or parts of you that are so deep you have not touched them in years. I have found writing to be somewhat of a Pandora’s Box in many ways and cannot count the times I have discovered something new about myself or an old memory through writing.
Give it a try. I have written about lettrs before and you can read about it here:
But, I think Drew Bartkiewicz is making a noble effort to bring something of substance back to our world through the use of the medium that virtually eliminated the need to write letters.
In case you haven’t heard, the US Postal Service will no longer be delivering on Saturdays. This is how deeply the web has impacted and changed our world. Perhaps efforts like lettrs can change the world again.