My personal blog as a 'grown-up' Goth and Romantic living in the Highlands of Scotland. I write about the places I go, the things I see and my thoughts on life as a Goth and the subculture. Sometimes I write about music I like and sometimes I review things. This blog often includes architectural photography, graveyards and other images from the darker side of life.

The Gothic subculture is not just about imitating each other, it is a creative movement and subculture that grew out of post-punk and is based on seeing beauty in the dark places of the world, and looks back to the various ways throughout history in which people have confronted and explored the macabre, the dark and the taboo, and as such I'm going to post about more than the just the standards of the subculture (Tim Burton, Siouxsie Sioux and Anne Rice et al.) and look at things by people who might not consider themselves anything to do with the subculture, but have eyes for the dark places. Goth should not be limited by what is considered "goth", inspiration comes from all places, the key is to look with open eyes, listen carefully and think with an open mind..

Friday, 23 November 2012

Letters, Postcards and Far-Away Friends

I've got a stack of about 20 letters and cards waiting to be posted. I lost my wallet twice in two weeks and am waiting for a replacement bank card to be sent to me by my bank, so I going to the post office to mail it all has been put on hold. It is quite a varied stack of correspondence; I have a letter for my partner's mother (all mother-in-law jokes do not apply!), postcards for friends in Europe, Solstice and Christmas cards that I am writing now but will post closer to the date, fan mail for Jillian Venters of ::Gothic Charm School::, letters to go home to my Dad, a congratulatory card for my little sister, a ridiculously late birthday card and present for a friend in Australia, updates in art cards for a friend in China, cheerful letters for friends in various militaries, etc. etc. As I was readying this stack of mail for the day I am a) well enough to go outside (I still have the 'flu, and my chapped lips have gotten infected) and b) my new bank card arrives, I came to a realisation:

I actually communicate more by hand-written letters and cards than I do by e-mail. 

It would be considerably cheaper to e-mail all my friends abroad, especially those in China, America, Australia, where not only do I pay for the cards or card-making materials, but also the cost of postage abroad. With e-mails I could fit far more writing into far less space. It's also far quicker for me to type than hand-write (my flowing, curly, and rather ornate handwriting is time-consuming to do neatly!) and then decorate/illustrate my letters. What I am doing is terribly outdated, possibly a bit pretentious (more likely that me talking about it is pretentious) and the internet should have made this all obsolete a decade ago. I do still write (if personal, very long) e-mails to people, but I prefer writing things out by hand, on proper paper, or if really pushed for time, printing things out on nice paper. 

There's a few reasons why I prefer communicating by letter. Basically, I think of why I like getting letters, and reverse the logic to the recipient of the letters I write and hope that they appreciate them too. 

Letters are tangible, hard copies need to be physically destroyed or thrown away to be gone, unlike e-mails that you can delete with a click or loose in a system crash (if you don't back up your e-mails). There is also something more rewarding about receiving a tangible object than an e-mail. An e-mail is just digital information, whereas a postcard is an actual printed card with writing on, or a decorated letter is made of actual paper and ink (and paint or whatever) and my more elaborate card-making and paper-craft projects are all actual objects, not just pulses of electricity (whatever computer code you use, it all boils down to binary, to "on" or "off" in sequence.). I like having letters from friends, I store them away carefully in a decorative box, and go back to that box when I feel miserable, take out the letters, read them, handle them, reminisce, think of the people who sent them to me. Even if they are plain typed letters, reading a letter on paper seems a lot more special than re-reading an e-mail. I even print out e-mails that are special to me. 

Some of my friends are thousands and thousands of miles away from where I live; it is impractical for me to be physically near them. Some I may not see in person for years, if at all, because of the cost of visiting and the time it would take making it prohibitive. I cannot be there with them, but a papery token of my affection can be sent. 

Physical mail, written and decorated by hand, takes a lot of time and effort to make, and is unique. I can print the same letter off five times and get five near-identical letters, but if I write the same letter out five times, there will be variations in my writing, probably a few crossed-out mistakes, a few splodges where I should have blotted or not smudged things with my hands, etc. With cards and postcards, I've taken the time, effort (and negligible money) to pick out a postcard or card that the person will appreciate, and I've still written my message out by hand. I try and find postcards with good photographs of the local area to give a better sense of how beautiful Scotland is than if I tried to photograph things myself. 

Writing by hand gives me almost infinite typographical freedom, too. I can write in my usual handwriting, deliberately adopt 'fonts', write in exaggerated manners, use calligraphy, write words with pictures, add diagrams and illustrations, etc. etc. I can write in whatever colour ink I have available, I can write with a paint-brush, I can write in pencil and draw my messages. I can even very carefully, with ruler, compass, drawing board, etc. draw out in light pencil the framework for my design, and come up with something quite exacting and complex if I so desire. Sometimes I will buy blank cards, and write "Happy Ostara" or "Solstice Blessings" in this way inside, so that the message is its own work of art. I actually enjoy the process of creating letters, messages, illustrations, etc. so creating my mail for people is fun for me. By using my creative skills, I can try visually express things to my friends, and hopefully communicate more than the words alone. 

Letters aren't dead, if anything, receiving a letter now means more to me than it did 15 years ago, and hopefully it means something special to all the people I write to, too. 

10 comments:

  1. I love letter writing too, but sadly I don't have anyone to write to these days, mostly because I keep in contact with people online and feel like my letters would be redundant. I think I have to make the effort though, I have way too much stationery that isn't being used!

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    1. I still keep in contact with people via FaceBook, e-mail, forums, Skype, text chat of various forms, etc. When it comes to distant friends, I probably talk most to them via Skype or various forms of text chat (including FaceBook chat) because I like the conversational format, but for more long-winded correspondence, I prefer letters to e-mails.

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  2. Few years ago I used to communicate with one friend of mine via letters. This friendship ended with time, and now I communicate with my friends from far away (although they don't live thousands of miles away from me, just a couple of hundreds, still within the borders of my country) online. Mostly. Because when our birthadys come we always send to each other a handwritten letter (and a couple of presents).
    Receiving a letter is far more touching than leading a talk via online communicator - even if we do it every day, such talks don't make me so happy like a simple letter does. They aren't overly elaborate or decorated (although I myself tend to make calligraphical headers), but still are the nicest thing I can receive from someone; I prefer them than actual presents. And I store them in a box and return to them quite often, too, when I feel a need to re-read them.

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    1. A lot of my friends moved abroad, some returning to their countries of origin, others emigrating, others living abroad temporarily on gap years, or for fixed-term positions of employment. I think part of the reason I end up writing to them is because we're in different time-zones, so I rarely get to have a good chat (either via text chat systems, phone or Skype) with them, so any proper catch-up ends up being either by letter or e-mail, and I just prefer letters.

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  3. I do love the idea of letters, but I find it hard to find things to say, I rarely talk about my life, mostly about books, which make up a huge portion of my life. Also my handwriting is beyond terrible. :P

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    1. I end up being terminally British and waffle on for paragraphs about the recent fluctuations of the weather in my letters a lot...

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  4. The practice of writing real letters and sending them snail mail is rapidly dying. I offer as proof the fact that many schools here in the States are eliminating the instruction of cursive handwriting--a big mistake in my book, but a sad statement on the times.

    I'm glad that you're continuing the practice and yes, receiving a physical card, letter or whatever is special.

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    1. All my course-work for my A Levels (final secondary school exams at 18, after GCSEs) was supposed to be typed and double-spaced, even for English Literature, and I thought this was strange; people didn't stop writing by hand at the invention of the type-writer, so why should they stop for the computer? I was taught at primary school to write in joined up writing, but it was a less loopy style than the one taught to me by my family before school, and apparently handwriting on the continent is generally curlier and loopier than in England because in the 1960s there was a school of thought that proper cursive was overly complicated and inefficient, so simpler italic and joined up styles were developed for teaching to children. I happen to write in a particularly elaborate cursive, and like giving fancy tails to my descenders and adding extra loops to my ascenders and altogether being swirly.

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  5. Definitely prefer receiving letters unfortunately just lately they have been of the nasty government variety :(

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    1. Aww! I hope you get some cheerier letters :)

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