I much prefer talking over typing of any kind.  Verbal communication seems to have gone the way of the dinosaurs since texting, Facebook, Twitter, AIM, and e-mail has become so prevalent.  Instead of zapping a quick message, like “ur comin 2 teh coffe ship? i cn get u sumthin. wht do u lyk?” (but let’s be realistic; almost no text messages have more than one thought, let alone three) we should go back to the time when each communication was carefully thought out.  A message, like any in the Paston Letters, (see more on Paston and the “Valentine” letter here) had to travel more than a few seconds to reach the intended recipient and went through a chain of scribes, messengers, and relatives before actually getting to that recipient.  Like in Sense and Sensibility, a correspondence with a person of the opposite sex was a big deal, and demonstrated true affection and attachment.

The 'Valentine' Letter, Paston Letters

I’m not saying that we should all go back to a time where a select few could read and write or to a period when girls were scandalous if they dallied with men.  No.  I’m saying that we should mean what we write and focus on knowing the people we speak to.  That’s probably hypocritical coming from a blog, but I’m trying to veer my blogged thoughts into a more constructed, academic frame.  I save pictures, sites, and thoughts I love for later use and try to incorporate my academics into whatever I’m typing about (see Paston Letters, above).  I usually go through at least two drafts before I post something, because I want it to mean something to whomever reads it.  I want it to mean something to me when I look back on my thoughts years from now.

Also, whatever happened to stationary?  I hardly ever get notes in the mail that are written on honest-to-God stationary.  You know, the stuff you buy in boxes with matching paper and envelopes?  My mom keeps the tradition somewhat alive when she sends me a package with a handwritten note on top, but that’s about it.  After my insane 10 day race to the Spring Quarter Finish Line is over, I want to take the amazing stationary I’ve bought and take time to write.  My friends and family mean a great deal to me, and I think that’s why I spend money on quality cards for special occasions.  Plus, as I hope is apparent, I love to write.

You’re probably thinking, “So… what happened to talking?”  Yes, I do like to talk with people, but I know that isn’t always the best way to communicate.  I leu of talking face-to-face or on the telephone, I propose that we write more letters.  Letters are things we can preserve, like photographs, and each one can tell so much about the author and the recipient.  Handwritten letters are precious things, and I want to help make the practice a larger part of my life.

Okay, now to bring in the academic side of things.

Manuscripts were written by those in the church.  The scribes copied things down onto vellum that they thought were worth saving.  It’s a miracle that Beowulf survived, though it is probably due to the fact that he became a Christian warrior in the saga as opposed to an actual Anglo-Saxon warrior.  It’s interesting what ends up in manuscripts.  In my outlaws class, I learned that the tale of Gamelyn survived because it was found with the Canterbury Tales, and so was thought to be Chaucer’s work, a draft of the Yeoman’s Tale, or a source for that tale.  It was put into manuscripts and copied alongside actual Chaucer.

Materials were hard to come by, so an ordinary message was written on a wax tablet, which was encased in wooden coverings to protect the wax and the writing, so that it could be smoothed over to receive a reply.  Again and again and again.  No sentimentality here.  Vellum was expensive, so only the wealthy could commission books.  The material was so special that old manuscripts were used as the covering on the backs of the covers so that virgin vellum could be used for print people wanted to read at the time of production.

We’ve taken letters and writing for granted, and I, for my part, am going to steadily appreciate those things.

My Writing Manifesto:

  • No more abbreviations, unless they are correct and needed.
  • I will continue to use spelling and grammar correctly, and won’t skip either because I’m in a hurry or am “just texting back.”
  • I will reply to long e-mails and other letters with letters, unless the news inside is of an immediate nature.
  • I will use Facebook more as a tool for bits of information and for a long piece of news intended for many people.
  • I will write one letter a week, even if it’s rather short.
  • I will practice my cursive in these letters.

Okay, people.  The mailboxes are waiting…

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