I Write, Therefore, I Paint


That may sound a little confusing -- and I'm not above causing confusion if it gets you to think about my subject. But I realized something last night when I was up at 1 in the morning writing a letter to my son.

Letter writing is becoming a lost art.

How many people write letters on an average day? Not many. Now it's mainly email and texting. While some would argue that this in itself is still letter writing, per se, I have to say it is not.

And, not only is writing a letter becoming passe, but so is the art of penmanship. I remember reading about one of the prophets of the church:

"President Grant also worked at his talent in penmanship. He “resolved
that some day he would be a bookkeeper in the Wells Fargo and Company’s
bank.” A good bookkeeper had to write well, so he started working to
become a penman. One author wrote: “At the beginning his penmanship was
so poor that when two of his [friends]were looking at it one said to the other, ‘That writing looks like hen tracks.’ ‘No,’ said the other, ‘it looks as if lightning had struck an ink bottle.’ This touched Heber’s pride and, bringing his fist down on his desk, he said, ‘I’ll some day be able to give you fellows lessons in penmanship’; and he was” (Bryant S. Hinckley, Heber J. Grant: Highlights in the Life of a Great Leader [1951], 39–40). "

What's a little disturbing is the attitude of the youth on the subject. I found this article that talks about penmanship in schools. It has been a continual struggle in my family. For instance, my son wrote us last week that the guys in his unit had commented his writing was "worse than my wife's." He then tried to make more of an effort in his handwriting, and it did look better, but when he's hurrying, it's very hard to read. It definitely would match hen pecking.

As a freshman in high school, I took calligraphy classes. As a junior, I actually attempted teaching the skill to others, but no one really wanted to take the time. My daughters have expressed a desire and we've had a couple of classes, but it's still something that takes time and practice.


Monks who were making copies of the bible did amazing things with calligraphy in an illustrative form. It really is an art form.

So...back to the original subject; letter writing. When we're writing a letter to someone, we are generally catching them up on the lives going on around you. In writing my son, stuff that would seem trivial and non-informative to someone else, would be exactly what he wants to hear. He is somewhat homesick, misses everyone (including his phone) and wants the everyday info.

But as I was telling some friends, even if your writing a family member who wants to know what's happening, if it's boring, they aren't going to want to keep reading. So, you need to paint a picture with your words. Much like writing a book.

For example, he told us that a couple of the guys in his unit had gotten bad news in the mail. One had received notice that his mother had died, and another had a father was was suffering liver failure. He told me that it was against the rules for me to die while he was in boot camp.

This is a good effort. It was a solid subject, though a little grim. I wrote him that the garden we'd been working on since before he left was doing well. The tomatoes were growing fast, and several of them had taken on bush proportions -- enough so that it was hard to get in-between them, especially to weed. This is something he is going to be able to picture -- as he knows our yard so well.

What's funny though, is that he teases us he wants photographs because he is starting to forget what everyone looks like. While that is not reality, they are going to be different when he gets back because his little brothers are going to grow, that's the stage where they are right now. Not to mention how he will have changed...

Strange as this whole thing has been, and how much we miss him, I do owe him thanks. He's gotten me past the 'I don't want to write stage' and into the 'can't wait to write' now.

I would still rather have him home...;)

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Comments

The written letter is something that has gone the way of the rest. It's a great reminder of the skill and attention which went into penmanship in days gone past as well as the personal touch of writing a loved one. Thanks, Gaynell.
Tristi Pinkston said…
Hey there,

Do you have a final word count for me for the Book in a Month challenge?

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