I checked the mail yesterday to find the usual pile of bulk-mail envelopes stuffed with offers of low-interest credit cards and travel packages. The new Pottery Barn catalog was stuck to the latest IKEA catalog, next to yet another 20% off coupon from Bed, Bath and Beyond. All fodder for the recycle bin.
As I carried the stack inside, I noticed a speckled brown envelope sticking out from the rest. It was made of heavy card stock, and my name was handwritten on the front ~ not printed in a handwriting font, but actually lettered with a ballpoint pen in uneven lines.
A letter! I opened it up to find a thank-you note from See, an eyewear shop on Union Street, where I recently purchased a pair of frames. It was written by my salesperson; he wrote that I should "stop by if I ever needed the frames re-adjusted" and signed his name at the bottom.
Of course I was disappointed that it wasn't a letter from a friend, but I was nevertheless impressed. I spend at least an hour every week sorting through junk mail, feeding the cover pages into a shredder and piling the rest into a stack for recycling. It is a task that always makes me feel resentful. How many trees have you wasted on me so far this year? I silently rage. A pox on your house! The letter from See, in comparison, made me feel like a valued client.
As I stood in the hallway, letter in hand, it occurred to me that handwritten letters might be a brilliant communications tool for writers and freelancers such as myself, a personal touch amid the flood of e-mail and junk paper mail that assaults us on a daily basis. I envisioned myself at an ebony desk, bent over a fountain pen and a pot of ink, dashing off charming missives that would delight everyone who was lucky enough to receive one. I ran to the cabinet where I keep a supply of stationery, and rifled through the boxes of pretty cards and heavy paper, humming "Sunday Mail" by Marcy Playground:
Won't you send me something soon?
Won't you swing me near the moon
With those words
I know you will...
Swing me near the moon indeed. I would send a letter to my agent; I would send one to my publisher; I would send one to each of my prospective clients. Beautiful handwritten letters were going to be my new super-communication strategy, setting me apart from everyone else and rocketing my career to stratospheric heights.
And then I sat down to write.