Amanda Jolley

Studio Joy

Anticipation and the Hidden Art of Letter Writing

I do believe that letter writing has become a lost art. When I was a young, I wrote letters continually to friends and cousins. One of my most frequent gifts was stationery, and I loved it. I still have a box full of my favorite handwritten letters and sweet cards received from others. I am transported back in time the moment I unfold the pages of an old letter, and know who the sender is just by the handwriting.

Recently my mother shared a book with me, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. The book is written as a series of letters from the various characters in the book. By these letters, I have fallen in love with the characters and emphasized with their place in history in a very fresh and real way.


This book has also rekindled that joy of letter writing. This past week I’ve written two letters with no intent other than to share a bit of my life with the recipient. I could share the same information by phone or by email, but there is a joy in receiving a letter from a friend. My hope is that I will form a new habit, or rather reform an old habit, because I found as much enjoyment from writing the letters as I’m hoping their receipt will cause.

I loved receiving letters from my grandmother when she was living on this earth. When I was younger, I found it odd that she always wrote of the weather as a prominent portion of her letters. It wasn’t until later speculation that I realized how much a farm wife’s life and activity would depend on the weather. What she accomplished each day would be determined by how hard the wind was blowing or by chance it might be raining. Now when I look back over her letters, I can understand so much more of who she was. I have a record in her own words.

One joy I distinctly remember from my letter writing days was the anticipation of receiving a letter in return. And yes, that is how we used to communicate. I didn’t call my friend from Colorado, or my cousins in Oklahoma. Each day would bring the hope of a letter in the mail for me. Ah the sweet pleasure of anticipation.

There is so little that we have to anticipate these days with communication links so instant. With Facebook and Twitter, I now can know not only what little things are going on in hundreds of lives that I really hadn’t been connected with before, but I can also contact and get a response from someone within moments. If I have to wait a day to receive a reply, I think something must be wrong.

My mom always likes to wait until Christmas Day to open gifts. We used to beg and plead to open just one on Christmas Eve (when I say used to, I mean every Christmas since our birth to present day). She often allows it, but doesn’t want to open any of her own, not until Christmas. She enjoys that sweet pleasure of anticipation. I may be on the brink of understanding.

So from my enjoyment of writing these two letters last week, I propose a challenge to you. Write a letter to a friend and mail it, even if you see or talk to your friend regularly. For all you artists, send mail art, but also add a sweet handwritten letter somewhere on that art. Use one of your favorite pens and some nice thick paper, or your very favorite scratch pad. Talk about the simple details of that moment of your life. Enjoy.

amanda ∞

8 Comments on “Anticipation and the Hidden Art of Letter Writing”

  1. Ah . . . the handwritten letter. Recently, my 14yo daughter (who has several pen pals) was talking to a girl she was meeting for the first time at church. They found they had a lot in common, and enjoyed conversing. Then, dd suggested they become pen pals. Her new friend wondered if that was a facebook thing or something and said she’d have to ask her dad. It took a good deal of ‘splaining to get her to realize it would come to her through her ACTUAL mailbox.
    Ah. . . the handwritten letter. JOY!
    I will accept your challenge.

  2. I love this book Amanda! I read it last year and it takes such a unique angle on the historical events of that time period! Good choice!

  3. What a great challenge! During my first couple years of college, I would often write my cousins letters. I’d even send them in envelopes made from magazine pages (and this was way before my collaging days). And then when I was in Spain, I would write letters and everyday was exciting as I’d go to the mailbox to see if I’d received one. I certainly do miss receiving mail that is not bills or junk. So, I’ll take you up on your challenge!

  4. This is a great challenge Amanda & in January I’m going to accept it!! I used to write letters all the time, but now I can’t remember the last time I wrote one. I can think of three people who love to receive letters, so they’re going to be first on my list.

  5. I too love letter writing. And how nice it is to know the title of this book in English. My friends have all been reading it in French! Your mother is right – anticipation is on of the most exquisite states to know. It is time to rekindle the flame. I accept your challenge!

  6. Love handwritten notes and have a box full that my parents used to send me while I was away at college and grad school. Thanks for the reminder of the joy of handwritten notes and for the book title – will have to add it to my list. I love the idea of sending art as well. Take care and I accept your challenge.

    P.S. Love the lined paper background.

  7. I loved the book and love writing. I am a huge proponent of actual written letters. My mom is 85 soon to be 86 and she has 7 children. Since she has been in an assisted living facility we each took on a day of the week and that is our day to write and mail her a letter. She is the mail celebrity of the lunch room and going to the mail center is a major part of her day. The week or two I have missed sending a letter, or the weeks when a sister has e-mailed saying “copy this and include with your letter.” have been lessons in reality vs virtuality. My mom can no longer do much with her hands or the rest of her body, her sight is compromised and her living comes to her through her children’s letters…start practicing, you mom may be the next in line at the Post Office.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.