The Lost Art of Letter Writing

Letter to Emily

Emily and I are lucky to live nearby these days – a luxury that, until recently, we hadn’t re-experienced since we first became friends back in 2001.

As we now get to see each other regularly, I tried to include in my letter some things that we might not discuss in person because of embarrassment, fear, or simply the deviations of conversation.

In a loose way, I was also influenced by the kinds of things Woolf wrote about in her letter to Mansfield: reflections on writing, reading, gender, friends.

Here are the ideas I jotted down to include in my letter to Emily:

  • Recommend The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnitt
  • Are there no societal rules for friendship?
  • Is friendship between women still somehow considered subversive?
  • Unexpectedly autobiographical roots to certain aspects of our novels
  • The themes we keep circling around
  • Getting lost

I’ve included pictures of the letter itself so you can click and zoom to see how I ended up exploring these ideas.

There was something comforting about using the fountain pen that Emily bought for me a few years back – the half-forgotten rub of the nib against paper, paper I bought in San Francisco when I visited one of our mutual friends.

The letter itself became a kind of meditation on the lost art of letter writing: the way in which the pen can explore ideas too difficult for the tongue; the eye can receive ideas too difficult for the ear.

Getting lost has itself become a lost art now that so many of us have satellite navigation systems in our cars and GPS on our phones. Through writing to Emily, I realised just how much I valued my many experiences of getting lost with her – most recently in Notting Hill on the way back from Book Slam; but also last year in Bayswater on the way to Porchester Spa; and once when we were stranded at a remote station in Cumbria with no idea of our hostel’s address.

In this letter, I reminisced about the times we first got lost together in rural Japan – joyful occasions when we began to realise just how much we shared – and, as I wrote, it occurred to me that the experience felt surprisingly like being found.

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Over to you:

Please use the ‘Leave a Reply’ facility below to let us know about the kinds of things you wrote in your letters. We can’t wait to hear.

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