The Curse of the Handwritten Note

 

 

Handwritten notes are making a comeback, at least in my life.

They are lovely to read. Mostly they are Thank You notes, but sometimes, they say

“I miss you.” 

“I’m so glad we’ve connected.”

“I’m thinking of you at this time.” 

I love receiving them and I generally read them a few times. Who wouldn’t like reading such things? I feel a connection to the writer that I’d not otherwise feel and I enjoy the feel of something tangible in my hand.

That’s not the curse I’m talking about.

The curse comes with the realization that, now that I’ve enjoyed the note, gleaned its message, I have to do something with it.

I can’t just throw it away.

I’m used to getting various handwritten notes and letters from my kids and grandkids. What grandmother isn’t?  Those I pop into a drawer next to my bed in the gleeful expectation that someday they will get to go through them all and one of them (at least) will write a book, like I’m doing now with the notes my grandmother saved.

It’s not those notes I’m talking about. It’s the notes and cards from “regular folk.” People I like, people I feel connected to in an authentic way (and certainly after their card arrives). But people who don’t quite warrant that spot in the special drawer. 

For some, I sit down and write them a note in return. But what about the Thank You notes?  I might say, “Thank you for your lovely Thank You note. It was a treat to receive.”

With my luck, they’d feel compelled to thank me for my thank you note . . .  and on we would continue.  You see the danger.

The curse of the handwritten note is simple: I don’t know what to do with them.

I have no model or tradition to follow, no clue as to what to do. Someone spent good energy and not a little time composing this note specifically to me.  Sometimes very elegant stationery is involved.

 

Thanks to gentlemansgazette.com for the image.

 

It was not part of some mass mailing.  No, this note was meant for me.  They thought of me as they wrote it.  And it feels rude to throw it away, even tossing it into the recycle bin feels insulting.  Besides, the problem is growing.

Is there a new fad afoot, a Luddite backlash, perhaps? If so, it may be a result of this booklet, “The Art of the Handwritten Note,” written by …

 

Thanks to Anthropologie.com for the cover shot.

… Margaret Shepherd and sold through the Anthropologie catalogue.  Doesn’t she know the problem this is creating?

In the wider scheme of things, this is a lovely problem to have, I’ll admit. It’s definitely a “First World Problem,” as it were. Still, I live in the First World and it is currently a curse of heretofore unexpected proportions.  Nevermind Christmas cards!

How about you?  Have you seen an increase in handwritten notes? More importantly, what do you do with them? 

HEADS UP:  Sunday, February 11 is my Sunday Spotlight on the Facebook group, We Love Memoirs.  I hope you’ll pop in and say hello.  This will be my third Spotlight since my book came out in 2014 and this year I hope to add a few surprises.  The link to join this closed group is on the right sidebar, just scroll a little bit up.

26 Responses

  1. Bernadette Laganella
    | Reply

    Maybe we should save the handwritten parts and make a collage to hang on the wall in a private location. That way when we are getting down on ourselves, we could go to the collage and be reminded of how we are seen through others eyes.
    Bernadette Laganella recently posted…SENIOR SALON 2018My Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Bernadette. An interesting idea, the collage. Reminders that we are loved are always nice though. Thanks for starting us off.

  2. Merril Smith
    | Reply

    I haven’t noticed an increase in handwritten notes, though in the past week I’ve seen a few posts and poetry prompts about handwriting. I also wonder what to do with them, but I don’t have an answer. I’ve thought of collages, too, with Christmas cards, though would you do that every year? I imagine some people are organized to file and save all of their correspondence–including those notes–but I’m not one of those people. 🙂
    Merril Smith recently posted…Nature’s Songs: Haibun QuadrilleMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I used to have a Christmas card tree, I now recall. I’d take a Reader’s Digest, stand it upright and fold the corner of each page into the seam. Then, I spray painted it a christmastree green. When it dried, the cards just slipped into the openings of the “tree.” It was nice. As I recall, I had no qualms about tossing them away then. Most of them were company cards with printed signatures.
      Janet Givens recently posted…The Curse of the Handwritten NoteMy Profile

  3. Allene Hogan
    | Reply

    I love getting and sending notes. I can’t resist looking at new note cards when I am in the card section of any store. When I was younger and shopping with children, they would groan whenever I saw card sections in a store. There was always a reason to pick one up, even if it was judt for my stockpile. 😄

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I did that too, Allene. How fun. I have a special lap desk that my son Jon made me years (and years) ago; the top opens and I have stationary in it. That’s where I’d keep my stash. I still have a few from at least twenty years ago. haven’t bought so many recently though, I realize. Thanks for stopping by.
      Janet Givens recently posted…The Curse of the Handwritten NoteMy Profile

  4. Clive
    | Reply

    My handwriting is so appalling that I doubt anyone would welcome a handwritten note from me, assuming they could actually read it! But it is rather sad that we have lost the art of handwritten communication through the years – and I’m as guilty of that as anyone.
    Clive recently posted…#TimeToTalk Day 2018My Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Did they not have penmanship classes when you were in school? I’m remembering peculiarly lined pages on which we’d have to draw something akin to a vertical infinity sign, over and over and over again. I notice handwriting often; my cousin Ginny has the best I’ve ever seen. She’s a nurse and I just realized my neighbor, also a nurse, has the second best handwriting I’ve ever seen. Handwriting a personal note takes time. I do think it’s so easy these days to get caught up in “that which must be done” that we believe we don’t have enough time to sit and hand write a note. But, like any gift, it’s nice when it comes naturally; not so nice when it feels obligatory.
      Thanks for joining us today.
      Janet Givens recently posted…The Curse of the Handwritten NoteMy Profile

  5. Marian Beaman
    | Reply

    I like handwritten notes and wish I got more of them. Last week I looked through Christmas cards with the intention of recycling most of them. I read the personal note a second time and caught a few things I already had forgotten before disposing most, but not all.

    When we moved in 2016 I got rid of lots of old cards, but last year it was harder to recycle cards from Grandma L. and Aunt Ruthie found in their attic because they had the aura of antiquity about them. Besides, some of them were from ME during my college years. Yes, what to DO!

    Honestly, Janet, I haven’t noticed an increase in handwritten notes. Thank goodness, you are keeping me apprised in that department.

    Random note: My son teaches calligraphy in his middle school art classes, and our grandson Ian got pen nubs and other calligraphy supplies for Christmas.

    Final random note: We got cards of apology from two other grandchildren for their behavior when we took care of them in December. The notes on them are keepers!
    Marian Beaman recently posted…Wordless Wednesday: Imagine a WorldMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Oh those notes of apology! I got one from students in one of my classes while teaching in Kazakhstan. I’ll never forget it. They felt worse than I did. Wish I could have cloned them all. How cool that (is it Joel?) your son is teaching calligraphy. That will certainly call the students’ attention to what comes off their fingers. I have Woody’s calligraphy set. He used to be really into it. Thanks for swinging by.
      Janet Givens recently posted…The Curse of the Handwritten NoteMy Profile

  6. Nancy
    | Reply

    Love receiving handwritten notes in this technical world. Alas, I don’t receive thank you notes from one family any more, and I admit it bothers me.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Oh, I’m sorry, Nancy. If it makes any difference, I don’t receive handwritten notes from either of my sons. They are of a different generation and, currently, at that “make a living” stage of their life. I do get thank you notes from one set of grandkids, though. And lovely letters from my granddaughters. Someday, they will go through my collection and see how skewed it is. I can hear the shrieks of surprise now. 🙂
      Janet Givens recently posted…The Curse of the Handwritten NoteMy Profile

  7. Terry Bryan
    | Reply

    Like you, I hate tossing a nice note someone took the time to write, so they languish in a file cabinet…and I always write a thank you for gifts, meals, rides, etc. ( My dear long departed mother would cause an earthquake if I didn’t. ) I hope folks don’t keep those…my handwriting, never great, has deteriorated over the years with continuing visits from Arthur I. Tis.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Languishing in a file cabinet. What a good idea, Terry. Sort of like putting leftovers in the refrig with great intentions; then, finding how much easier it is to throw them away after they’ve begun to rot? Arthur I. Tis gets around now, doesn’t he?
      Janet Givens recently posted…The Curse of the Handwritten NoteMy Profile

  8. Kendall
    | Reply

    Hi grandma Janet I wanted to say that I also love getting letters especially in the mail it is really exiting to open up the envelope and read something I’m holding in my hand. Also I will make a book out of all our letters and it will be called Memories.

  9. Kathleen Pooler
    | Reply

    Janet, love handwritten notes, both sending and receiving, but I’ll admit my handwritten notes have declined over the years with email, ecards, and social media taking over. It’s kind of sad. Our written history is now swept up into the vortex of cyberspace.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Yes, I wondered for awhile about how much correspondence was getting lost in cyberspace. So I now have email folders for certain people — Gulzhahan, each of my grandkids and sons, etc. I never reread them, of course. But when I become rich and famous in my later years someone will use them to write a book. I’m sure.

      What, no?

      I must add here that just today I went through the Christmas cards. Your family portrait was difficult. I thought it serendipitous timing that I had this post today.
      Janet Givens recently posted…The Curse of the Handwritten NoteMy Profile

  10. Tim Fearnside
    | Reply

    I hear ‘ya, Janet. I’ve had the same problem. Over time, I’ve learned to toss most of them, unless I think I might realistically want or need them later for some reason or another. Then, I’m in the same place you are — trying to find a home for them. Typically, it ends up being some sort of temporary holding bin that eventually needs to be cleaned out, or moved to another temporary holding bin. There just doesn’t seem to be a natural drawer or shelf to put such things on or in.

    I do find it odd, in a way, how sacred we tend to regard written words, even when they are no more profound or insightful than a casual phone conversation. Even personal e-mails tend to sit in my inbox in perpetuity, as if deleting them would be an affront to whoever sent them, or as if I now have some valuable piece of something that needs to be preserved for posterity.
    Tim Fearnside recently posted…One Big LieMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Ah, the email inbox! Now there’s a blog post, Tim.

      I love how you use the word “sacred.” Though I think for me it borders on hoarding. “Just in case” comes to mind as my mantra. I now have 5,000 sitting in various folders, including that gmail Primary. I think you have successfully chagrined me into action. Tomorrow.
      Thanks.
      Janet Givens recently posted…The Curse of the Handwritten NoteMy Profile

  11. Laurie Buchanan
    | Reply

    Janet — I love to send and receive handwritten notes. I don’t expect anyone to save the notes that I send, and after about a week of reading and re-reading any that I receive, I throw them away. That doesn’t mean I didn’t appreciate receiving them, I’m simply not a hanger-onner.
    Laurie Buchanan recently posted…A Dog’s LifeMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Laurie. When Woody and were downsizing, getting ready for Peace Corps, I experienced a visceral lightness as I let go of so much I’d accumulated. I imagine your daily releasing of “things” is just that, but in smaller, daily doses? I will brag that I deleted 8900 emails today thanks to Tim’s comments (above).
      Janet Givens recently posted…The Curse of the Handwritten NoteMy Profile

  12. Tracy Karner Rittmueller
    | Reply

    I’m noticing an increase in handwritten notes, yes, but not from young people. Even when I was young(er!), before email existed, I didn’t write many notes. I was either too disorganized or too busy or both.

    What to do with them? As someone who has moved frequently, I’ve stopped saving every little thing–but I do have a tin box where I keep special notes. This year I saved one handmade Christmas card. I usually save a handwritten note only until I respond to it. And I do keep notes from the grandchildren. One of the best things I received after my grandmother died was a box of all the letters I had written to her. (Reminder to self; it’s time to re-read those!)

    By the way — there’s a standing joke in our family, born after my mother received a thank you note because she sent a thank you note. Now we look for any opportunity to say “thank you for thanking me for thanking you.”

    You left a thank you on my blog so I’m stopping by to say “thank you for thanking me.”

    You’re it! 🙂
    Tracy Karner Rittmueller recently posted…Muriel Rukeyser on poetry as a weapon against hateMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      How fun to hear that there really was a family who actually experienced that thank you for the thank you thank. Thank you for that.

      I too have a collection of letters I wrote to my grandmother; I’ve now worked my way up from the second grade g’mother’s day card, to those written when my firstborn was a toddler. Wish we could compare notes. Thanks so much for stopping by.
      Janet Givens recently posted…The Curse of the Handwritten NoteMy Profile

  13. Pamela
    | Reply

    I have a love affair with handwritten notes – those I send to people, and those that people send to me (which I admit, is not as many…). However, I do get e-mails from friends who tell me how much my card and note meant to them. There, then, I’ve done my job. Any time a friend is ill, I send her a get well card with note. One of my friends is dying from cancer: I send her a card every week. She tells me that they surround her at her bed side, making her smile and feel better. There, then, I’ve done my job.
    My bottom dresser drawer is bulging from cards I’ve saved. It’s a little embarrassing, but I’ll never throw them away.
    Good luck with your dilemma! 🙂
    Pamela recently posted…Doughnut KarmaMy Profile

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