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Written by:
Wendi Friend
August 2005

A Writing Prompt

Writing letters is something some of us do, sometimes, as a way of making personal connections with friends and loved ones. More and more, however, with technology evolving and demands increasing, we’re much more likely to pop off a quick email or ring our loved ones up on the phone. In the past, though, letter writing was not only an art form, but was an intense recording of history in informal context. Letter writing was a form of communication, but was also a great pastime, as people weren’t afforded the luxuries of televisions, radios, computers, or video games. When one’s chores or daily tasks were done, there were a few choices for recreation: read, play music, or write.

One of the greatest examples with whom I personally connect is Abigail Adams, recognized for her artistic style, intelligence, and powerful presence in text. Mrs. Adams opened the majority of letters to her husband with the words, “My dearest friend.”

How nice would it feel to receive a letter today with that greeting in the header? Even in her first words of introduction, Abigail drew her reader into her grasp. Once captive to her attention, she’d then unleash an eloquent fury of opinions regarding everything from domestic issues to politics. Helping her case greatly was the fact that the recipient of her letters, for the most part, was her husband – John Adams, a powerful force in the political party establishing the United States of America. The letters written from Abigail Adams to her husband had a great part in shaping the US, particularly in regard to women and slaves.

Abigail Adams wasn’t the only person to write letters that would be remembered and/or cherished. In fact, there are volumes upon volumes of books created on Civil War letters, and other old letters of days past. For some reason, today’s people seem utterly fascinated and uplifted by the style, vocabulary, and living conditions of those who dared or cared to take the time to write down their thoughts and send them to a reader for consideration.

When is the last time you wrote a letter by hand to a good friend or family member? How did you begin that letter? If someone were to find that letter a hundred years from now, what do you think they’d learn about you and the time in which you lived?

When is the last time you received a hand written letter? How did you feel when you received it? Do you save your old letters?

Challenge yourself – as a writing prompt – to familiarize yourself with one or two treasures from yesteryear’s letters. They’re easy to find on the Internet or in libraries. Then, take an extra step and write a card or letter by hand to someone special to you. But don’t just write a letter; make it an art, make it a part of history.

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