If something can’t be said with an emoji, it probably isn’t worth saying.
Plus, there are text messages and social media postings. If, for some unfathomable reason, you have a message that requires more than 140 characters, you can always send an e-mail.
That’s how plenty of folks communicate. Until it comes to summer camp.
Most camps frown on — if not outright ban — all forms of electronic communication. They don’t allow cellphones, tablets or laptops. They do, however, encourage the campers to communicate with their parents.
Written by hand.
Sent by mail.
What is this, the Dark Ages?
Let’s face it — writing letters can be an intimidating task for a novice. It requires much more effort than communicating electronically. You have to find a pen or pencil, then track down a sheet of paper, to say nothing of an envelope and a stamp. Instead of just clicking on a name in your “contacts” list, you have to look up an address. And instead of just hitting the “send” button, you have to take the letter physically to a mailbox.
And that’s the easy part.
You actually have to write the letter, an exercise that involves processing emotions, recalling events after the fact (it’s so much easier to send a picture of your lunch than to try to remember what you ate a day or two later) and struggling to find the terms to describe them accurately.
Robin Rozanski, who teaches a class at the Loft Literary Center in downtown Minneapolis titled “Letter Writing: A Lost Art,” said she thinks that the pressures of letter writing can result in “letter block,” a cousin of the better-known writer’s block.
“I don’t know why this doesn’t stop more texts, but I suspect we get letter block because letters feel more important, and handwritten letters require more concentration than we tend to give to typed messages,” she theorized.
People who have come to rely on spelling-correction programs can be cowed by the notion of their errors being seen by others. Don’t worry about that, Rozanski said, urging letter writers to embrace it.
“Letters are important to our personal histories precisely because of their imperfections — a crossed-out word or a sentence smashed up into the corner carries a lot of personality with it,” she said.
And, unlike the ethereal nature of electronic communication, there’s permanence to putting ink on paper.
“We all know that e-mails and posts are never really deleted, but very rarely do we revisit them,” she said. “However, if you have a shoe box full of paper notes and cards — and maybe some envelopes full of macaroni and glitter — you’ll rediscover that every few years and the memories will put a smile on your face, no matter how messy the handwriting is.”
Rozanski has a surprising take on the difficulty of camp correspondence:
“I imagine that parents might have a harder time with letters than kids do,” she said. “Small children are still drawing and painting, and putting stories onto paper is part of that expressive communication. It’s fun.”
She offered these letter-writing tips:
• Imagine a conversation. Share your activities and your thoughts, but also ask questions so your correspondent has something to respond to.
• Don’t hurry. Pen, paper, long summer sunset — take time to reflect, open up and write as much or as little as you feel.
• Warm up. Jot a few notes or start writing on a scrap of paper until you are ready to jump into the letter.
• “Collect” your letter. Write in little bits throughout the day, even noting the time and location.
• Usually the sentiment that drives a letter is “I miss you and I’m thinking of you.” You can’t go wrong with that.
• When in doubt, draw a picture. Before there were emojis, there were doodles.