Sometimes skills are passed down in families. I know, for example, that my tendencies both to write and appreciate letters comes from my maternal line, which has a notable letter-writing tendency. Often, when I was growing up, situations that appeared unfair or unjust prompted letters. For me, most of my letter-writing has been either with penpals or young ladies that I was shyly and awkwardly courting. In fact, as I reflect on it, I find that I still have habits that I picked up (or had by nature) from the age of about ten years old or so. I’m not sure whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, but it is real and ought to be admitted honestly.
For a wide variety of reasons, I find it easier to write what I feel than to say it. This reality has a lot of consequences, even apart from the fact that I do not have the best of handwriting. Among the consequences is that writing (whether on pen and paper or on “electronic paper”) tends to create a sense of distance as I write best usually when I am by myself and not being distracted, while conversation is nothing if not distracting and personal. At some point I would like to become more comfortable talking in person about emotional matters, but that would require people willing to talk with me in person about such matters who would be able to make me feel comfortable, and that is not an easy thing to find. This results in a situation where I talk much but also feel as if much remains to be said.
For me, letters tend to come on when I have to stew about a given problem for a while and I feel all more direct means of communication thwarted. Once upon a time I had few communication options other than letters (this was before the internet, obviously). Nowadays letters are not very common, but every once in a while I get the urge to write a letter, if just to organize my own thoughts and put them down into paper. It is quite possible that a great deal of my early impetus to write came about from letters. My first published writing, outside of some elementary school limericks, was a letter to the editor published when I was about 11 years of age. I suppose such early successes inspired me to keep writing and develop the skill I needed to write relatively well. I imagine I would have become quite skilled in other areas with a bit of encouragement and practice, and perhaps that ought to give hope for the future.
When someone feels a letter coming on, sometimes it is better just to let it come out, whether one intends on sending or giving the letter or not. Sometimes we just need to sort out our thoughts and put everything in order, and sometimes it helps to know that we can figure out what is going on inside of our heads even as we are seeking to communicate with others who are sometimes difficult to communicate with. Of course, all of us can be difficult to understand and communicate with as well. Whenever someone feels a letter coming on, it is a good thing to ponder why this might be the case and to make the time spend it laboriously crafting one’s words to be time well spent in a good cuase.