Why I write by
(16 Stories)

Prompted By Why We Write

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During most of my life, people would stay in touch with friends and family by something now considered practically ancient: writing letters on stationary.  I loved writing and receiving letters.  In  junior high  I  was so excited to become a “pen pal”!  For several years I wrote to teens  in Belgium, England & South Korea.  (I had one short term pal from Chile, because I thought it would improve my Spanish, but that did not last long.)  I had numerous boxes of lovely stationary that I would fill with compositions of what I thought a foreigner would like to know about an American girl. And when the postman brought me their letters,  I was thrilled. And I  loved the stamps on these letters.

Nostalgia for letter writing in the old fashioned way.

Letter writing was central to a relationship with my college boyfriend, Sandy.  During summer breaks and when I was traveling, we would exchange great letters. We lost touch for many years, but  I saved his letters.  Counterintuitively, the letters were not “mash letters”,  full of affection and sentiment, but were well written, with very humorous descriptions of people, places and things. Forty years after we graduated and went our separate ways, we reconnected, of course, through letter writing!  (Sandy had seen my name and address in the University alumni directory.). And he had saved my letters! At some point, we exchanged the sizable stacks we had accumulated when we were young.    How delightful it was to read my own letters so many years later.

Today most of my serious writing is directed to my children and grandkids. My essays  are about  childhood memories and descriptions of family members and events.  Of course, this writing is  not written on my lovely, carefully selected stationary, but  on a computer and sent via  e-mail. But although I am nostalgic for old fashioned letter writing, I have to admit, my writing is  greatly improved by using a computer.  But I do miss the variety of stamps I used to acquire.


Profile photo of Sara Gootblatt Sara Gootblatt

Characterizations: been there, funny, right on!, well written


  1. Thanx Sara for reminding us of those old days of handwritten letters!

    And how wonderful to have reconnected with your college boyfriend and shared the letters you had each saved, hope we’ll get to hear more about Sandy!

  2. Marian says:

    I, too, miss the tactile and aesthetic qualities of writing on stationery, Sara. Thanks for the memories, and I’m glad you reconnected with Sandy through letters.

  3. Laurie Levy says:

    Sad that letter writing is a dying art. On the other hand, my arthritic fingers much prefer a keyboard these days.

    • Even my mail person does not have the same interest for me. My mailman felt like a friend as he placed personal letters in our mailbox. Today, all I get is mostly junk mail and magazines. Most of my bills are even sent on-line. It’s helped improve my organizational skills, and like you Laurie, my hands are not as supple as they used to be.

  4. Betsy Pfau says:

    Though never a pen-pal, I used to correspond with my camp pals throughout the year. I, also, recently found a stack of letters from one of my college boyfriends. Since he is a classmate of my husband’s, I see him at their reunions, so we remain cordial. When I found those letters, I scanned a few and emailed them to him. We spent a few hours over two days corresponding about them. His reaction was really interesting and finally closed a loop for me, some 50 years later, so that was good.

    I still write condolence letters in long-hand. That is just my rule (unless the person is overseas, so there is a timing element involved. I understand the drive to write about your life and keep in touch with people. It keeps us grounded and human. And email allows us to edit, which has its benefits.

    • I also try to write personal letters of condolence by hand. But it’s strange, my hand has become almost useless, & seems to have atrophied from disuse. I recently enclosed a note in a package for someone and I had to rewrite it several times…..

  5. Dave Ventre says:

    Oh, letters! I used to be very careful what I wrote in letters, since I never knew who might find them. The same fear nixed my desire to keep a diary (which now I regret).

    There was one time that I was NOT careful what I wrote in letters. To a young lady I was dating our freshman year in college. During that first winter break apart, we exchanged letters. Very indiscreet letters. Mine to her were indeed found. By her family. It did not end well.

    For many years after I was inhibited about putting anything personal down in a way that might later allow the information to be used against me.

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