Tuesday, June 8, 2010

It's About Time

My 7-month-old son, T, pulled the name of my dad--also T, my son's namesake--out of THE LETTER JAR last Saturday.

Same son kept me too busy on Saturday to write. So I started the letter on Sunday.

And worked on it a little on Monday.

And finished it today.

It made for a somewhat disjointed experience, stopping and starting like that, even if I did have in mind from the beginning an idea of what I was going to say. And as I sat there this morning in my recliner, wrapping up the letter, I did have an appreciation for e-mail's allure. Let's face it: I probably could have written my father--and mother and brother and mother-in-law and several best friends and my hairdresser--any number of e-mails in that same time frame. My words-per-minute score isn't that great, but I'm sure I can type faster than I can write.

But.

Therein lies the rub. I type faster than I write from a purely mechanical standpoint, yes, but a mental perspective too. When I'm typing an e-mail, I'm fairly aware I'm simply skimming the surface of my mind, offering a quick update about the kids, a little tidbit about work, some pleasant inquiries as to what's been happening on the other person's end.

But to put pen to paper and write ... it feels important and I happily, easily even, put forth the kind of thought I feel the process deserves. Themes emerge and my vocabulary expands as I take what feels like a cherished opportunity to tell my letter recipient how I feel about him or her.

I heard an NPR interview the other day with Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. Carr maintains, based on his own experience and the hours of research he has done, that all our time online--quickly moving from skimming a story on a news site to browsing the RSS feed of our favorite blog to checking our e-mail and rinsing and repeating over and over--is cutting into our attention span and making it difficult for us to concentrate on kind of things we used to spend our free time doing. Things like reading books.

And writing.

Carr says we can stem the effects of Internet overuse by devoting equal time to activities of deeper concentration, which gives me reason again to believe I'm on the right track with this letterwriting journey. (I will admit to some doubt as my recent letter turned into a multi-day project.) This blog is evidence enough that I'm not about to abandon my Web-surfing ways, but to have another reason to spend some hours unplugged, with just my pen and paper, is fine by me.

2 comments:

Jen said...

Oh goody! An excuse for me to dive into a novel and ignore the rest of the world for half a day...or a week at some stretches!

Do you think the more I do on the web the more time I get for reading? Haha.

L, The Jar Keeper said...

Now there's a thought! :)