Al Franken, in his most recent book, Oh The Things I Know…, extols the value Personal Handwritten Notes, as a means of networking. He calls attention to the fact that President Bush (the Elder) made it a routine in his life from the time he left Yale to write thousands of these notes to friends and supporters. And he became Director of the CIA, Ambassador to the UN, Vice President, and President. Let’s leave aside the notion that he might have actually performed any of these duties satisfactorily, and consider Mr. Franken’s point:
It is so easy to send Email these days—click, typey typey, click, SENT! This development has contributed positively to increased productivity—as anyone who had to fiddle occasionally with a fax machine can attest. Yet, there are some very noticeable disconnects even with this most ‘connected’ of all recent inventions.
First, because it’s easy to send messages electronically, it is just as easy to ignore them. How many people are as diligent with their Inbox count as they are with there checkbook balance? Ok, bad example in my case. But the point is sound—which brings me to…
Point two, Email affords very little personal connection, when compared with the written note. You can’t hold a piece of Email, nor appreciate the quality of the paper or handwriting. Instead, typography is standardized to Arial, individual flourish is restricted to the obligatory ‘e-signature’, and you get several hundred junk messages a week, trying to sell you pornography, mortgage rates, and a fake university diploma.
Third, how many people actually take the time to handwrite notes anymore? Margaret Shepard writes in her book
The Art of the Handwritten Note, that it’s a misconception that you don’t have the time. Ask yourself this: doesn’t it seem more sincere and extraordinary that someone would take the time to send you a personal handwritten note? That’s worth a few extra minutes, and a walk to the post office.
Lastly, how good do you feel last time you sent an Email note to someone? Today, I bought these nice note-cards with a small lithographed image on the front, and I hand-wrote notes to two people that have recently interviewed me for jobs. Now that they’re in the mailbox, I feel positively giddy about these nice people opening their notes. It’s something special and memorable, in an otherwise routine day.
There was something funny about writing these notes, however, because it’s been so long since i’ve hand-written anything longer than a cheque. In recent years, I’ve got quite good at signing my name at the bottom of typed cover-letters, sales inquiries and letters to the editor. My handwriting, once somewhat passable, was atrocious! It took a lot of warming up and practicing until I felt comfortable with the result. Cursive was totally out of the question, so I affected a kind of more stylized printing.
In a bad job-climate, I think there is power in the Little Hand-Written Note.