Thursday, April 11, 2013


I Wrote Letters

Dear Readers,

I often hear musicians and songwriters talk about how embarrassed they are by their early work. Colin Meloy famously makes a joke out of his "Dracula's Daughter" (You think you've got it bad? / Imagine havin' Dracula for a dad) during the Decemberists' live shows. I remember David Lowery and Camper Van Beethoven doing something similar with a song called "Lincoln Shrine" (I don't wanna go / I don't wanna go / I don't wanna go to the Lincoln Shrine) about an annual field trip that they'd take as kids with their school in California.

It's not that early songs are always bad. Some are, of course; but I think artists often cringe at their early work because it came from a place that they've since moved beyond. A big part of my theory on how nobody ever really changes is that people simply learn to cope a lot better with the aspects of their personalities that they may not like so much. That takes time; and art or music or writing produced in the early stages of that process has the real potential to make its creator hugely uncomfortable. While someone else hearing an early song or reading an early work may find it "raw," emotional, cute, or sweet; that same work could make its author want to hide under a rock.

So my friend apparently found a whole bunch of letters that I wrote in my late teens. I went through a few bursts of letter-writing at that time. Letter writing is a dying practice; and, while I'm not saying I was a master of the medium, I do remember taking a reasonable amount of care in composing correspondences. It was always fun to send them off and then to wait for a response. That's another thing we've lost. The willingness to wait. Today, if I send an email and don't get a response within the hour, I start to wonder if the person on the other end is OK.

As I've discovered over the last year or so, writing is something I enjoy quite a bit. I'm glad I had that experience of writing letters and waiting for letters to come back, but the idea that someone saved all the letters I wrote back then... Let's just say that I'm happy that they still mean something to somebody, but I don't ever really need to see them.

They always tell you that once you put something on the Internet, it can follow you forever. I get that, and I'm OK with it. I mean, there's some stuff from my early forays onto Twitter and Facebook that I'd like to have back; but I was a fully-formed adult (or as fully-formed as I'll ever get) when I did that. They never tell you, though, that some people will fold up and place into a shoebox papers that they should have wadded up and tossed in the trash -- or left out in the rain, or failed to save from a burning building -- years ago.

Your friend,


  1. I'm given to understand that my contributions to that box use the word "neat" with laughable frequency. That hurt my writerly pride, but it also vividly brought back an almost sensory memory of being a person who said things were neat all the time.

    But all this, and the Public Apology book event last night, is making me think. Maybe I'll manage a blog post today.

    1. Looking forward to hearing how the book event went. From what I'm hearing, it was pretty swell.