It’s all about communication

There’s a very nice little mailbox standing at the end of our driveway. It meets all the requirements that Canada Post has for an individual rural mailbox … but our mail is not delivered there. Instead, we walk or drive the equivalent of about three city blocks to where a set of group, or community mailboxes are located.


It’s not a huge problem for us to pick up our mail there. We’ve been doing it for almost twenty years. But recently Canada Post changed its services and began phasing out home delivery even in the cities, causing much indignation from those who have always enjoyed the convenience of door-to-door delivery. It’s an economic move for Canada Post.

I understand their rationale, but this business of raising postage costs while reducing services has been going on for many years, and I’ve never understood why they think charging us more but offering us less is going to make them more money. The more it costs me to mail a letter, the fewer letters I mail, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. This has the potential of being a constant downward spiral!

I like the personal touch of handwritten cards and letters, but as they become more expensive, I resort more to e-mail and telephone calls. When I look at the number of people I contact regularly through e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter, I recognize the convenience and immediacy of digital communication with them has many benefits. I probably wouldn’t handwrite long, newsy letters every few days if I needed to seal pages into envelopes, affix a costly stamp, and trundle them off to the post box, then wait a week for them to be delivered. Instead, I resort to a quick few paragraphs on the computer or iPhone, press ‘send’ … and my message is instantly in a friend’s home to be read at their convenience.

Is it a better way to communicate? I don’t think so, but as long as Canada Post continues to make it more expensive, more difficult and more time consuming to do it ‘the old fashioned way’, I won’t hesitate to follow the digital trend.

As a writer, I think communication is a big deal, but I seem to be in the minority when it comes to the personal version. Even cursive writing and penmanship are becoming a lost art as they are being phased out of the curriculum in many schools. I sometimes wonder if there is a correlation between the decline in personal communication and the breakdown of social standards — i.e., lack of respect for other people and for public property, ignorance of etiquette and common courtesies, etc.

That may be taking it a little too far, but it’s food for thought.

One dilemma that the decline in personal communication creates is in novel writing, where rapidly changing technologies outdate what would otherwise be timeless stories. Any mention of faxes, cell phones, thumb drives or CDs, for instance, will sandwich a story firmly in a particular decade, and possibly make it less relevant to potential readers.

We’ve come a long way from author Jack Whyte’s “cold stone slab and a chisel”* but I’m not sure every step has been in a desirable direction.

How do you address constantly changing methods of communication in your novel writing?

* Jack Whyte, Surrey International Writers’ Conference 2014

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7 thoughts on “It’s all about communication

  1. Margie says:

    I have to say that I envy your ‘superboxes’. Our mail still comes to a row of old and tired dark green boxes, perched precariously by the side of a busy little road. You can’t mail a letter there – you have to take it into town – where you also have to pick up any parcels. It doesn’t seem like Canada Post actually cares what kind of service they supply.

    • Carol says:

      Hi, Margie. There are still some of those old green group boxes floating around other neighbourhoods around here, but I gather eventually they will be replaced, too. What a nuisance not to be able to send outgoing mail at yours! Hopefully that will be remedied when the transition is finally complete.

  2. elderfox says:

    I also use the e-mail and rarely send letters hand-written any more which is perhaps why my hand writings look like scribble. I can still remember a teacher smacking the back of my hand with a ruler for not perfecting the letters in penmanship class…yes there was a class for that :} when I went to grade school. (…and yes I’m that old 🙂

    • Carol says:

      DH tells the story of how one of his primary grade teachers forced him to change over to writing with his right hand, despite being naturally left handed, so his penmanship has never been too legible. :O

  3. Jenn Hubbard says:

    How do I address the constantly changing methods? By being as vague as I can, for one thing. I try not to mention specific software or technology, just indicate that people are exchanging “messages.” It doesn’t really matter whether they’re texting, emailing, IMing, DMing, or on what platform.
    But people also have some tolerance for reading work set in the recent past. The TV shows and books of my childhood were filled with things like doctors making house calls and milkmen delivering bottles, both of which were pretty much obsolete scenarios by that time.

    • Carol says:

      You make a good point, Jenn. Some of the older forms of communication could be interesting to readers, but If we’re concerned that the references will have a negative impact, being purposely vague is a sensible alternative.

  4. joylene says:

    Not only is it stamps, but the postal to mail a package is outrageous. With our youngest in UK for one year, I’ve had to send money for gifts rather than enjoy the delight of finding the perfect gift and sending it off. I would rather put the money into their educational fund.

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