Thursday, October 11, 2007


Hi everyone. This summer my editor started giving me prompts to help me practice my writing. I was going through them today and found one that I liked so I thought I'd toss it up here. The prompt was "write about postcards". I know it sounds boring but I did have fun with it. Enjoy!

Postcards are bizarre creatures. They are short, small and public. You can’t disclose your innermost thoughts and feelings on them due to both lack of writing space and the painful truth that they can and may be read by anyone, such as the postman, nosey neighbor, disgruntled partner etc....

Postcards are historically for sending cute little notes and one picture of a place you’re visiting back to loved ones at home. Of course they have also evolved to be used for wedding announcements, party invitations, dental appointment reminders, political campaign mailings and to announce the sale at the local chain store. But first they were used as personal correspondence; meant to share a bit of the experience and maybe even entice those left behind to join them. They’re supposed to be upbeat, because if you’re in a new location, shouldn’t you be happy about it?

Be concise, be clear, be friendly and be upbeat. It almost sounds like instructions from an overly cautious mother to her teenage daughter on her first day of high school. But is that really honest? True expression of the self isn’t always happy enough to feel unguarded and public about it, such as on a postcard. I suppose that some friendly, cheery cards are entirely honest (after all, there are legitimately happy people in this world) but what of those who choose to mask their true intentions? And if that is true, that postcards are friendly by nature but not always honest, then shouldn’t we consider all postcards as possible imposters, or liars altogether?

Most postcards, classically, sound something like this: “Dear Mom, Spring break in Florida is great! I have been having a great time on the beach, going to Disney Land and visiting the alligators at the petting zoo. I wish you were here! Love, Chuck.” But what if Chuck, who happens to be the school nerd, has no friends and secretly wishes for death (i.e. the alligator petting zoo), is actually honest on his postcard? “Dear Mom, Spring break sucks. I’m sunburned, bored, and some guy took my wallet so I have no money for food or soda. To make matters worse, I forgot my scalp cream and the heat is killing me. Can I come home early? Chuck.”
Who wants to read that? And who wants to risk having such a humiliating account of one’s Spring Break read in conjunction with a shiny picture of sunny, happy Florida? The two just don’t coincide.

Postcards are usually cheery because they force us to be cheery. Their existence is based on the representation of good times and happy travels. At the very least they force us to examine on paper the image we wish to project to others and to the world. And isn’t that something that we’re always going to be concerned about as human beings anyway? By that account, are we all just walking postcards?

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