Handwritten Stories in a Digital Age: PostSecret.com and More

Image via Save Every Step, Joe's Letters, WWII: “Final, Final, Final Exams”

In our digital age, we interact with new technologies each day, yet some of us also pine for the past: we cherish handwritten things and value — even fetishize — physical objects. Posts like “Diaries and Connections to the Past” and “Found Objects and Books” reveal a collective nostalgia.

Consider a diary hidden in a shoebox. Postcards from your best friend, traveling around the world. Or a stack of letters from a secret lover. We view messages crafted by hand as more personal and meaningful — check out Cristina Vanko’s handwritten texts as modern-day snail mail. Words from our pens stand the test of time, and are viewed as more intimate — and meant to be shared and carefully considered by you, the reader.

PostSecret: Now on WordPress.com

We’re happy to announce that PostSecret, founded by Frank Warren, has made its home on WordPress.com as one of our newest VIP sites. A popular online community art project for many years, PostSecret is an outlet through which people anonymously mail in their secrets via postcard. It’s the largest ad-free blog in the world — and a perfect example of our appreciation and fascination for handwritten forms of communication.

Secrets are preserved in their analog glory, further creating a sense of intimacy:

Image via PostSecret, Sunday Secrets: November 23, 2013

Image via PostSecret, Sunday Secrets: November 23, 2013

PostSecret is a longtime favorite blog for millions on the internet — we’re thrilled it’s now part of our community. Secrets are posted weekly, on Sunday.

Mixing analog and digital: other cool blog projects

Other blogs on WordPress.com experiment with found objects and handwritten letters and messages. Some bloggers have ongoing projects bringing their ancestors’ journals and scribbles to life, like A Hundred Years Ago and Home Front Girl Diary.

Over on Hope Street, Kurt Blumenau blogs about his grandfather, who kept month-to-month calendars on which he recorded events that affected him — everything from presidential assassinations to late-season snowstorms. Every Monday, Kurt picks an interesting calendar entry and writes something about it.

Image via Hope Street, September 1970: Spells

Image via Hope Street, September 1970: Spells

Likewise, the preservation of family history is the focus at Save Every Step, which archives family photography, childhood memories, and even World War II-era letters, like this one from 1944 from the blogger’s uncle Joe:

Choncey Boddington, a “traditional lady in a digital society,” publishes handwritten posts and messages. Her About page, too, is clever and creative:

Choncey Boddington

From the postcards at PostSecret to the letters, diary entries, and handwritten messages on these blogs, it’s evident the WordPress.com community tells important stories about our pasts and histories in creative, clever ways.

Follow other interesting blogs that publish handwritten posts and other found materials? Let us know.

Finally, if you’re interested in keeping up with what’s abuzz in the community — from a collection of top reads to featured topics curated by our editors — subscribe to WordPress.com Weekend Reads, which we’ll deliver right to your inbox.


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Cheri Lucas Rowlands

64 Comments

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  1. brecore

    Recently I’ve started a cookbook with my favorite recipes and family recipes, and I’m handwriting the whole thing for future generations. :) And whenever I do a scrapbook, I always make sure to do it by hand. I figure my grandkids in the future will like it better that way. :)

    Like

    • Cheri Lucas Rowlands

      What a wonderful idea — creative and personal, and better preserves a family tradition.

      Like

    • beergogglesreviews

      I collect books (secondhand as they still have the pulse of the previous owner). I recently picked up a kitchen scrap book full of cut outs, jottings, marginalia and gravy stains etc. It feels like the previous owner of these thoughts is cooking with me. This was an unknown person to me, yet she feels like a friend. Your grandkids are going to love your personal handwritten notes.

      Like

      • brecore

        Thanks! I think ideas like this are great!!! :) Hopefully any kids I have will pass it down, and so on and so forth. :)

        Like

      • dolluthra

        You are absolutely right in saying so, it gives you immense satisfaction when you get someone’s presence while working or in any field of life.

        Like

  2. hairballexpress

    Dude. I’ll have to check it out…. That would be a cool way to send my love letters to my 785,932 boyfriends!

    I’ll check it out and leave my pawprint of approval!

    Shrimp

    Like

  3. Why does Gramma have a mustache?

    I did not know there was such a word as fetishize.

    Like

    • Cheri Lucas Rowlands

      Yup, there is — to have an excessive commitment to (or obsession with) something. I tend to use it in this/similar contexts, ie “people who fetishize the book itself as an object,” etc.

      Like

  4. uphilldowndale

    I have a different take on that, many generations of my family have found writing difficult, because of dyslexia, so their thoughts and views have been lost forever. Without the ‘digital age’ (and WordPress) I’d have never have dared put my writing (or my spelling) on public view, as it I’ve been blogging along happily, for six years. This post, from 2007, sums up my phobia of handwriting. http://uphilldowndale.wordpress.com/2007/10/02/poetic-discovery/

    Like

    • Cheri Lucas Rowlands

      That’s a great post — thanks for sharing it here. I especially like how you elegantly describe the difference between your work and Gillian’s:

      When Gillian wrote the word ‘people’ it was a joy to behold; when I tried the word displayed all the signs and symptoms of a sufferer of a multiple personality disorder; I just couldn’t spell it; from my messy pen the word seeped out as pople, peepole or poelpe, but what ever form it took, it never sat neatly and obediently on the the raspberry pink line of my exercise book…

      Like

  5. A Day Away Travel

    PostSecret has been featured at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore — in fact it is right now. I wrote about AVAM’s newest exhibit a few weeks ago.

    Like

  6. theprehistoryteller

    I write fiction and there is nothing I love more than writing all the good stuff by hand. It’s just more magical. :)

    Like

  7. Lori

    I agree with you on the digital age, I am thirty years old and worked hard to get master’s. I was in school we wrote just about everything…(:

    Like

  8. Terry D.

    This is such an awesome idea! Thanks for sharing!

    Like

  9. beeseeker

    marvellous: has me thinking.

    Like

  10. jeffcolemanwrites

    I first ran into PostSecret at the bookstore (yes, I actually still peruse bookstores!) back in 2009. So many different emotions. People really bare their souls. It’s amazing what people will confess to when given anonymity.

    Like

  11. katharinetrauger

    Although, for the sake of speed, I always type when I post, I also almost always write out the post, first, because it has been scientifically proven that the quality of the writing changes dramatically when handwriting is used, even as opposed to printing, but especially compared to typing.
    We want quality on WordPress, right? That was not a real question, btw.
    One thing I love about my handwriting: it totally resembles my mother’s. And our hands look similar, too. I love that. I feel like she lives on, in me, in a way. I also have a copy of her sister’s handwriting, something she wrote to my mother just before she passed on, that also resembles our handwriting, and her hands, genetically, are obviously pf the same stock. How could I ever not love that?
    But to pass it on, I’d have to show the set of all three of our handwritings and the appearances of our hands, of which much is lost, except for in my memory….
    Still, you have inspired me to try finding all the proofs, in old photos and old writings, since my site does deal with education…
    Thanks for this lovely introduction to these sites that grasp what I’m saying here.
    I hope there is no real trick to scanning a document and transferring it to a post…

    Like

  12. Laura P. Schulman, MD, MA

    Have you seen WP Blogger Ziggy Shortcrust’s Illustrated Letters??! If you ask her nicely, she’ll even send one to you, wherever you are in the world! I am honored to have one, and guilty of not returning the honor….yet. Go and visit Ziggy! She’s one-of-a-kind! http://ziggyshortcrust.wordpress.com/illustrated-letters/

    Like

  13. gogi6666

    I really enjoyed the article! :)

    Like

  14. findyourdreamjob

    Both the article and the comments so interesting, Book inscriptions are currently making second hand books much more valuable. Children are being taught to type but can barely write. Hope we don’t lose the knack.

    Like

  15. iamdaniellekent

    This article is lovely! So true how despite being in a digital age, handwritten artifacts maintain to be so much more intimate and meaningful than anything typed.

    Like

  16. Cynthia Guenther Richardson

    This was great reading and I discovered new and interesting blogs. It was personally timely as I have been thinking a
    lot about handwriting, itself, as well as graphology, and written communiques. I had lost the ability to write longhand easily for a time and it deeply impacted me. Just last week I wrote a post about handwritten communications called “Signify; Strokes Across a Page”. I also enjoy writing short story posts that include letters. One entire post is a letter. I like to write the letter or memo, etc., then photograph it in order to post. Thanks!

    Like

  17. indigomoons

    What great ideas. I love to write… physically and literally. The idea of responding to text messages with hand written notes is such an awesome idea. I think I will try it…..

    Like

  18. Kim Bultman

    This post was touching and a delight to discover. Thanks for the links, too, and Happy Thanksgiving to everybody at WordPress!

    Like

  19. diabetes2community

    I think writing with hand is very personal. It shows to some extend who you really are. Thanks for sharing your experience

    Like

  20. briannamauk

    Reblogged this on Creative Title and commented:
    As I consider various digital tools to use in my classroom and for my classes, I’m fascinated by how we choose to represent ourselves online (sometimes referred to as one’s “personal brand”). I found this post just after reading a ThoughtCatalog piece about how personal branding is “killing our individuality” (linked below). My thoughts are muddled with these juxtaposed views, but these two popular pieces, both circulated digitally, really illustrate the kinds of arguments I love to ponder on a daily basis.

    http://thoughtcatalog.com/cody-delistraty/2013/11/how-self-branding-is-killing-our-individuality/

    Like

  21. Juliet Jon

    I really loved the idea. Hand written papers are more touching :) Happy thanksgiving lovely people.

    Like

  22. costumemaker100

    Well I think each person is different. I always write my stuff down on paper. This way I’m more creative. And only after I’m done with a story I use my computer to type it in. Works for me, but I’m sure there are a lot of other person who have totally other ways to write and organize their things.

    Like

  23. Galaxian

    Stuff that is written on paper, provided the paper survives, will be decipherable even thousands of years from now, long after the electronic stuff our civilization has made is irretrievably gone. That’s why paper hasn’t disappeared yet.

    Like

  24. toemailer

    Good news about PostSecret! Now we can follow them in the reader. :)

    Like

  25. tanglycottage

    I’m obsessed with the room journals at the Sylvia Beach Hotel and every time I am there, I write about them, using photos of the entries…I blur out last names, usually. For example: http://tanglycottage.wordpress.com/2012/05/01/sylvia-beach-hotel-room-journals/

    Like

    • Cheri Lucas Rowlands

      I’ve heard of this hotel up north — been meaning to go, as I hear it’s cozy and lovely. Great idea for a post — I can imagine the interesting scribbles and thoughts in those journals…

      Like

  26. bligum

    I really enjoyed the article! :)

    Like

  27. Cherrie Zell

    I’ve just started getting into reading the posts that appear in the Dashboard. Better late than never? Your post has given me some great ideas for improving my blog. Thank you. The subject matter was timely, given that a recent post of mine includes thoughts on the world of physical maps compared with electronic versions. http://cherriezell.com/2013/11/23/mapping-an-online-exhibition-of-our-holiday/

    Like

  28. Gibson & Hills

    There is something intimate between paper and pen. I’ve always preferred a pen to a keyboard. Holding the pen to see letters take form is a sensation that every of our kid need to feel. I believe it is part and parcel of the whole ‘express yourself’ exercise. The letters you form under your pen, the trailing ink and the overall display are part of the writer’s personality. I’m 39 and remember my dad teaching me penmanship. My handwriting has been acclaimed several times – but I guess they are not really that special, what makes them special is scarcity of effort to build a beautiful handwriting. People prefer technology for the ease of it – but aesthetics and personality would only be found in handwriting.

    I really loved this article. Thanks!

    Like

  29. Stephen Yates

    Everyone seems to idealise secret written messages — now they have a place to send them…great idea. I’m penning my postcard now.

    Like

  30. sued51

    Thanks for this topic. It helped me find others who value these treasures!

    Like

  31. paigehileypr

    I prefer handwriting things — gives it more character. However in this day and age, writing things by hand seems to be going out the window. Too much technology that we don’t have a need to write by hand.

    Like

  32. hindloom

    Even today, a handwritten thank you note is priceless than a bbm or Whatsapp ping. As we relish the memories…and they are past not present…

    Like

  33. jcwardon

    I love the idea, but the (left-handed) handwriting has never been pretty! – More than thankful to type everything!

    Like

  34. beergogglesreviews

    Brilliant post. Take a look at Keith Arnatt’s ‘Notes From Jo’. A collection of once meaningless notes that become sonnets of deep love when the artist retrieves them from the bin after his wife dies. These unplanned, unauthored notes are often sweeter and more powerful in their simplicity. Our ditties have a soul that our pretentions lack.

    Like

  35. Mindypk

    I was going to purchase a new Bible, then went into a used book store on our local Main Street. There I found a used Bible that had numerous hand written comments in the margins of what the previous owner had learned. It is the best Bible I own and I’ve added to the eye opening learning for the next person that happens upon it.

    Like

  36. Mz Tshawn

    I have eight diaries and different diaries for different things, but I post to Facebook constantly and get a substantial amount of people watching, but MY diaries are for my girls, advice and things that I have gone through that I wish someone could have told me or let me read about or see what happened. The future and the past are very important places and my memory will have served its purpose someday and I feel I won’t be able to remember special details of moments. Once I go back and read a post from a few years ago, during the same month around the same time, it all comes back — even sounds, smells from that moment. But the computer is so easy — it’s just applicable to shut down and lose all my memories!

    Like

  37. xfmcdougle

    My friend and I both write fiction, except I travel a lot for inspiration so I do write by hand often more than computers. I’m still upset that my friend published his book before I did. Oh, well. I’ll get there. Cool article!

    Like

  38. markdunne2013

    Analogue is something you can touch; digital has its place but will not replace analogue.

    Like

  39. outienz

    I love seeing other people’s handwriting. It feels like a little secret treat…. and I still have a treasure bin of old letters I received as a teenager when I lived overseas for a year at 16 as well as my 16yr old self’s chocka-block diary. Today’s ‘typey’ teenagers are missing out.

    Like

  40. Jean

    Great, blogger had legible handwriting. I don’t and it’s gotten worse over the years, since I started having a computer 23 yrs. ago.

    Like

  41. powerworld1

    The title itself makes me to understand writing is kind of an art that we fail to do in the digital age.

    Like

  42. Choncey Boddington

    Thank you ever so much for featuring me blog, I truly am honoured!! xxx

    Like

  43. sanchitahobby

    I used to love writing so much that I wrote all my assignment essays myself. Today it’s mostly limited to my blogs which I write on a paper.

    Like

  44. Sheryl

    Thank you for mentioning A Hundred Years Ago. I am honored that you thought it was worthy to include with these other awesome blogs.

    Like

  45. wholelottarosie

    “handwritten-stories” you can see in my blog. like to write with fountain pens and I draw pictures in my moleskine notebook.

    http://roswithageisler.wordpress.com/

    Like

  46. Virginia

    I have a weekly ‘Postcard of the Week’ feature when I scan in a favourite postcard of mine and tell the story that accompanied the trip. It’s a great way to remind myself of past travels instead of only focusing on my upcoming travels! It’s http://www.TheWell-TravelledPostcard.com

    Like

  47. Helen

    I couldn’t agree more, and huge thanks for the mention herein. Raising a glass to old things, old rituals and memories

    Like

  48. ocjarman1

    This is SO wonderful to see — folks STILL enjoy writing ‘old school’! One commenter had written that her handwriting was similar to her mom’s — when I write my signature my ‘J’, 98% of the time resembles my mom’s ‘J’. Sadly, I have nothing of her writing, but my memories of it. Also,up until recently, I only handwrote everything; now, I’m able to do both!

    Like

  49. Isaac Yuen

    I just got myself a fountain pen. Going to start improving my handwriting and combine that with blogging in some way.

    Like

  50. propertyash

    still have my high school letters…. sentimental like that.

    Like

  51. teyahdreams

    I absolutely miss handwriting, so I bought two handmade leather bound books with handmade paper and started writing letters to each of my grandchildren. I just write about everyday things and some of the hardships their Mommy has or is going through (in order to make their lives better), so when they are grown and these books of letters are given to them, they will know how much their Mommy and Grandma love them.

    Like

  52. adelinethomson

    Hand-written notes that used to belong to someone special are priceless. I keep some small notes written by my grandmother because I want to remember her when she passes away. It is very emotional and valuable. We should not forget that we still have pens, pencils, etc to write it. It’s just so more precious than any digital letter…

    Like

  53. cjdwheeler

    I love this. It’s nice to see old school writing in such a digital world.

    Like

  54. umanbn

    I love post secrets…I don’t think there’s anyone out there who doesn’t have some secret they could put up. Makes you feel more human reading it..:)

    Like

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