Letter writing is a forgotten art. I mean when was the last time you wrote one or received one? When I talk of letters in this post I refer to letters between friends and family. Things you write because you want to express something personal not informational. Writing cover letters, business letters, references, wedding invitations, testimonials, introductions or even thank you cards, are a completely different matter. But a well written letter is wonderful to receive and worth the effort to write. Especially when someone dies or has difficulty’s. It expresses more than the words on the page, its very presence conveys love.
The important thing to remember about writing a letter is that you have absolute control about what gos in, or doesn’t. Its very easy to feel intimidated by the blank page and to let that feeling urge you to fill your letter with whatever thoughts come to mind.
When I’m writing a letter I try to keep some things in mind…
I find that I’m most happy when people write letters about how they are feeling, not what they are doing. Frustrations, angers, jealously, happiness, love, eagerness, excitement, disappointments, regrets, all of them are wonderful to read about. You might think its because I’m a heartless gossip yet its really because through peoples emotions I can identify with them and thus feel closer to them. Its hard to identify with someone when they tell you about what they ate last Tuesday, yet its easy to identify when they tell you about how excited they are about their date next Tuesday.
You would think that needing to write about emotion would mean that men are not good letter writers but, in fact one of the best letter writers I know is a man. He really dose write the best letters of anyone I have ever met. Throughout the ages men have written letters that included plenty of emotion. I’ve read some written by historical figures that are filled with love and passion. They are just as interesting today as they were to the people who received them hundreds of years ago.
People are afraid that what they write will be seen as boring and trite but really if the person receiving the letter loves and knows you, you have a great advantage, the person wants to hear from you because you are interesting to them. Use it to your advantage. Tell them about something that they have never heard before.
I have/had a tendency to keep things short and sweet. But I’ve realized that it really is better to receive a long letter than a short one. When I was in high school my best friend went to Germany with her family and at that time international phone calls were prohibitively expensive. We had to make do with air mail. My first letter from her had a postscript “I am not your Grandmother, write more next time.”
Story’s are always treasured. The things I remember from those letters from my friend are the stories about how difficult it was to get used to speaking German and how excited she was about this boy that she kept seeing at the library. She learned German fluently and the boy did not stay in her life, but that’s not the point, because she told me about those things I felt close to her even though she was thousands of miles away.
Right now I have the difficult task of writing to a family member whose spouse just died. I try and keep in mind what he’d like to here about his friend and lover. What I remember can be something that will make him smile or cry. The weight of it is intimidating but I have the memory of him telling me, that the letters that people sent after the death of his mother were really precious to him. That memory stiffens my resolve to dig through my own emotions and memory’s to find something that I can share with him.