November 7, 2010
We’ve discussed pens and paper, now comes the challenging part, what to say… Saying what you feel honestly in just the right way, often requires some fine tuning. Handwriting a letter is an emotional process. Think about it, we generally write to express our feelings of love, admiration, friendship, gratitude, encouragement, sympathy, and sometimes anger or disappointment.
With regards to letters written in anger, I’d like to offer a few cautions. Remember the literary reprimands from Harry Potter called “Howlers”. Those envelopes flew into the Great Hall of Hogwarts screaming! My mother wrote howlers, she had a vicious pen and her words could leave psychological scars. Like her, I’ve burned bridges with angry letters, so maybe we could all learn from my mistakes. Your angry written words will last far longer than your bad mood. Pour your anger onto the page, give it expression. Then hold back. Burn the page, shred it, but don’t send it. Sleep on it. Consider the consequences. For the sake of all concerned, don’t send a “howler”. You may have good reasons for being angry. However, if you want your perspective understood, WAIT till you are more reasonable.
Enough said on that emotion. When I am formulating a letter to someone, I attempt to get clear on how I feel, how I want to express that feeling (what I want to say) and to whom I am addressing. I get a sense of my relationship with this individual to set the tone for my letter. I favor a “conversational style”, meaning I just talk to my reader with my words on the page. I imagine the reader listening completely to what I have to say. Being a shy person, I enjoy the freedom to say in a letter what I may be too tongue-tied to express face-to-face. I try to keep it simple. It’s about sharing something felt, it’s not about me being brilliant.
Go for being yourself and speak from your heart. Be sincere. There are many do’s and don’ts. Margaret Shepherd offers some helpful hints. Speak to the reader specifically, avoid generalities. Try this formula: address “you” (the reader) first, then “we”, and finally, talk about (yourself) “me” . I will cover more Do’s and Don’ts in upcoming posts. For now I’m aiming to keep things light and encouraging. Simply write as you talk. Picture you and your reader sitting together chatting.