Tuesday, May 10, 2011

How to Write an Encouraging Letter

Writing a letter to a friend going through hard times is tough. It takes a little practice and a lot of heart. There aren't any magic formulas I can share, but here are a few tips I've learned from years of writing and receiving letters.

1. Tell the Truth
You don't need to exaggerate to show your empathy. Always tell the truth, even if that means admitting you haven't gone through what they have. Your friend will appreciate you having the courage to be honest.

2. Simple is Okay
For this kind of letter you can put away the Thesaurus. Most of the time, a simple "I'm thinking of you" or "You're in my thoughts" is all it takes.

3. Recall Something Funny
If you're not sure how to start your letter, why not remind your friend about a funny moment you shared. Laughter is healing. You can't go wrong with a funny story.

4. Use You Not I
Remember the letter is about them, so try to avoid using "I" as much as possible. Instead use "you." If you find this difficult, write a sentence with "I" and then turn it around. For example: "I know I'd be worried too" turns into "You must be so worried."

5. Write From the Heart
No matter how clumsy the words, if it comes from the heart you can't miss.

And by the way, have you taken my letter writing challenge yet? Today is the best day to give it a try. You can do it!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Letter Writing Challenge

When was the last time you wrote a letter? I don't mean typed a few lines and then ran spell check. I'm talking about picking up a pen and pressing it against a piece of stationery. Can you even recall the excitement of opening the mailbox and finding a small square with your name on it?

In the age of texts and tweets, we've forgotten that letters are a gift with the power to charm and heal. They are sacred mementos and tangible proof, and often serve as a personal memoir or historical reference. After working on an epistolary novel, or a book comprised entirely of letters, I discovered a true passion for this lost art. I'd like to share this passion with you.

So, here's your challenge. Try writing just one letter. You could write to your mom for Mother's Day or to a friend in need of cheering. In your letter, ask them to write back - the old fashioned way - and embrace what it feels like to give and receive something that costs only 44 cents. At first it might seem a bit strange, and likely your hand will hurt just a bit. Still, I think you might unfold something special.