Lisa A. Kramer

Author, Speaker, Theater Artist, Creativity Facilitator

The Healing Power of Letters

Some of you may recall that I had set myself a challenge in December to write a letter a day for the entire month. I didn't succeed, or a least not completely. I lost track, but I think I wrote about 15 letters before the overwhelming emotions of dealing with the anniversary of my father's death plus the depressing news that I would be underemployed this semester sucked all the energy out of my system.

The letters I wrote were to a variety of people: old friends who I haven't been in touch with for a while; new friends who I've had lunch with recently; blogging friends whom I've never even met; long-distance friends who I hear from at least once a year. Some of the letters were difficult to write, as I found myself becoming repetitive, or tried to say something new that they hadn't read in my blog. Some were filled with nostalgia for times long past, or plans and hopes for an undefined future. Most of the letters got no response, a few did. The responses got (or will get) responses again.

When I started, I stumbled upon a book in the library called To the Letter: A Celebration of the Lost Art of Letter Writing, by Simon Garfield. I've been slowly making my way through it because, although interesting, the prose style and amount of information doesn't lend to making this a quick read. Garfield discusses the history of letter writing from the most ancient evidence of letters. He includes letters or sections of letters from people as famous as Napoleon to unknowns like the man who served in the British military during World War II and conducted a complete romance through letters.

As I've read, I've thought about my history with letters. I have always been able to express myself better through the written word than face to face, so I have often written letters that never got sent. Letters that expressed anger or frustration or disappointment. Letters that told people how much I had been hurt, or how much I loved. Some letters do get sent, and then I wonder if the recipient will ever forgive my words--or if I've just blathered on in meaningless rambles. (I often wonder that here in my blog as well).

I began to wonder if the blog has taken place of letters in my life. I've shared ups and downs in this space. I've tried to present myself and my ideas in honest and interesting ways. I've read all comments and responded to all readers. But, when writing in such a public venue, can you ever truly reveal the inner workings of your soul?

The difference between writing a letter for a specific person and writing a blog post is one of intimacy--of connection. I suppose you could find the same connection in personal e-mails, but there is still a difference. Having a pen in hand, writing with smudges and mistakes, letting your mind spill out in all its incoherent stream-of-consciousness . . . all of these lend to a more emotional, more connected form of writing.

I have been struggling today. My life feels a little hopeless at the moment, and I am feeling defeated. I know I shouldn't, but sometimes you just have to feel what you feel. I wanted to write, but I couldn't find the words, the form, the meaning. I am so frustrated by the world we live in at the moment--a world which seems to value cruel, heartless, greedy, selfish people over kind, hard-working, caring people. I have had enough.

So I decided to write a letter. I wasn't sure who I wanted to write to or what I wanted to say, but I grabbed my stationary and my favorite pen and began to write. I won't torture you with the entire letter (which goes on for three pages) but here is the first page.

Letter to the WorldNow I just have to figure out who to send this to.

Do you find writing letters helps you heal? Do you ever write letters that never get read?