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Struggling To Write A Letter

Updated on May 10, 2011

Do you still write letters or do you just e-mail people?

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Does It Happen To You?

Or don't you like to write letters. I do because it's such a swell way to keep from working and yet feel you've done something.

-Ernest Hemingway-

I am one of those people who struggle just as hard beginning a letter as I do closing it. It doesn’t matter who I’m writing to either. I could be writing to a perfect stranger or to my closest friend and I still struggle.

One of my problems is that I was taught to write formal letters. The idea of being a more relaxed letter writer didn’t seem possible until I was older and I started to write more often to friends. Until then, letters were reserved for family members I never saw and business owners who I hoped would consider donating to one school cause or another. When letters began to be sent back and forth between my friends and me, I started to loosen up, but not totally. It wasn’t until I got into e-mailing people that I finally took a large, very necessary deep breath.

Another problem is that I never know what to say. Sure, I have ideas, but are they worth forcing someone to read them? No one wants to come off as a bore or an egotist. Still being accused of being shut off and cold isn’t appealing either. How can one find a comfortable balance? I usually use my friend’s email or letter as a model. If they mentioned their family, I’ll mention my family. If they updated me on their life after college, I’ll do that too. It’s not that I’m too insecure to branch out and write about things my friend didn’t mention. Nor is it that my friend makes me uncomfortable. It’s more of a time issue. Though I don’t mean to, I have a tendency to go on and on. People like to joke about my epic emails. If I have a guide with three or four specific topics, I will adhere to that guide and the letter or email will remain letter length. On the rare occasion when there is no guide, watch out. You may have to take my letter in pieces.

However, the hardest part of writing a letter is figuring out how to close it. For me, writing letters can be tiring. I’ve spent so much time working on the middle portion of the letter that when it comes to closing it, I always fail miserably. In the past few pages, I have written eloquently about my life, my feelings on one issue or another and advice on what I think my friend should do about their latest crisis. My final paragraph is always the same. I basically say that “I should end here.”, that “I look forward to hearing from you.” and “Please take care of yourself.” I always feel bad ending like this, but I never know what else to say. It feels abrupt to me and cold in comparison to all that I wrote before. It’s also highly unoriginal. Yet, no matter how much time I dedicate to improving the ending, I never can do it.

Letter writing is said to be a lost art. Thanks to e-mails, nobody seems to want to take the time to write a real letter. People will say it’s the rising cost of postage. They will say that killing trees to make paper to write on is bad for the environment. No matter the reason, it is sad to think that one day people may not get the rush I have received by going to the mailbox and seeing that I received a letter from someone special.


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