probably not send, despite the Chinese proverb that says “Never write aletter while you are angry.”
But a letter, a real letter like the ones people wrote before e-mail andtexting became our ubiquitous modes of communication, takes intoconsideration the idea that the reader is truly receptive and reactive, maybenot as a participant in the writing but surely in understanding theemotional effect and perhaps intent of the letter. As the writer Elizabeth
Drew has said, “It takes two to write a letter as much as it takes two to makea quarrel. “
This means that every letter is thoughtful and complex in its own way.
Moreover, the letter truly captures the writer’s voice as well as the writer’s
vision and characterization of the correspondent. A letter has a sense of audience and a sense of purpose even if it will not be dropped in a mailboxand sent.
“Writer’s voice” is something that writing teachers talk about a lot and
something that all writers find elusive at varying moments and sometimesfor a long time.
What is my voice?
Is it something natural orcreated?
are two of the most often asked questions. There is no easy answer
to this, but voice is most easily accessed when we are “speaking” to one who
brings out the best in us or who we feel really understands what we mean.For a letter writer, the recipient of the letter, whether alive or dead, real orimagined (fiction writers use this technique to get to know their characters)must be clearly delineated in our minds before we can begin to write aneffective and affecting letter.I had the extraordinary experience of writing a letter in my journal to acolleague who died too young. I felt that I had never told him what hisfriendship meant to me, so I wrote a long letter detailing his qualities,reminding him of funny or telling moments and letting him know how much he meant to so many people. I was relieved and exhilarated at havingspent this time with him very present in my mind. And
since I couldn’t send
the letter to him, I sent it to his wife, who was thrilled to see him through