Monday, April 25, 2016

#AtoZChallenge, U is for Unsent Letters

The first time I ever saw a letter and it's accompanying envelope as part of a book was in the Griffin and Sabine series by Nick Bantock. Bantock's work has been a big influence on my own, and many others, journal work, and little hidden notes throughout my journals has now become a mainstay.

Writing unsent letters can be a healing and cathartic experience--and you never have to worry about accidentally pressing the "send" button before you're ready! No regrets, no unintended hurt feelings, no misinterpretations. The only person reading your letters is you, even if you've addressed them to all sorts of people. For instance, you might like to write an unsent letter to:

  • The editor. The one who rejected you, and not very nicely.
  • Mean-spirited book reviewers.
  • Those kids in high school. You know the ones . . . 

Feel better? Once you've got that out of the way, other letters can be written to:

  • Your child-self, or who you were as a teen or young adult.
  • Someone you've never met, but always have wanted to thank for inspiring you.
  • Fictional characters in books or movies you've loved.
  • Your future self.
  • Anyone you still have an unresolved conflict with, but it's impossible or inappropriate to contact them.
  • Write to your manuscript or any work-in-progress that is troubling or perplexing you.

Letters don't always have to go into envelopes, but it's fun to give them their own space, especially if you decorate the envelope in some way, or tuck other small items in along with the note. In the past I've included  mini-photos and even a dollar bill! (I don't know why; it just felt "right.")

If you're concerned about maintaining the privacy of your unsent letters, two techniques that have worked for me are to:

  • Write out the full letter on a journal page and then collage over the entire text. The letter is there, but completely hidden by images relevant to the letter's contents.
  • Try "stacked journaling," a technique that turns your handwriting into an elaborate and abstract work of art that will be unreadable to anyone. Basically you simply write in one direction, then write again over the lines in another, and so on, back and forth. Use several different ink colors to really make the piece "pop." 

Personally, I miss the days of sending actual, handwritten or typed letters to friends and family: choosing nice stationary (onion-skin for airmail, heavy cream linen for query letters); waiting for the mail to arrive; everyone being okay with weeks or even months between replies. All of that can be reproduced in my journals, and with an added bonus--I don't have to go to the post office!

Tip of the Day:  Buy yourself a greeting card or two. Whenever I've gone to buy a birthday or other type of card it takes me forever to decide on which one--I want them all! I've solved my dilemma by buying a few extra for myself and using them throughout the year to write "surprise" notes in my journal.


Mary Montague Sikes said...

What an absolutely lovely idea! I love the way you've explained this. What a nice collage painting this could be. Thanks for sharing.

Mary Montague Sikes
Notes Along the Way
The Artful Way

Jess said...

I love writing letters. A lot of people might find that really odd, since I'm 19 and totally into the world of texting and instant messaging! But honestly, I love writing letters. My boyfriend and I exchange letters all the time, it's such a nice thing to do!

Valerie Storey said...

Thank you, Jess and Mary--I enjoyed writing this post and sharing my process with you. Jess, I think exchanging letters with your boyfriend is extremely romantic! You could even create a special journal to keep them in, tied up with a silk ribbon, of course! Thank you so much for visiting :)