© Lisa Black 2011 all rights reserved
Plus, the advantage of distance can give you extra freedom. I can make cutting remarks about my local government to my friend who lives in another state, because the odds of it getting from her back to the nosy co-worker in the next cubicle is infinitesimal to none. My friend will laugh and throw it into the recycling bin. It will not live forever in cyberspace, to grow, fester, take on a life force of its own and return just in time to ruin my chances for a seat on the city council.
Write especially to people who are cut off from the majority of their social circle, the house-bound, soldiers overseas, children away at college or doing a semester in a foreign country. I can assure you they will never, ever forget it.
Besides, for a writer, it’s terrific practice. Every fact you relate in a personal letter is an exercise in dramatic expression, designed for maximum impact and tailored for the recipient. (More than once a letter to a friend has then been censored and truncated to be sent to an elderly aunt.) I produced some of my funniest lines in letters, as when I described a children’s choir—adorable to the eyes but not so much to the ears—as sounding ‘as if a box of children’s voices had been dropped down a flight of steps.’ Or the time ‘my husband came home from work unexpectedly and said he thought he’d catch me with a boyfriend and instead found me in the wild and crazy process of cleaning out the attic, which we both agreed is a sad commentary on my social life.’ I’ll write short movie reviews: “The problem with seeing that Julie & Julia movie is now I’m dying to rush home and fry something in butter.” Or travel commentary: ‘the city of New Orleans seems to have only a passing acquaintance with either vegetables or fruits, unless they’re in a daiquiri.’
A letter reader is like any other reader. They are taking time out of their busy schedule to read what you’ve written, and the need to hold their attention away from all the other demands in their life forces you to write as effectively and concisely as you would a best seller. On a smaller scale, but all the same challenges apply.
So go ahead and write a letter. The recipient won’t care if it’s not on matching stationery. They won’t care if it’s typed instead of hand-written. They won’t care if it’s scribbled on a paper towel with a stubby crayon. They won’t even care if you don’t have anything in particular to say. They’ll only care that you cared.
About the author:
Lisa Black’s fourth book Defensive Wounds was released by Harper Collins on September 27. Forensic scientist Theresa MacLean battles a serial killer operating at an attorney’s convention. Lisa is a full time latent print examiner and CSI for a police department in Florida. http://www.lisa-black.com/