On writing letters

Natalie Juteau

Evening, CSU. I’ve had a strange couple of days, and you’ll find that my writing is very much affected by that today.  Bear with me here, because I’m figuring things out as I go along.

There are many people who dislike writing (most would use a much stronger word than ‘dislike’, I know). I wonder about this. What is it about sitting down and pouring out one’s thoughts that is so unappealing to people? I do think it has grounds in schoolwork and in having to write way too many 5-paragraph essays, but writing is so much more than that. It’s a chance to explore your own mind.

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Like an artist can link symbols and concepts to one another, so too can a writer. We pull out these thoughts and musings and toss them down in a jumbled mess, and through the process of writing we can begin to sort through those thoughts. We can find links and connections we never knew existed, but have been there all along. We can discover something about ourselves that we may have misunderstood before, but when bled out on a page it all becomes so clear.

I am a lover of letters. Sure, I enjoy getting emails and thoughtful text messages, but nothing speaks volumes like thoughts scrawled on a piece of paper. There is something about the act of sitting down and putting pen to paper that is so personal and real. Words you put on paper can’t be so easily removed. There is no backspace button, and an eraser can’t ever truly remove what you wrote.

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Photo credit: Natalie Juteau
Letters are important. I write letters to myself in a beautiful journal that my mother bought me when I graduated. I write to myself when I’m feeling angry, depressed, overjoyed, or bored. I write in an attempt to make physical all the thoughts I have.

To think angry thoughts is easy. They pass through your mind, and then they can be gone. You never have to face them. But to write those angry thoughts down and to stare at them in a physical sense feels entirely different. You can see your anger staring back at you, and deal with it rather than allow the thoughts to tumble by.

Love letters. Romantic, right? I’d so much rather get a note scrawled on the back of a napkin than to get a text message with a winking heart face. Just like angry thoughts, loving thoughts are heavy. Thinking them is easy, but to write them down can be scary. It makes us feel vulnerable. How can we keep our walls up when we’re pouring our feelings out for everyone to hold in their hands, to read over and over again, to analyze and make judgments on? The simple answer is that we can’t.

Writing can tear down walls. It can force us to not only recognize our feelings, but to face them head on. Sometimes I write letters to myself and then shred the paper so that I never have to look at it again. That physical act of writing and then shredding is like a form of therapy. You can write a letter to yourself, a family member, a friend, a partner. Even if you never deliver the letter, writing it is still important. It makes your thoughts real. We too often try to shut out our emotions, to trick ourselves into feeling something different, or not feeling at all. Writing releases that. It allows us to feel everything, and then to reflect on it. No one else has to see it. No one else has to know.

There is no reason for anyone to fear writing, or even to dislike it. Writing does not have to be linked with academia. Mine sure isn’t. And I know I’m going to sound cliché, but writing is a link to the soul. It allows us to understand ourselves and others on a level that nothing else can.
I challenge anyone reading this to write a letter. Write it to yourself, or to that person you can’t stop thinking about, or to your dog. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you write it, and that you face the words and all the weight they hold.

Go for it, CSU. You may find you actually enjoy writing after all.

 

Natalie can be reached at blogs@collegian.com and on twitter @n_juteau

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