How do you encapsulate all your feelings into a page or two? Here are some guidelines to help you get focused and get you in the mood to put pen to paper. Or fingers to keyboard if your handwriting is barely legible.
Make It Short And Sweet
This is a letter, not a manifesto, so it shouldn’t be too long. You should be able to slip it into an envelope that doesn’t require extra postage.
Show The Real You
A good creative writing class will instruct you to write the way you speak. Most people are personable in conversation but when they write it’s about as warm as a letter from the IRS. The words on the page become too formal, which can strip away all the personality. Do you use contractions in real life? Do you say, “she is a nice person” or “she’s a nice person?” “I will not do that” or “I won’t do that?” Loosen up and make it so the person reading it can hear and feel your voice in their head.
It’s easy to go off on tangents since life is often one big crazy detour after another. But if you had to summarize your feelings in 500 words, what would you say? You can always write it long and cut it down to the essentials.
Be Careful If You Want To Go Negative
You may have felt slighted or been treated poorly. While this is terrible, and many people can relate, think twice before sharing something negative. This is how you’ll be remembered. If you lash out, and the letter is shared, which it most certainly will be, you’re not the one who will feel the repercussions; your family and friends will have to manage the backlash.
Make A List Of The Letter-worthy
There are a lot of people in your life and you don’t want to accidentally exclude people. Imagine how terrible a person you cared about would feel if everyone got a letter but them? A list ensures you leave nothing to chance.
Personalize The Message
This isn’t a form letter being sent to everyone in a company. Each person will require a different message to help ease the grief after you’re gone. Let the relationship you had with that person be your guide. If you always joked with them, why start being overly serious now? They’ll probably think it was written by someone else.
Use Your Hands, Not Your Fingers
This is our clever way of saying handwritten letters carry more weight over typed documents. It’s basic etiquette, the same way handwritten thank you notes after a big event -- wedding, baby shower, job interview -- are still held in high regard. This is the final thank you note you’ll ever write, and you want it to be a memorable one. If you opt to type out your letter at least print it out and sign it. This should be a keepsake and not another digital file taking up space on a computer.
Tell Someone About It
You probably don’t want to share these with anyone while you’re still alive. Keep them with your other important papers and leave instructions with a person you trust so they get into the right hands. You can address them and have them dropped in the mail but that runs the risk of them possibly getting lost. To ensure they get to the right people it’s best if it goes from human to human.
Since we don’t expect you to write all the letters in one sitting, grab a notepad or open up a digital document and start making your list. If you’re feeling inspired then jot some notes down next to each name with loose thoughts of what you’d want to say to them. You’re by no means done. You’ll still have to write the letters, so carve out some time, maybe even set some reminders on your calendar, to get them done.