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Thursday, April 03, 2014

The lost art of the unsent angry letter

Have you seen this New York Times article about the lost art of the unsent angry letter?

“Whenever Abraham Lincoln felt the urge to tell someone off,” Konnikova writes, “he would compose what he called a ’hot letter’. He’d pile all of his anger into a note, ‘put it aside until his emotions cooled down’...and then write: ‘never sent. Never signed.’ ”

It’s interesting to think about how social media has changed the ways we express heat-of-the-moment frustration. Here are two excerpts from the article...

*****

Before the Internet: "The unsent angry letter has a venerable tradition. Its purpose is twofold. It serves as a type of emotional catharsis, a way to let it all out without the repercussions of true engagement. And it acts as a strategic catharsis, an exercise in saying what you really think, which Mark Twain (himself a notable non-sender of correspondence) believed provided 'unallowable frankness & freedom.' "

Nowadays: "We toss our reflexive anger out there, but we do it publicly, without the private buffer that once would have let us separate what needed to be said from what needed only to be felt....We may also find ourselves feeling less satisfied. Because the angry email (or tweet or text or whatnot) takes so much less effort to compose than a pen-and-paper letter, it may in the end offer us a less cathartic experience, in just the same way that pressing the end call button on your cellphone will never be quite the same as slamming down an old-fashioned receiver."

*****

Have you ever written an angry letter, knowing you'll never send it? Would you now? I once read a challenge (I can't remember where) to write a love letter to a current, past or future love without sending it, which also sounds like a pretty compelling exercise. Anyway, let me know what you think!

P.S. I liked this mother's advice, too. Plus, funny thank-you letters and how to fight fair.

(Thank you so much, Joy Belamarich)

98 comments:

Joanna Goddard said...

my friend actually says she has a bunch of terrifying gmails to her boyfriend that she has never sent! kind of scary to write them in gmail, though, because what if you accidentally pressed send?!

emmilie. said...

I once wrote a loooooong letter to my best friend expressing long built-up frustrations I was having. It was so effective! I avoid confrontation at all costs, and the letter was a great vehicle to express what I was feeling... and then read over and realise how many of the issues were my own that I was just unfairly putting on her.

I never gave her the letter - but I kept it for myself. Years later, its interesting to look at every now and again. It shows how our friendship has changed (for the better) since then, and also how I have changed. A little window into my 22-year-old brain!

sumslay said...

Ha, I too am an angry email writer (errr...typer?) in gmail. BUT, i put myself in the To field, so no accidents happen. It is very cathartic.

Also, I make it a point NOT to comment on fb when I'm drunk [anymore]. Bc, you know, after drinking you feel everything, so I tell myself, "If you still want to comment on that in the morning, you can."

sumslay said...

Oh, and I've also used my Notes app in my iPhone for rants, when i simply must get it out immediately.

Christina said...

I really like the idea of writing (but never sending!) a letter to a past love. I've never tried it, but it sounds like a much better idea than impulsively sending a regrettable note on facebook. Great post, thanks for sharing!
xo

Christine said...

As a teacher, sometimes we write emails to parents about how we honestly feel and send it to a coworker and edit it down til it's safe to send.

karatebear said...

This is something my Mom taught me. I write an email leaving the "to" field blank and save it as a draft. I thought everyone did this. It is cathartic! Get all the rage and frustration out.

Angela said...

I am terrible at confronting people and it takes a lot of energy for me to do so, but I'm a huge journal-er so I often write out what I would say to this person if such an occasion would arise. Writing things out helps process my emotions, figure out where I'm coming from, and whether or not I'm crazy for being upset :P

When and if I do have a conversation with the person, the journal entry has proven itself to help me jog my mind on what bothered me and just makes sure that I don't skimp out on being honest.

Joanna Goddard said...

christine, that's so interesting!!

Joanna Goddard said...

angela, me too. journals are SO helpful for figuring out what you really think.

handmade by amalia said...

Sounds to me like the beginning of a movie - and the letter does get sent, accidentally of course...
great post!

Rachel Medlock said...

This method of venting absolutely needs to have a revival. I've tried it as a form of catharsis, and it helps so much. It's possibly the least harmful way to get out your negative emotions.

xx,
Rachel
Suppose Anything Goes


Rachel said...

Have you checked out http://thelostdrafts.tumblr.com? It is a collection of unsent emails and letters.

Laura said...

I didn't know this was a lost art! I used to have a file on my computer of Angry Letters, but the best part about writing the angry letter and saving it is that you can read it months or years later and move it into the trash can. You can reflect on that anger and where you are now, and how 99% of the time, it is so much better/healthier/wiser to keep it to yourself.

tobylynne said...

I've written a number of angry letters over the years. It's definitely my chosen way of venting and letting all the anger and frustration out without dragging anyone else into it! I would be way too scared to write one in an email because chances are likely I would accidentally send it!

D said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ashley Arbaiza said...

futureme.org is the most therapeutic thing I have ever found. When I get heated about something I complain... to my future self!!! It is great to write in a diary or write a letter never to be sent but there is something comforting about knowing my frustration is going somewhere. When the email finally finds future you it is great to reflect with a clear mind about what was REALLY at the root of the venting session!

Meadow said...

I've done this before. Even just drafting an email and not sending it (I leave out the recipient!). Or drafting a Word document full of frustrations then not saving it. I think that despite the fact we live in an instant gratification society, we can't use that as an excuse. Like for example, Facebook is not the place to hash it out with someone! I try to be cognizant of who can see what, especially if my real name is attached to something.

Kendriana said...

I've written an angry letter to a relative, I never sent it but I plan on editting it to make it current before I move out of state next year. LOL

I actually wrote a love letter about two weeks ago to someone I really care about... He put it in the door his lab locker at dental school, it made me feel really special.

managingmommyhood said...

I have written SO many never sent letters. They help sort out my emotions so well and sometimes by doing so I realize that whatever I was angry with was silly or I wasn't seeing both sides of the story.

I recently found a letter I wrote my dad when I was 16 that I am forever grateful I never gave him. It was not the kindest letter and so many of the things I referenced in it were things I would later learn more details about. I know if I had given my dad that letter it would have hurt him so much and for that I am so grateful.

D said...

Hi there Joanna, great article. Actually, late last year I started a tumblr blog called The Lost Drafts (http://thelostdrafts.tumblr.com)
about this very theme, asking people to submit emails, letters or texts they never had the courage to send. I think it's fabulously therapeutic, not only to post but also to go through those drafts and gauge the evolution of your feelings about the issue at hand. Feel free to promote the blog as I'm always looking for new posts, and I certainly will hang on to this article! Thanks so much for such a great blog! xoxo MM

The Wh0le Story said...

Back in the day, my counselor suggested this exercise to me. I actually did try it out. I can't say that it did much for me but it's a great concept if it works for someeone.

Lynn said...

Oh yes! I wrote a very angry, I resent you email to an ex boyfriend last year. I never sent it, but it was incredibly helpful in letting go of the anger. I also thought it saved my friends from hearing me complain about him nonstop. :P

Carrie Roth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kerikins said...

As a psychologist in training, I give this exercise as "homework" a lot. It can be so cathartic! Plus, personally, I try to get my negative emotions out via stream of conscious letters.

Lilac In May said...

An unsent angry email is the future! My draft box is full of them.

Gina said...

I do that very often. I call it "to puke my anger" hahahaha it's really therapeutic. But most of the times I delete the letter just after writing it, cause I have fear that the subject of anger would discover it.

AmazingConnection said...

Years ago, years and years ago, my grandfather parked somewhere in NYC where there was an obstructed No Parking sign. You know where this is going, when he returned, the car was gone. So he had to go to the west side impound lot. I mean, this really was the 80s, the west side impound lot was very far away then. And you had to have cash to get your car out. And getting $200 in cash wasn't as easy then. The whole thing was a really big hassle.

About a month later, he received notifications of a few unpaid NYC parking tickets. He was confused, he would never not pay a parking ticket. Looking more closely, he realize that before his car had been towed it had been ticketed. A few times. And at the impound lot, evidently, they had discarded the tickets. Now that 30 days had passed, the tickets had doubled.

My grandfather is an incredibly mild-mannered, friendly guy with a great sense of humor. I've almost never seen him angry; he really just lets things roll of his back. This, however, pissed him off. But, what could he do? Was he really going to try to take on impound lot employees about this? He wrote a check to cover the cost of the tickets and decided to let it go.

My grandmother was also disgusted by it, but she couldn't just let it go. I'm going to write them an angry letter, she announced.

Tracy Carson said...

Yes! This is actually one of my most used therapeutic techniques I employ in my practice. I work with mostly women who courageously struggle to overcome the very natural emotions of anger and rage after an abusive past or event. Writing a letter to an abuser, or anyone that has wronged you, can be a powerful exercise in releasing those emotions. So often we feel guilty for being angry or upset and the power that comes with giving voice to our feelings is extremely cathartic!

Katherine Fugit said...

Who needs unsent angry letters when you can just have a long, drawn out, imaginary argument with the offender while you're in the shower? You can change it up every which way until you say the most perfect thing and bonus(!) your pores will be nice and opened up when it's all over.

Unknown said...

i would disagree that emails dont provide the same venting feeling - in fact i type so furiously i almost brake the keyboard. so yes, ive written plenty of unsent angry emails. it is my go to tactic for anyone that angers me, mostly men. i purge it all out...leave it for several days. if i still feel the same way after cooling off, some i actually send, but usually i just delete them as they served their purpose.

kelly zellers said...

Oh my gosh, I wish more people would do this! So much better (and less uncomfortable for everyone) than a passive-aggressive Facebook rant!

Kathleen Frances said...

I once wrote an angry letter to a friend about vaccinations. I'm pro she's anti. It wasn't a pen and paper letter but an email. I literally spent all day writing it, perfecting it. And then I never sent it. So in this day and age I think it's still possible as long as you're in "draft" mode;-P

I also never post my heated feelings on Facebook. And when I see others doing it I feel even more strongly about that decision.

I think it's definitely still possible now. Just with a keyboard than a pen and paper.

Amy said...

Your point that people express emotions hastily and without thought in ways they might not have before social media is the reason I quit facebook a few years ago. I was tired of the emotional vomit and the feelings it stirred up inside of me.

There seems to be much lost in our hurried lives that do not take the time to stop, breathe, and reflect.

Great post!
T

Sofia Donatelli said...

I love writing and receiving hand written letters and thanks you notes. I do it all the time. I think we should also do a just because ... written note. Great post.

Love,
Sofia

stylishlyinlove.blogspot.com

J.Mill said...

I write angry letters in gmail too, but never type in a "to" address. If the email has no recipient, it can't go anywhere! And when you finally decide to delete it, you can have that fun feeling of pushing the "empty trash" button.

lucinda smith said...

SO good and SO true! i think i'm pretty good at editing my raw thoughts/emotions and am not very impulsive, but i LOVE that "catharsis" idea and "unallowable frankness & freedom". awesome advice.

www.currenttempo.com

Leslie Musser said...

This concept is liberating and sobering, all at the same time. I appreciate the urge to temper our knee-jerk reactions with handwriting (or Word Document typing, as the case may be) before resorting to social media or vent-texting. Oftentimes, what seems paramount in the moment becomes inconsequential two hours later. Let the steam escape--but what to where it escapes.

www.onebrassfox.com

SFMallyGirl said...

I wrote an angry email reply to an ex-boyfriend's rude and out-of-the-blue email, but instead of sending to him, sent to a few of my close friends. It was doubly cathartic, knowing he thought I didn't care enough to even respond, and getting my feelings validated from my friends. Highly recommend!

SpeakingFondly said...

like katherine, i also have imaginary arguments! in the safe haven of my own home i can yell and curse and say whatever i want, going over it several different times to allow various "outcomes". i feel SO good after and am usually able to let go of whatever it was that was bothering me. usually about a guy. story of my life.

Eleanor James said...

I wrote an old boyfriend in a word doc and it was very cathartic. Definitely better than verbally expressing myself on FB or twitter, ha. Great post! Eeep, I'd be WAY too concerned about accidentally hitting send on gmail too!

Paper Becomes You said...

I definitely have written those, mostly to old boyfriends in college. Probably not since then though. I don't know if you realize it, but April is National Letter Writing Month! I'm posting an idea a week on my FB page (Paper Becomes You) to get people writing. Maybe this would be a good one to include! (Although, mine are falling into the actually send category...). In general, I think that writing of all kinds is really good for so many emotions: anger, happiness, sadness, gratitude, loneliness, love.

And thank you for all the writing that you do!

Julia Parker said...

This is so great because I do this all the time but I didn't realize there was an actual term for it. I generally write my angry letters in my journal and they are often bullet points of what I'm mad about. I usually do this when things have gotten really bad with someone and I know I need to have a conversation with them. I let it sit for a couple of days in my journal and then I go back and choose the rational pieces from what I've written. But after reading this, I'm going to start doing it every time I get upset about something. I think it will help me tremendously, especially after I've seen how much it helps when I'm actually going to talk to someone. Maybe it will help in not letting things get to a really bad situation in the first place. Thank you!

summery.org said...

I've never done the unsent angry letter, but after each heartbreak I write an unsent love letter.

xo, sheila
www.summery.org

Sarah O. said...

I've done the modern version of this. I used to handle insurance claims and dealt with a lot of angry, mean people. I would start out a Word doc writing what I wanted to say (Dear A**hole,), then delete the whole thing and write the proper business letter on top of it. I always felt like my original message somehow shined through. ;)

Nina said...

Funny, I always thought of myself and week for not sending those letters (emails as well). I never realized that what I was doing was maybe the right thing.

Joanna Goddard said...

haha, gina, i love this!

Joanna Goddard said...

SO interesting to hear from therapists and psychologists! thanks for commenting!

Chloe said...

it's so crazy how the internet has allowed us to say mean or unnecessary things without having to worry about the repercussions. i sometimes write an angry email with the intentions to NEVER send it and it totally helps me cool down!
xox
chloe
http://popcosmo.com

Zoomie said...

Also, once sent via email, they can be forwarded along to whomever the recipient wants - other friends, the media...

eljohnny said...

My boyfriend and I recently broke up and of course right after it happened I had so many thoughts going through my head. I was angry and sad and disappointed and confused and had a lot to get off my chest so I wrote him an email filled with negativity and anger. Our situation is a tricky one because we were very good friends before we ever dated and share many mutual friends. We are still going to see each other quite often and we didn't end on bad terms, it just didn't work out, so I didn't want to say or do anything that would cause unnecessary drama or negative feelings. I saved the email but never sent it. It felt so good to just get everything out there. It's just like keeping a journal. You need to get things out but it's not always something you are comfortable saying to another person. I highly recommend writing it out. I think it's good for your mind.

Anna Seay said...

I have written many of them! It's truly cathartic to vent your emotions on paper like that. I have also found that a great way to "let go" of the emotions after you've written them down is to burn the letter. Actually watch it burn and visualize any burdensome emotions going away.

-Anna
http://www.bananagrovedesigns.blogspot.com/

Erik and Jane Petersons said...

Yes! I have written "angry letters" before and I find it so helpful. I first did it when I was working through a tough and deeply hurtful situation - my counselor recommended writing out my feelings in the letter, as if I was actually saying them to the person's face. It was so therapeutic to feel as if I had said it, so it was healing - without having to deal with all the added layers of an actual confrontation. The next step of the process was to reflect on what I had written and see how much I could change on my own, and then take the most important issues to the other person. In the end, the actual confrontation went much smoother and ultimately ended with understanding and reconciliation, instead of more anger and hurt generated by my emotions. I highly recommend the good, old-fashioned act of writing letters...even if you don't send them. :)

lorral said...

insomnis ... the brain can't let go. Type out all the venom into letters. Maybe I will send them later to the stores involved. Maybe not. In the mean time it's out of MY brain.

Lara Rose said...

Looks great, nice blog you have!

Lynn DontBlameTheKids said...

The angry letter is definitely not a lost art to me! Email is risky (I might accidentally on purpose hit send), so I hand write it. It feels better that way. And you know? Once I manage to get it all down, it actually helps me get to the root of the problem and figure out why I am really angry--which is usually not for the reasons I thought before I sat down to write.


http://dontblamethekids.com

Karelys Beltran Davis said...

I write emails. And don't send them. Just don't add the email address to avoid accidentally hitting send.

Same with formal emails (business stuff). Don't add the email address until you are sure you make sense and there are no typos.

Unknown said...

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received from a supervisor was to type out that disgruntled email, walk away from your desk/don't look at the unsent email, and then return after 30 minutes with a "cleaner" perspective. I am sure this has saved me many times from being perceived as a 'bitch'.

JorgenJang said...

I LOVE this! I am still a believer in and practitioner of writing unsent angry letters and emails, and it is affirming to read that the likes of Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain did it, too. And one tip to ensure that I don't accidentally send out the angry emails: I put my own email address in the "to" line. Makes saving the draft a less terrifying process :-)

Sarah @ 702 Park Project said...

I love that article! I have been doing this for as long as I can remember. When I was young and upset with a friend, my brother, my parents, myself, etc, my mom always told me to write a letter, but never send it. By the time I finished the letter, I was usually calm enough to no longer need to send it. In my adult life I've had to do this a few times, and it really is cathartic. Thanks for sharing! :)

Evelyn L said...

I think we're in much more danger today than back then. Konnikova mentions, "We have more avenues to express immediate displeasure than ever before, and may thus find ourselves more likely to hit send or tweet when we would have done better to hit save or delete." The swift and simple movement of pinky finger from colon to enter/return is too easy.

How many times have we hastily sent an email, only to blush afterwards and hum and haw for the next few hours because we regret it? Maybe we even sent a DELTE PREVIOUS EMAIL subjected email soon afterwards. Speaking of which, isn't Google considering an option to delete sent emails?

The internet, wherever and however we access it, opens up a faceless realm of communication. Think about cyber bullying...how it has thrived with the internet. Saying a quick and cruel comment over a screen tempts anyone more than a face to face encounter.

The written letter gives one time to read, reflect and most importantly, cool down. Coming to our senses doesn't happen in the 3.3974 seconds it takes to whip back a snarky text!

ashlaielli said...

What a great article, I've used that "trick" so many times! I've typed so many messages and emails that I set aside for later and decide to never send because the act of writing it out helped me to work out the issue. I've also found this helpful when trying to make a big decision. I'll write up a letter to my friends or someone in particular explaining my situation and asking for guidance, and by the end of the letter I know what I need to do!

Lily L-M said...

What about this is "lost"?! I still do it! hehe

http://whilemyboyfriendsaway.blogspot.com/

123 said...

There is a cool website called "blahtherapy" where you can vent to total strangers who are mostly objective and usually pretty helpful. All in an anonymous way. You can either vent to someone or listen to someone. It's nice to help and be helped, especially when you don't feel like bothering a friend or a family member with your problems.

manthony said...

I totally write unsent angry letters! In my last relationship, I was pretty unhappy pretty often and this was my unloading tool of choice. Not only was it emotionally cathartic to do an uncensored brain dump and let the emotions run wild on the page, but when it came time to actually sit down and talk about whatever issue had ruffled my feathers, I could sift through the letter and pick out the core nuggets I wanted to bring to the table. Worked like a charm!

hellokorin said...

I did this just earlier today! It feels wonderful to be able to express those angry thoughts into words, without the guilt or regret I often feel later when actually spoken. It's surprisingly satisfying to just get those words OUT THERE, out of your head, without anyone actually hearing or reading them.

Lamisa said...

I feel happiest when I limit my use of social media. I used to write angry letters, but often it ended up fueling my anger. Now I breathe and let things go.

Lamisa said...

I feel happiest when I limit my use of social media. I used to write angry letters, but often it ended up fueling my anger. Now I breathe and let things go.

Amanda said...

I still write so much by hand that this is not something that has ever died to me. I've done it multiple times, and sometimes revised a note that was less angry to actually give someone. I think everyone needs to do this. Too many people hold on to their anger and writing is therapeutic.

carlieloulah said...

I've still got an unsent angry letter saved to my computer. For someone who is normally scared of confrontation I found writing it actually helped me draft and edit what I wanted to say in real life to the person who had really upset me. It is so cathartic and helps you work through your anger.

Sammi Egan said...

I still write angry letters, usually online tho' (I have a super private password protected journal) and that helps. Also I started recording videos recently which helps when sometimes I need to vocalise things.

Allison Beck said...

I have never written an angry letter, knowing I'd not send it -- but oh did I receive one... well, four?! The exercise of writing a letter in anger makes complete sense to me. Personally, I usually draft and write it in my head, and think through it while on a run. Or, in theory, on paper. But via email? After receiving a VERY VERY hurtful "written out of anger but not meant to be sent" email that was "accidentally" sent to me (I think that was case; I am thankful I got it because it made my life a lot easier/my decision that was made but I kept rescinding on easier to enforce), I don't think I'd ever draft one in my email box. One never knows, and I've never wanted to hurt someone. Often, going through a cathartic process like drafting a "angry" letter is a way I process my emotions, for me. It's not meant towards someone.

Have you ever written an angry letter, knowing you'll never send it? Would you now? I once read a challenge (I can't remember where) to write a love letter to a current, past or future love without sending it, which also sounds like a pretty compelling exercise. Anyway, let me know what you think!

Has anyone else ever been the recipient of a email like Jo mentions? I kind of want to go up and slap the guy who sent me it - I mean, really?! The best part was his scrambling to make up for his mistake.... it was VERY transparent how wrong he was for me. He could hate and say TERRIBLE thing about me one moment, then say he wants to marry me and is the one for me the next. It was scary...

A in VT

Ariel Bendall said...

I needed this inspiration right now! I am a school counselor, and will definitely use this as an activity with my 5th graders tomorrow.

Lu said...

writing a letter or a list of concerns, worries, annoyances then burning them is something i've done since i was a little girl. very therapeutic!

Charlie said...

Great post and I have absolutely loved reading all the comments! I'm the ultimate non-confrontational person so maybe this is just the right approach for me! The whole idea raises an excellent point about technology making it so easy for people to express their angry comments without even thinking! Sometimes reading comments on news websites when people are so angry and abusive can make you question whether there are many nice people left in the world!

Lindsey P said...

I do this all the time. I use Google Drive, mostly. I have an entire collection of letters I wrote to/for one of my best friends/my boyfriend (it was a complicated relationship) after he was in a really bad car accident. It was so therapeutic. Mine aren't necessarily angry letters, just a way of journaling.

Sarah said...

When I went through a really terrible breakup that didn't leave me with much closure, I wrote letters to him everyday to get all of my feelings and emotion out but never sent them. It was soo therapeutic!

Roz Mignogna said...

I'm definitely guilty of sending angry emails to family…and copying the rest of the family on them. Signs of my immaturity, I think. But sometimes that has been necessary even though I can't say it makes things better. At least your post here points us all to the fact that people are willing to spew out verbal vomit as they hide behind their screens. As a blogger I've received unsolicited hate comments before and it's SO hard to deal with. I can't believe what people can do or say to complete strangers.

Lydia SB said...

I write hot letters to my mother in law! It honestly helps so so much to get out all my frustrations when I obviously can't vent them all to my husband. It also helps me frame my complaints and sometimes let's me see where I'm being unfair. I save them buried on my computer at work so they'd never be found...

For email, when I'm mad, I'll write it and save it. If I still feel that way in 24 hours I'll send. I almost never feel as strongly later so it's been a valuable tool for me.

Kirsten Maurer said...

I once wrote a long letter to a past love. And accidentally left my journal open. My husband read it. One of the worst days of my life.

Katerina said...

I ALWAYS press 'send' :-)
The trouble is, I find I always sound angrier in writing than in person- must be the confused result of being the daughter of a proper, reserved Englishman and a hot tempered Greek.
That being said, my feelings and convictions are never truer than when I am angry. And sometimes feelings have to be conveyed, or they'll stay just under the surface forever. My only regret is not writing MORE angry emails!

http://www.lexandliv.com

Lauren said...

I love this! I draft angry emails any time I feel it necessary. I even go back and edit them multiple times until I think it's a well crafted letter. I leave it in my drafts folder until I've moved on from the anger or hurt…and then, delete!

Albert einstien said...

Your articles and contents are encouraging.
Welcome to Radioactiv

A. Sparkle said...

Haha! I've done this many times and it is surprising how much it helps with anger or sadness. It's funny how even writing.. Er.. Typing in caps really does feel like you're yelling at someone! Lol..

Lori Cartwright said...

I had my heart broken by a good friend and stewed about it for months. I finally hand wrote a very long "angry letter" and then burnt it in the back yard and threw the ashes into the wind. The relief I felt was instant and so good. When I see her and start to feel hurt, I remind myself of those moments in the wind and everything feels better.

Unknown said...

As a sophomore in high school, I composed a very elegant letter -- in English -- detailing why, precisely, my Spanish teacher should be relieved of her post. My mother read it, smiled, nodded, and suggested that we set it aside for a day before sending it to the principal. Somehow it went missing in those intervening 24 hours, and I went back to brutal cross-country practices and eating peanut butter straight out of the jar.

As a college student, I took one BA in English and one BA in Spanish. Fast forward nearly 10 years: my PhD is in English, and I recently accepted a tenure-track job in the Department of Spanish at the flagship university in the state where I live.

So, um, yes, big fan of the analog, unsent letter. Thanks, Mom!

Love, Allison

bunnygrace said...

Unfortunately, my aunt used to be a big fan of the angry letter, only she'd post them too! :S Its caused a few family feuds, one of them isnt over yet, but i guess thats the risk. Putting pen to paper is so much more satisfying, especially when you can push the pen onto the paper with fury, let the ink bleed or poke holes in the paper, its like letter voodoo haha

Rudey R said...

I just stumbled upon a lost letter to a former college boyfriend. It was never sent, and upon reading it 20 years later, I'm so thankful it wasn't. I love this line from the Times article that says writing a letter but not sending it "let us separate what needed to be said from what needed only to be felt." The letter I wrote helped me know I needed to end it with him, but it contains emotions that didn't need to be shared. I smiled when I saw this link, Joanna. Thanks for sharing...
On another note, did any one ever send a letter to "the one that got away." My girlfriends and I all sent letters to former boyfriends that we thought were the "ones that got away." We sent these in the spring the year we studied in France. I can say I'm happy I sent that one - it opened an interesting door. And for one of my friends lead to a rekindled relationship that lead to a marriage.

Jennifer said...

I wrote letters to my mom after she passed away when I was 31. It was very theraputic to write down how much I missed her and tell her about her grandchildren. I think I wrote for about a year.

Ashleigh Blatt said...

I love this! Apparently Ab Lincoln had a very bad temper and would "go off" in a very cruel manner. One day he was challenged to a duel because of his harsh words. From that day on - he never spoke a bad word about anyone.

I love to know that great people worked at being great too!!

NeatoKeen@Etsy said...

I like to write emails in draft and revisit them in a couple of hours. I always discover loads of typos and I usually tone it down a notch. I seldom get angry in my life, but I tend to be a tad bit too effusive and silly in my missives. Rewrites are always a good idea for me :)

noodle said...

Writing letters to release emotions is a very good thing, but I have always been told to never keep it. Keeping it implies 'holding on' to it. Instead I burn it and throw the ashes into the sea - it feels very liberating!

Kate M. said...

I once wrote a letter of forgiveness after I had been holding in a lot of resenting anger. I forgave him for the things he did, and myself for holding onto it for longer than necessary. Instead of sending it, or keeping it, I tacked it up onto a telephone pole one evening on my way home from work. The next day it was gone. It was quite therapeutic.

Manuela Ancau said...

Hmmm....i recently wrote a terrifyingly angry list....with everything my roomate doesn't do but she expects me to....it's horrifying, but it has actually helped me...i also avoid conflicts at any cost, they just seem like an incredible waste of time. I don't like hating someone, i don't like that feeling. It is the fisrt time i write such a list, which i am sure she will never get to see, and it is for the best, because she's someone with whom you cannot talk, have an actual conversation she's just not the kind and understanding person. Well....to conclude...i think writing actually helps...whenever i'm frustrated or tired or angry....i write, whatever comes to mind. Tootle-loo everyone!

Sarah :: EAT.PRAY.MOVE Yoga Retreats said...

This never gets old and always works. And taking a walk certainly never hurts ;)

mccart said...


my name is mccart i never believe in spell casting, until when i was was tempted to try it. i and my husband have been having a lot of problem living together, he will always not make me happy because he have fallen in love with another lady outside our relationship, i tried my best to make sure that my husband leave this woman but the more i talk to him the more he makes me fell sad, so my marriage is now leading to divorce because he no longer gives me attention. so with all this pain and agony, i decided to contact this spell caster to see if things can work out between me and my husband again. this spell caster who was a woman told me that my husband is really under a great spell that he have been charm by some magic, so she told me that she was going to make all things normal back. she did the spell on my husband and after 5 days my husband changed completely he even apologize with the way he treated me that he was not him self, i really thank this woman her name is Dr Aluta she have bring back my husband back to me i want you all to contact her who are having any problem related to marriage issue and relationship problem she will solve it for you. her
email is traditionalspellhospital@gmail.com, she is a woman and she is great. wish you good time.

Verity said...

Yes, I have, well I've typed one....it's still sat on my laptop and it will probably stay there. I add to it every now and again or take bits away depending on what happened between the last 'edit'. You sort of feel a sense of victory for every day that you didn't send it and sometimes grateful you didn't in your moment of anger...... I think it can stay on my laptop for the moment and hopefully I'll get round to deleting it one day ....

Verity said...

Yes, I have, well I've typed one....it's still sat on my laptop and it will probably stay there. I add to it every now and again or take bits away depending on what happened between the last 'edit'. You sort of feel a sense of victory for every day that you didn't send it and sometimes grateful you didn't in your moment of anger...... I think it can stay on my laptop for the moment and hopefully I'll get round to deleting it one day ....

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