Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Purposeful Expression & A Challenge

When I was first approached to create this blog, as I think I may have mentioned in a
earlier post, I was also asked to consider "darkling debutante" coaching. It's still
an idea I like, though it depends greatly on the demand for such a thing. A few who
had asked about "old world" etiquette and practices, asked me what they could do to
get into the mindset.

First, I asked them what they like most about the genre and the era. Most responded
with references to the unhurried grace, gentility and depth of communication. Second,
I asked them if they'd ever written a letter. After a few confused glances, the
standard response was usually, "Oh, I write emails all the time."
Not to be a killjoy, but emails are far from being letters. The widespread use of
computers has made nearly everyone proficient at typing to varying degrees. This
allows for "mental diarrhea" wherein every thought goes unfiltered into print just
before being rocketed through cyberspace for someone else to quickly glance over and
respond just as quickly and, dare I say, robotically. Yes, we all have some degree of

So here's the challenge:
Compose a hand-written letter to whomever you choose. Do not rush through it. Find a
nice card (preferably blank or one with a sentiment you would like to convey), and
paper that does not come out of a college-ruled spiral notebook. Set some time aside
so you can let your thoughts slow down from a swirl and become actual correspondence.
If you like, have music playing in the background and a cup of coffee or tea beside
the note paper on the desk. Write as if you are talking with the letter's recipient
over that cup of coffee or tea. You are telling a story and sharing your thoughts.
The beauty of hand-written letters is that we do slow down. We think about what we
are going to write and the process becomes a ritual. There is no backspace, no delete
and no copy/paste or Send button. This is purposeful expression. This is when the
internal filters are your friend and allow you to present your best self, your most
sincere self and your most gracious self.

A few Don'ts:
Do NOT use internet/text abbreviations. If you are sharing a laugh, "LOL" has NO
place here. Write "I just cracked myself up", "I'm sitting here laughing as I write
this," or something along those lines.
Limit the profanity. There really is no reason for it here (Unless Uncle George truly
is a horse's ass, and the recipient understands this). The point of the letter is to
be purposeful and unrushed. In a word, relaxed, as it should be a relaxing,
connecting experience for the reader. Save the expletive-laden rants for emails to
the customer service desk (or Uncle George, if necessary).
Do NOT rush. (See verbose explanation above)
Do NOT focus on negative things. This is not an emo letter from Lydia Deetz just
before meeting the Maitlands and Beetlejuice. (Now if you wish to wear the hat and
veil, by all means.. go for it.)
Do NOT use pencil. Two reasons: 1. Commit to what you are saying. Pencil conveys a
lack of commitment to your words. 2. Pencil smudges and erasure marks look awful,
proving you rushed. Use a pen you really like writing with. Take your time. Choose
your words carefully and make writing them an act of artistry. Enjoy exploring your
So there you have it: a challenge that can actually be fun, and one of many steps in
exploring/forming/expressing your Inner Victorian Gothic Nobility. Enjoy, and
please.. do let me know how it goes.
Now I am off to find a new quill. The last two seem to have run off.

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