Writing letters is cathartic. It gives you a chance to carefully reflect on things and take hold of the intense emotions you're feeling before reaching out to another person. Over the years, I've written about a hundred letters addressed to people who have touched my life—longtime friends, inspiring mentors, would-be loves, and more. These messages contained thoughts I was too embarrassed to reveal face-to-face, but felt I had to impart somehow.
They say letter writing is a lost art, but one of these days, you just might find yourself in a situation where the best (or maybe even the only) way to explain yourself would be through the written word.
A letter of gratitude
Who to give it to: Someone who's done you a favor
This is, by far, the easiest letter to write, but a lot of people fail to do it because they don't realize the importance of giving a "thank you" note. The phrase "thank you" actually has the power to make both the letter sender and the recipient feel good, therefore lifting two individual’s moods for the entire day. Writing a letter of gratitude helps a person count the blessings he has received with the help of someone else. Meanwhile, the person who receives the letter gains happiness knowing that his effort was appreciated.
My personal letter of gratitude: The first "thank you" letter I wrote for my parents was the result of a three-day retreat in high school. My heart was filled with joy and love, so you could just imagine how cheesy that letter sounded.
A letter of apology
Who to give it to: Someone you've hurt
Saying sorry is an act that's tricky to accomplish in person. If you do it in a rush, you might sound insincere. If you cry while doing it, you might be forgiven out of pity. Take my advice and apologize through a letter. Think about what you've done wrong, own up to your mistakes, and promise to do better by enumerating the things you could change (but remember, never make promises you can't keep!). The letter does not guarantee forgiveness, but the courage to write one will show just how serious you are about earning the other person’s pardon.
My personal letter of apology: I wasn't a confrontational person as a teen, so most of my fights with friends were resolved due to one person caving in (sometimes me!) and saying sorry via a handwritten note.
A letter of interest
Who to give it to: Something (or someone!) you're interested in
You could be gunning for an internship, applying for a university, or simply expressing your admiration for someone. Writing a letter like this doesn't necessarily yield results (i.e. the company you're eyeing isn't accepting applicants at the moment), but sending it out will show you have the initiative and the balls to go for what you want (who wouldn’t want a person like that, right?). Just make sure you introduce yourself properly, highlight your best traits, and explain why you believe you're the person they're looking for.
My personal letter of interest: I had the biggest crush on a guy who liked someone else. When I couldn't take it anymore, I spilled my guts and confessed my feelings for him through a lengthy letter. It didn't end up in a relationship as I had hoped, but the process of writing that letter assuaged my almost-bursting heart.
A letter of goodbye
Who to give it to: Someone you're letting go of
Weigh all your options before writing this letter. Once you've decided to cut off someone in your life (like the toxic friend who always makes you doubt yourself or the boyfriend who repeatedly cheats on you), you must have a steely resolve and never look back. You can also write this letter for someone or something you’ve suddenly lost. It will give you the closure you want and deserve.
My personal letter of goodbye: I've written a handful of these in recent years—first when I moved from Candy magazine to Total Girl magazine, then again when I left my post as the latter's EIC last April. Writing those goodbye letters caused me to shed streams of tears, but they also allowed me to rehash some of the best moments of my life. And for that, I am grateful.
Now it's your turn! Write me a letter at firstname.lastname@example.org to ask for advice about anything under the sun. I'll answer as much as I can and share them here on Candymag.com!