How To Write a Personal Letter -- When You Really Don't Know What to Write About
There will probably be many times when you are faced with a blank piece of stationary not having a clue what to write when you want to write a personal letter to someone. It might be an obligatory note to a distant relative, or even a heartfelt letter to someone dear that you just haven't been in touch with for quite a while.
I don't have an Aunt Rose that I am aware of. If I do it would be a Great Aunt or further removed from me. However if she were a dear Great Aunt of mine who I hadn't seen for a long time and had little in common with, but wanted to write to -- if only because I knew she might appreciate a letter, or email -- I have a method which I have come up with for doing so.
It might sound cliché, but I start by talking about the weather. There is a reason why we joke about "talking about the weather". It is because it is a very basic thing that virtually all of us have in common in some way or another even living in different parts of the world and even the housebound will remember it. The point about talking about the weather is not that everyone is enraptured by the discussion, but rather it is a comfortable springboard for our imaginations to use to spring to other topics in a natural way without our having to work so much at it.
Dear Auntie Rose,
We have had some very nice Summer weather here on the coast the past few weeks. We haven't had any rain and it has not been extremely hot. It has just been pleasantly hot. They are a little concerned about the lack of water in the forests and interior though. We are expecting some rain tomorrow which will be greatly appreciated by the gardens and forest fighters -- probably not by the sunbathers and campers though.
I heard that you had some bad thunderstorms out your way last weekend. How are the gardens and flowers fairing? I remember the great gardens you used to have at the home in Duchess. The rhubarb pies were only matched in flavour by the maple pies you were famous for. Do you still find time to bake or has your daughter taken over the apron strings for the family?
How is your niece and her family doing -- for that matter how have you been keeping? It has been far too long since we took regular Summer camping trips together with your family and my Grandparents and our family. I do miss those family camping trips since Grandma and Grandpa have left us.
My Aunts and Uncles seem to be doing well. I would like to see them more often, but as families grow and my cousins have their own children, visits do grow farther apart...
You see how the conversation can flow from talking about the weather? You needn't talk about gardens or baking, or anything specific from this example. The thing is that by starting to talk about the weather your mind begins to remember your Aunt and come up with things to talk about. If you are still a bit "dry" on things to talk about go on to talk about what you see out the window as you write... The weather is just a first thing really. I am lucky, I have mountains, forest, ocean inlet, and even occasional bald eagles soaring overhead in addition to the active shopping centre across the lane.
I moved on to activities I remembered about my aunt and they were inspired in part by chatting about the weather and they in turn inspired other turns of the conversation. Remember a letter such as this can be an organic thing that grows from root to trunk to branch to stem. If you have no purpose it matters not what direction it takes. You might want to avoid some topics... politics always seems to be healthy to avoid and in some families religion is another. You might want to avoid mentioning health and medicine in some instances or be inundated with a listing of every ache pain and cure that your correspondent has had.
If you do have some things you want to write about, perhaps you might want to jot them down in advance to make sure you get to them... but then you already have some direction for that blank piece of paper.
Sometimes I start with what I see out the window or in my room, or what I did that morning or afternoon. Sometimes I even will start by describing an interesting meal I just made... but the weather is always a good starter.