Writing

The Letters We Can’t Write

I keep his letters in my Bible. I say they’re the prayers that he refuses to pray. I do not say this to him though. If I did he would just let his laugh fall awkwardly between us and then change the subject. This bitter twist of fate has forced him to write letters that I dutifully file away, undated but numbered in sequence. The last one was a page long rebuttal to the twelve page predecessor that still stings when I find myself thinking about it.

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A handwritten letter is my medium of choice. Purple ink on A5 90gsm white uncoated paper. This isn’t just a quaint hipster fetish, I love the process of writing a letter: collecting my thoughts and organising emotions on a page. I am a good communicator on paper. I know what I’m saying when I’m writing, whereas in person I err over my own conclusions, trying to self-edit and censor half-baked thoughts.

I think there is something significant about a physical letter in the days of instant messaging and digital communication. It is old-fashioned intimacy without the blue glare of a screen. The physical form removes the immediacy demanded from two blue ticks or a “last seen” status. You have the time and space to process impressions and emotions; you can roll a sentence around in your head until you can taste each word on your tongue.

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I love letters, and this is why I was taken by BoyWonder Films’ latest webseries. Eleven ordinary people read out letters they’ve written to real people about real situations, lessons they’ve learned and pain they’ve lived through. There is of course the voyeuristic pleasure one gets from reading another person’s diary, and that may draw you in at first, but there is more to be gained.

Despite our bravado and ironic posturing, almost all of us are looking for some kind of actual connection with other people. We search for it in fandoms and vicariously living through our “favs”; we flirt with alter egos and write shopping lists for soulmates. But watching a preview of ‘Letters’ I was reminded that so much of what we are looking for starts off at first with ourselves, as we dig through the mess and the beauty that makes us who we truly are as individuals.

I’m continually amazed at how the vulnerability displayed in one person’s truth can break open another. I cried during both of the preview episodes I was sent of ‘Letters’. Both detailed experiences that I am grateful I have no firsthand knowledge of, but listening to the two letters read aloud, I felt everything: the sadness, the hope, the pain, the power.

I’m a big fan of escapism and Lord knows we need a rabbit hole or two in these times, but there is also a time to face the issues that would ordinarily encourage us divert our gaze. ‘Letters’ is by no means an easy-watch, but at the very least, it will move you. After watching you may also find yourself mentally drafting out that letter you never thought you could write. If you find yourself doing this, I encourage you to get a piece of paper. You may never send that letter, and that’s absolutely fine, but you should write it all the same.


‘Letters’ is a documentary series by BoyWonder Films and will be released on May 9th.

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Image taken from episode one of ‘Letters’.

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