I write my letters with a tinge of insanity, and that fits well with my character. If you're looking for a standard guide, this may not be the post for you. This is a twisted answer to the question, because there are some assumptions to confront before we begin. Something to note:
- A self-letter is a philosophical exploration of one's life through articulation: How murky that journey can be, will be reflected in the writing, and as much as you can have a letter that states all your intentions, sometimes there are some fallbacks.
- This isn't homework: No one will grade you for writing your letter differently. There is no true format, no wrong answer, no best practice. There are only 4 things needed: Pen, Paper, your eyes Now, and your eyes Later.
I created some principles surrounding the intent of the letter, rather than best practices. Following the practice of UmamIntent (a portmeanteau of umami + intent):
Intent is the umami of a well-delivered message.
Predicting the Future through writing
In having written these self-letters for a long time, I noticed there are two types:
The first are Review/Prediction Letters. They have goals and ideals set in stone. The assumption is that they willbe realised. In cultivating a form of [[High agency thinking]], sooner or later you will embody the words in your letter and your future is set.
This requires a certain amount of belief in absolution. As if anything down to this letter, you must inject faith for it to cme true, and you must accept no other deviation from what is written down.
Absolution is an aspect I sadly do not have: every time I try to write a letter that leans more twoards this type, I start to falter under the certainty of it. What about all the unknowns? What about future attempts and messages from [[Muses]]? What about other opportunities that are bound to come in, do I just ignore them and continue onto my path?
Why is it that I must introduce such rigidity into my life before finally accepting that everything in this letter will be true?
That being said, these are noble reasons. Sometimes the goals are so grand and powerful that you can't help but believe in nothing else but them. That is fine.
What I can't agree with is the manifestation of our future selves within these soon-to-be circumstances. We must be rich. We must be free. We must be this Ideal.
The responsibility of such imagination really bothers me. What if I fail? What if I disappoint my current self in the future?
What will be the point of this letter if I can't achieve it? Who will forgive me then?
Now, and for the rest of this post, I lean more and will focus on the second type:
To write with love
Emotionally charged letters. These are personal letters to my future self with complete trust. The assumptions are that I do not know where my future holds, but I know my future self is capable of navigating through these uncertain times. This opens up possibilities and decisions that may appear in the future with acceptance.
I don't have to create an ideal version of my self for disappointment. I can lovingly accept who I will be in the future, and that creates a two-way trade: the reassurance that I don't have to think so hard about what happens later, and the confidence that in writing this letter, I will embody the warmth I am articulating right now.
Note that the MAIN reason why we write self-letters is not because we want to chase after ideals (though that is one of them), but it's to prime our present selves into doing so. This self-letter to the future is for me now, made tangible, using my future self as a guidepost or a vessel.
Through these letters, I am writing my destiny through a chosen future. Let every day be my attempt at the words penned in front of me.
So we instead focus, in these letters, on two persons within the correspondence: The Present, and The Future.
What should we write down?
The answer to this question is the same as the following Q as well: What should the Future know?
- From the Present, write about what's happening now. What have you celebrated? What did you suffer through recently? What have you concluded?What are you worried about?
What should we assume?
What we should assume, as stated in the letters, is to address the current concerns of our present selves and see if they can be emotionally resolved.
Another potential route is to assume that you may still encounter the problems that you are going through now, later in the future.
It's a safe assumption: you can trust your future self to easily glance through the parts that aren't relevant to them anymore, and if they ARE relevant, then you can hope to save them again.
Remember, a lot of our problems are interpersonal.
My own principles
Be wary of your tone and point of view
We tend to stay inside our own boxes of understanding when writing letters to ourselves.
- First POV: "I'm writing a letter to you..."
- Second POV: "You should be here by now. You would have done the following..."
- Third POV: "Norman, in the future, would have already resolved this past problem of his..."
In writing through these POVs, why is it that some views are aggressive? Passive? Weak, timid, powerful, angry, distressed?
Where are all the happy point of views in our lives? Why do letters have to be grounded in realistic fashions for them to be delivered?
My friend, we then must question our relationship with different points of view. From which POV does true anger come from? Which perspective influences you the greatest? As we question them, we start to clarify the roles they play in our lives, and that gets reflected in our self-letters.
If I want to introduce warmth, my Second POV will play the role of the Mother in my life. So all that I say to you, my lovely friend, with an ounce of warmth and a lifetime of love, is reflected in sentences that use this view. Intentionally using that in my letters helps introduce Forgiveness, and that is always welcome in my eyes.
Clarity through translation
Just like any conversation, this is between two parties with different circumstances. Though it's ourselves we are talking to, you never know how many months have passed and with that comes different situations.
Imagine talking to someone on the street, and trying to prove a point to them. Do you worry about how you're explaining something to them?
As per the [[Conversation Subspace]], when saying something to anyone, they will attempt to understand you with their own [[Textbook of the World]]. What do your words mean to them? If you say Love, will they interpret Marriage? If you say Anger, do you mean emotion or violence?
This is the same with your future self. In the amount of time that has passed, your dictionary of words may evolve: how else will you mature as a person after all?
When reading your letter, your Future Self will translate it into their circumstances at the time. This is why sometimes, being very absolute with your goals and ideal situations may be priming your self for disappointment. Imagine your Future Self failing every single goal: what will they think?
- "Ah shit...I went off-track. My past self would be so disappointed in me."
- "Even if I'm happy now...this isn't what I wanted before, right?"
- "What's the point of writing and reading all this when I'm not going to satisfy any of these words any way?"""
This is translation into a different context. Your context today and yesterday prior are different enough.
When writing a letter, [[Forgive Yourself]].
You may not be the best writer. That is fine. Your future self will forgive you for it (remember those times when we would read back our sappy lyrics and poetry in high school? Or is that just me lol). They will understand.
I believe in the chaos and uncertainty of the future, and conviction in chasing after my dreams come not from a place of letter-writing, but a moment of great self-introspection. With that in mind, my goals, aspirations, etc. are built elsewhere, not here.
A letter then is a form of encouragement. Like coaching from my Past to my Future: in the off chance that I spiral, I can default back to a state of bliss because I have reached that point prior. I have reached that summit of happiness, in a place where I was so calm and willing to write a letter, that I can think to myself:
"Oh. I was at one point this blissful. Let me return to that state even for a moment, and I will feel better once more."
That is in essence the core of my letter-writing. Not to influence where I should go, because I have already decided that before writing anything. But rather, to remind myself of my convictions, my mission, and my purpose in life. Merely a reminder, and to savour some packaged warmth that I may need later on. Hence, 'I love you' written at the end.
I hope this helps you with writing your own letters. Reach out if you need help, my Friend.
I love you,