Friday, April 24, 2015

Letter Writing: "Open When" Letters

It happens- sometimes a person you love and care about is far away from you. Maybe it's a husband or a child or a friend. They're in the army, the navy, off to college, moving across the country... whatever their (and your) circumstance, you want to be there for them, but sometimes you just... can't. Not until they finally invent that transportation device they always used in Star Trek, anyway.

That's where "Open Me When...." letters come in! As the name implies, these letters are to be opened at certain times. Generally, you send multiple letters all at once, similar to a care package, but  instructions are clearly marked on the outside of each envelope about when to open each letter. While these instructions can include certain days, or even times of the day, most often they are for when certain situations arise, or when the recipient is feeling a certain way. It is basically a way to "be there" during the hard times and the good time, even when you can be there. Below are a list of a few of my favorite examples of "Open Me When..." situations:

You need to know  I love you
You need a good laugh
You could use a pep talk
You are feeling lonely
You want to reminisce
You’re worried
You’re upset or angry
You can’t fall asleep
You need me
 You’re feeling grumpy
 It’s your birthday!
It’s Galentine's Day!
 It’s Valentine’s Day!
It’s Christmas Day
It's Halloween
You’re having a guys'/girls' night
You don't feel beautiful
You need courage
You’re mad At me
You Need To Smile
You’re bored
You've had a Bad Day


I would recommend always having one letter with the instructions "Open When... You Get This" or "Open Right Away." This letter can do two things. First, it provides you with a chance to explain what the "Open When..." letters are for, and second, it can function as a regular, personal correspondence letter would. Share all the latest news or funny stories of what happened to you. Ask about their day. This is, if not the only letter, then certainly one of the few letters, you know exactly when it will be read. Other letters may not be opened for days or even weeks. So, you can use the first letter as a chance to share timely information.

What about all those other letters though? Most people who send these "Open When...." Letters like to put a bit of pizzazz into the presentation. And why not, when that will communicate the time, effort and thought you put into all the letters? Even without reading them right away, that "pizzazz" will help show someone how much you care. Perhaps you might like to have similar theme or look for all your envelopes. Or maybe each one is a different piece of "mail art" with pictures, puzzles or funny handwriting. You could have the size or shape of the envelope play a part too- who doesn't get a kick out of small, tiny things, or oddly shaped things?

As for the directions of each letter, you will know the circumstances of your recipient best. When might he or she most want to talk to you, need help, congratulations, or advice? For a college student a "Open when your stressed during Finals Week" or "Open when you have no more clean clothes and need to do laundry" might be more useful; a husband on an overseas tour might appreciate "When you miss your little boy" or "When it's our anniversary" more. Pick a few; I'd recommend at least five, maybe more. This is one of the situations where more often equals better,  so long as situations are thoughtful and relevant.

The trickiest part, of course, might be what to put in these letters. Some, such as letters to be read over special holidays, will seem obvious. For most of the "Open When..." letters though,  there is no guarantee when, date-wise, they will be read. So avoid the more chatty style of a personal correspondence, where you might ask questions and expect a reply. Instead, you might consider writing them in the style of a letter giving advice, a love letter, or a letter of appreciation. You could get really creative and write a pictionary note, a mirror letter, or even a letter in code. Since you might reasonably be sure of the mood your recipient will be opening many of these in, you can take that into account. For example, will the person need a laugh, or cheering up? Include something funny such a a cute story or even a a list of knock-knock jokes! If they are lonely, photos of the good times you have all shared together? If they are discouraged, share what you admire about them.

Don't limit yourself to just writing letters either. This is a care package of sorts. What can you stick into the envelope to help the person you are sending this too? Maybe a gas card for someone who might need to drive home for a visit would be good, or even a bunch of crossword puzzles for when someone is bored!(Psst! If you're feeling stuck about what bit or bob you could tuck into an envelope, Look my 15 Things to Put in a Care Package series here!)

Remember too- not all of these "Open When..." letters need to be written by you! Enlist other friends and family to help you out. In the previously mentioned example where a serviceman might be missing his kid, why not have the child write a letter or make a picture or even record their voice sending a message on?


If you're still looking for more ideas, here is some Further Reading: 
101 Open When Letter Topics from the LDR Magazine

LETTER WRITING SERIES: THANK YOU NOTES | PERSONAL CORRESPONDENCE | LOVE LETTERS | SYMPATHY LETTERS | CONGRATULATORY LETTERS | POSTCARDS | LETTERS OF APPRECIATION | CORRESPONDENCE CHESS | GET WELL CARDS | LETTERS TO SICK CHILDREN | INVITATIONS | HOLIDAY LETTERS | LETTERS TO SANTA| LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION | LETTERS TO THE EDITOR | CIRCLE LETTERS | LETTERS TO POLITICIANS | WRITING TO ADVICE COLUMNS | THE LETTER WRITING GAME | PENPAL LETTERS | LETTER OF COMPLAINT | COVER LETTERS | LETTERS TO PRISONERS | OPEN LETTERS | LETTERS TO FUTURE YOURSELF | LETTERS OF APOLOGY | "OPEN WHEN" LETTERS | FAN MAIL | GOOD BYE LETTER |







6 comments:

  1. What a fun idea! I'd only heard of "When I Die..." letters but not these. I like this notion.

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  2. Great idea!! I think this would also be perfect gift from a parent to a child or vice versa... maybe a Mother's Day idea! You got me thinking now! I actually saw your original post about "Letters To Yourself" and did just that this past month for my birthday. I'm excited to open it next year.

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  3. I really like the idea of an "open when" letter! How fun :)

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  4. I have always loved the idea of these type of letters! Such a great way to be there for someone even when you can't physically be there with them.

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  5. I agree, I love the idea of these types of letters too. Such a cute way to send encouragement. I used to write letters all the time when I was younger. It's always so much fun getting them in the mail, right? I think it's pretty sad that we've gotten so far away from this, with texting and email and all that jazz. And a code or mirror letter - haha, yes!

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  6. I hope you will keep writing more interesting posts.

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