Dear Caleb: Letter One

(Here are the links to two letters that a friend of mine wrote: the first to someone else and the second to me.

I commented on his FB link to the first letter: “Do you always post your private life?” He responded with the second letter, and this is my response to a portion of his second letter.)

Dear Caleb, and whoever else happens to read this letter:
First of all, thank you for the invitation to exchange letters. I love an opportunity to have good dialogue and discussion. I hope that our readers and friends find this beneficial, or illuminating, or at least amusing. If not, oh well. At least I practiced letter-writing.

The first thing I noticed about your letter to Morgan (and the one to me) was that they both started by being addressed to a singular person. And yet, oddly, they were on a blog and on Facebook, open to the world. So, either you addressed your letter wrongly, and accidentally forgot to include your public, or you intended for the public to read a personal letter. Your approach was one of a writer who wants to let his audience in on his inner thoughts, to make them a fly on the wall of your relationships and a microbe inside your brain. Nothing exactly wrong with bringing your readers into your mind, but it does seem a little odd to pretend that you aren’t, by addressing your letters in the singular.

My main response to your dictum that there should be no divide between your personal and public life, that the private and public person should be one and the same, is that you are fudging terms and categories badly. A person can avoid being a hypocrite without making their whole lives public. There are certain things that are not for the public eye, and have a naturally limited audience. Example A, marriage. Marriage is a private endeavor, particularly marital relations, because they are sacred. Have you noticed this anywhere else? The sacred is the holy, the separate. You may return with the answer that the veil on the temple was torn down. True, but all that does is open the master bedroom door. We can enter into the presence of our Father and our Lord, but it’s still a private affair. The unbelievers are left outside, wondering what’s going on. Private and public are natural and good boundaries. Crossing them leaves your readers confused, and also possibly the recipient of the letter.

Now, do things those boundaries not matter to things as small as your letters? Perhaps: they are nothing near so glorious as a marriage. But you will recall that you were making rather extended analogies to marriage, and using rather personal language in the letter to Morgan. No doubt you showed her the letter before you posted it, and she gave you permission: my point is not that you betrayed a trust. My point is that you subverted the format of the letter itself by its public presentation. If your point was communication with Morgan, then why air it publicly? If your point was public communication, then why address it to Morgan? It simply comes off as you trying to posture. Speaking of theatrics…

So, check your desires. Why do you want to be seen saying these sorts of things? For the good of the community? Perhaps.

As a matter of style, it usually doesn’t help to undercut your ethos at the beginning of a letter. “Dear Morgan, I’ve known you for a very short time. Here’s an analogy as to how our friendship is like marriage.” Funny, kinda. Weird, definitely. Effective? No.
As a second point of style, pontification, particularly from a freshman, doesn’t wear well. It tires quickly. I’ve been there too, brother.

I guess this response can be summed up in the colloquial understanding of the single word: overshare.

As to the rest, brevity is the soul of wit. I will respond to one thing at a time.


P.S. – A quote by yourself, ironically, becomes relevant at this point. “If you are a teenager and you really want to be a writer, shut up and write only for yourself. At least you’ll have an interested audience. What I’m trying to say is this; you will not, cannot, should not, get published as a teenager. You have no insights for the world.” Harsh, but perhaps partially applicable, don’t you think?


3 thoughts on “Dear Caleb: Letter One

  1. iholdtheline says:

    Dear Carson,

    You’re speaking a lot of truth here, brother. And although I’d like to continue writing letters publicly to you, I can see why it’s not a good idea.
    I do still want to get to know you better, though. When I get back from break, do you want to get coffee sometime? You know, privately.


    P.S. That is one of the most well-used quotes I’ve seen. I am a bit creeped out, though, how did you quote it word for word?

  2. cdspratt says:

    Yes, I’d like to get to know you better as well. Coffee is an old conversation standby.

    The quote was from a post you had on the Mothership blog. I was trying to do a little research on your other writing, and found it. The internet is creepy.

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