Introduction to Open Letters


As our second experiment cycle came to an end, I was initially dumb-founded as to what genre I was going to pick next.  I didn’t want to do another article, I already ventured out into the (sometimes) scary world of poems, and I knew I didn’t want to necessarily do anything that was necessarily “academic” or research based.  The topic of my origin piece is something extremely personal, and I was honestly at a loss for as to how I would turn this into yet another fitting genre.  After going back and rethinking what was most important from my origin piece, it hit me.  What would I have wished that I had at the time that I had written these short diary-like notes in my phone?  Advice, intuition, and thoughts from someone who had been through it all before.


What better way to do this than to do an open letter to my past self from my current self.


By definition, an open letter is “a letter that is intended to be read by a wide audience, or a letter intended for an individual, but that is nonetheless widely distributed intentionally.”  Some open letters are addressed to a specific person but meant to be read by a larger audience, while some letters are undressed but also meant to be read by a lot of people.  One of the most important conventions of an open letter is that they all have a purpose.  They are written with a goal in mind, and they attempt to make that goal clear throughout that letter.


One famous example of an open letter is the “Letter From Birmingham Jail” written by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  King was arrested and put in jail after engaging in a non violent protest, so his letter was a response to the statement by Alabama clergyman that said these anti segregation demonstrations must stop and be dealt with in court.  This letter was widely published, and it eventually became an important text for the American Civil Rights movement.  You can read more about the power of this letter here.


I’m honestly excited to explore doing an open letter as my next genre.  I think it will be a unique way for me to reflect on my past experiences and what I think about my these past experiences now that I might “know better.”




3 thoughts to “Introduction to Open Letters”

  1. Hey Amanda,
    Love the idea. I think this could be really cool. I had one specific question reading this, which is, are you writing a letter from your past self to your future self or vice versa? When you first explained, I expected a letter from your present self to your past self. Either way, I’m interested to see how this turns out!

  2. I think this is the perfect genre for your topic! A letter from someone who has already been through the tough thing that the other person is trying to get through is something I think we all wish we had (why was that such a mouthful?). The ability for this piece to blur the lines between imagination and reality is really special: it will be based in your actual experience, but realistically, your past self receiving a letter from your future self would require time travel, and is essentially impossible. I look forward to seeing what specific aspects of that time in your life you decide to focus on, because I’m sure there’s so many things you could talk about and pieces of advice you could give.

  3. I love this idea. I think in this context, an open letter will be extremely interesting. Long distance relationships/breakups happen to so many people but when you’re going through it, it feels like a very individual experience so I think an open letter from your present self to your past self puts you in a perfect position to reflect and vocalize things that not only are important to you, but also relatable to a lot of people, hence why am open letter seems so fitting. One question I have is at what point do you plan to write to your past self–during the relationship, during the break up, after the break up? You could also find a way to address yourself at all of these points in the same letter. Really excited to see what you do!

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