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Writing and Healing Idea #38: I’ve Always Meant to Tell You: A Different Kind of Mother’s Day Greeting

Posted on May 13, 2007 by

The inspiration for this writing idea comes from an anthology of letters edited by Constance Warloe, entitled From Daughters to Mothers: I’ve Always Meant to Tell You. In the introduction to the letters, Ms. Warloe writes that the initial idea for the anthology came from her literary agent but that she soon found herself “hooked”.

She writes:

I thought immediately of the disappointing sentiments expressed in Mother’s Day cards. So often the verses begin, I know I don’t tell you very often . . . and then go on to express less than we want to say, not as well as we want to say it, but we buy the cards anyway. We find the cards stored in drawers and boxes at our mothers’ homes, and, as we have our own children, our own collections begin to accumulate. Maybe this book could be a different Mother’s Day greeting, I thought. Maybe this book could get things said that usually remain unspoken.

This then is at the heart of this writing idea—to get something said that usually remains unspoken. To write it in the form of a letter—imagining that one will be sending it—and imagining that it will be read—but knowing at the same time that one may no longer be able to send it—or that one may choose not to send it—

Please note that this kind of letter may not be an easy one to write—and that it may take some time—time to be ready to write it—and time, once ready, to do the actual writing. Many of the writers who contributed to Ms. Warloe’s anthology are accomplished and professional writers. And many still found the task difficult. Whether women wrote about “the lowest sorrow or the highest joy,” Ms. Warloe tells how many of the letters for the anthology came to her along with handwritten notes: “This was so much harder than I thought it would be.”

She writes, for instance, of Natalie Goldberg’s contribution:

Natalie Goldberg, the most famous of writing coaches, called me one afternoon to say she could not write the letter and would have to withdraw from the anthology. I said if it wasn’t meant to be, it wasn’t meant to be, and accepted her withdrawal. She called three hours later and said she had written the letter, she just needed to know she didn’t have to!

So—a reminder then—you don’t have to write the letter—of course—but if you want to write the letter you can go ahead—and begin—just one line at first—I always meant to tell you——————(what?)