01/30: Write a letter to a person you admire

The wait is over: finally, the first actual blog post of this blog! And yay and hooray, because this means that I have done the first new thing of this project! Drinks all around!

Well, to be completely honest, I did the new thing already over a week ago – on my birthday in fact – but I did not finish it 100%, but only about 97%. (The numbers are rough estimates.) I will tell you in a bit why the 3% were missing until today… So therefore, as I was not completely finished with my New Thing no. 1, I did not want to blog about it before I had reached 100% completion.

The Letter

01/30: Write a letter to a person you admire.

The Why, The What and The How

As you already will have noticed from the headline of this blog post, the first new thing I did in this project (even before setting up this blog) was to write a letter to a person I admire. The idea popped into my head out of the blue, and my first reaction was amusement: why on earth would I want to do that?! But the more I thought about it, the better it felt, particularly as the first thing to do in this project.It would be easy enough, as all the prerequisites were there – pen, paper, a person to address the letter to – yet at the same time it would require moving into new territory: writing to a person I don’t personally know and basically just giving feedback; letting them know that they have made an impression on someone, somewhere.

Some time ago I had rediscovered the enjoyment of hand-written letters: how your words fill the white sheet of paper in front of you, the feeling in the fingers when you hold the pen too tightly (ever a flaw of mine), and the eventual cramps in your hand and/or neck if you get carried away by the flow of writing (as I often do) and end up writing quite a lot, sitting in quite funny postures. In short, feelings that you rarely get when simply typing away an e-mail on your laptop keyboard. (With possibly the exception of the cramped neck.)

So that was the first ingredient: a hand-written letter. The second bit is addressing such a letter to a person I admire. The reason I wanted to do this is twothreefold: firstly, because I believe that most of us like receiving letters, especially if they are unexpected and contain something nice (this rules out all letters from the tax authorities, the imbursement office, or your local energy company telling that the prices are going up, yet again, sorry folks, you’ll have to pay more for your electricity).

Secondly, I know from personal experience how nice it is to receive feedback, especially if it is unexpected and contains something nice, such as a comment on something I did at work or simply how nice it was the other day to have a cup of coffee and a long chat together. I know what kind of a positive snowball effect a small compliment, a friendly comment, or even a mere smile or a honest “thank you” can set in motion. And even if it doesn’t actually set anything in motion, it usually still feels very nice. (By the way, sorry for the overuse of “nice” in the above paragraph! Stylistically that wasn’t very nice.)

Thirdly, and this is the “new thing” bit here: I have never written an admirer letter before. (Unless my childhood letter to Santa Claus counts.) This doesn’t mean that I haven’t thought of doing that: I remember thinking, back in the day when Bon Jovi was the best thing on this planet, how cool it would be to write to them and maybe even receive a reply! This was in the ancient times prior to the Internet, e-mail and Facebook fan pages, when bands could – at least theoretically – be reached only by a letter.

I never sent that letter to Bon Jovi, because I believed I didn’t have enough English skills. (I must’ve been, what, around 10 years old then?) Later in life, thanks to our current technology, I have of course written on online guestbooks or Facebook walls of artists/bands/people I for one reason or another admire – received a reply as well – or spoken to them in person, maybe even telling what their work has meant for me. But never in the form of a letter; never before my 29th birthday.

Because on that evening I sat down, took a good pen, a nice set of writing paper (yes, I even have a selection of those to choose from, can you believe that!), took a deep breath, and put the pen on the paper. I felt an odd mixture of excitement and anxiety: there I was, writing to a person I have never met, who most likely will remain a stranger (unless Life really works wonders!) and telling them that they have made an impression on me, inspired me, imbued me both with what they do professionally and as a person.

(Note: I choose to use the ungrammatical they here in order not to reveal to you any particulars about the person I wrote to – not just yet. This is the tricky thing with the English language, compared to my native Finnish: had I written this in Finnish, I could have used a third person pronoun – the only one the language has – that does not denote the sex of its referent. Now, for the sake of summoning some suspension here, I have to maim the grammar. On a side-note: should you be interested in the topic of using they as a gender-neutral pronoun, here is one interesting article examining the topic.)

As I was about to start the third page of the letter I realised that I had fabulously forgotten that the guideline to effective writing is to KISS – keep it simple stupid. Instead, I had ended up exploring and explaining my thoughts and feelings in quite a verbose manner. It does make you feel a bit exposed, not to mention embarrassed, realising that you are basically blabbering in written form to a person & about a person (the two persons being the same) you don’t know. And they don’t know you. Way to make a good first (and in this case, most likely the last – perhaps a lasting?) impression!

Yet somehow that was quite befitting, this excessive examination of my thoughts I had poured on paper, as one central reason why I admire this person, as well as the crucial way in which they have motivated me, is the way they use English. Elaborate, expressive, entertaining, witty and versatile, humorous yet somehow also humble. For the ears of an English buff as myself, hearing such language use is like… I can’t even come up with a suitable metaphor here!

And yes, in a strange way this person is greatly at least partly behind my choice of writing this blog in English. In some funny manner (don’t ask me how exactly, I can’t begin to understand that myself), due to them I found inspiration and motivation for beginning to expand my current level and command of the English language. They rekindled my love of this lingua franca. And that, for me, is worth writing a humble (albeit perhaps a tad too long) thank you letter for. Which I did.
But what were the 3%, mentioned in the beginning of this blog post, that were missing and therefore retained me from celebrating the first milepost of this project already last week?

I didn’t have stamps.

Today I finally got around to going to the Post office. I could of course have simply bought stamps anywhere, but I wanted to have the letter weighed, as I suspected that it would weigh more than the limit for a priority letter. (I did write quite much. I perhaps got a bit carried away. Oops.) And sure enough it did, but now – finally – the letter is on its way, with a proper postage paid. And thus the first new thing on my list is 100% complete.
…you thought I forgot something? That little bit of information you perhaps have been wondering about: is this they I sent this letter to a he or a she? And most importantly, who? (I think we got why quite well covered already.)

I am sure some have guessed it already (you know who you are – and if you didn’t guess, I’m really, really surprised!), but I suspect that most of you probably have no idea (and how could you), so here it is: I composed this letter to the brilliant British actor, Benedict Cumberbatch. Yes, precisely that man who plays Sherlock Holmes in BBC’s brilliant remake of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories of this super smart sleuth. (If you haven’t seen the series already, you really should.) And who will play Smaug the Dragon in the upcoming film trilogy of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. A dragon! Can’t wait to see that.


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