The power of a single letter

Screen Shot 2017-01-23 at 10.59.31 AM

So because it’s been raining nonstop for 100-straight days here in Southern California, yesterday evening I went to the garage to shove some towels beneath a door. While there, I tried lifting a file cabinet, which was collecting moisture at the base. It wouldn’t budge, so I tried again. And again. And again.

My arms thin and weak, I gave up, and opened one of the drawers to look inside. There were papers upon papers upon papers, including a yellowed envelope filled with old documents. This is where I discovered my all-time favorite long-lost letter.

It was dated March 16, 1993, and was written on Boston Magazine stationary. The three pages were typed by Steve Buckley, a writer for the publication. A few months earlier I’d applied for an internship, but heard nothing and presumed the worst. I was becoming numb to this sort of thing—I probably submitted materials for 100 internships, with no luck.

Anyhow, this wasn’t a rejection note. Or an acceptance note. It was a detailed breakdown of all my clips, with praise, criticism, constructive thoughts. Steve, a man I’d never met, clearly took a tremendous amount of time, for no other reason than to help a guy in need of the stuff.

The last paragraph is the one that did it for me …

Screen Shot 2017-01-23 at 10.59.46 AM

I loved writing. Loved, loved, loved writing. But until that moment, no one had told me I had any talent, or could be “a player in this game.” The words lifted me off the ground; brought music to my soul; made me want to work that much harder.

The letter is also why, 24 years later, I try my best, when asked, to help young writers as Steve Buckley helped me.

Because a kind word goes a long way.