In one of my previous blog posts entitled Nostalgia I wrote about having a box of memories—a collection of the things we don’t want to forget—and what exactly it is we put in those boxes. I admitted to throwing away many old letters, especially love letters that I’d received when letter writing was still vogue and electronics weren’t even in existence. It makes me mourn the longhand form of letter writing. I miss the feel of the pen running across the page, the ink adhering to attractive stationery that reflects the sentiment at hand as the letter comes to life. I can’t remember the last time I wrote a love letter with feeling, and that makes me want to Google a John Keats love letter and read one of his. (Wait. I’ve done it. Shall we pause for a bit of inspiration? If you need it as I do, go here: John Keats’s love letters).
Very well. Let’s move on. Let’s pledge to write a love letter in today’s language to someone we care for deeply. Why? Because we are about to do something noble. We are about to do something meaningful and remarkable. We are about to risk it all and put ourselves out there emotionally and save a dying art form. (Let it just be said: Just as we are all consciously doing our part to recycle and save the planet, let us promptly do our part for this worthy cause).
Now, raise your hand in some sort of pledge formation (it can be reminiscent of a Brownie, Girl Scout, or Boy Scout pledge; or can be as if you are taking an oath of some kind. I’m pretty sure any hand-in-air-looking-meaningful gesture will work just fine). Now, here’s the part where you have to talk out loud to yourself (so, if need be, to remain secretive with all this love letter writing/mushy stuff, shut the office door, step outside where no one can see you, or mumble softly with your backs to nosey people who wonder about your every move).
Recite The Love Letter Oath as written:
“Today I will pen, in my own handwriting, using my own thoughts and emotions, a momentous letter to someone I love.”
That’s it. You did it. Now we can proceed.
Step 1: Grab a pen (not your iPad, computer, or Blackberry), but a writing utensil that has a nice hue of ink, and while you’re at it, check in an old drawer to see if you have some stationery that’s attractive. If you don’t have any handy, beautiful stationery is available anywhere from Target to Paper stores to Hallmark stores. If you decide to make this a regular occurrence, you may want to invest in some nice stuff. Honestly, it shouldn’t count as much as it does, but the actual presentation of the letter will probably score you some points. The look and neatness of it does, indeed, matter. It shows you put some thought into it.
Step 2: Who will be the recipient of this letter? (For those of you partaking in this activity, this should be abundantly obvious. However, if you’re not sure to whom you will address the letter, I’m sure Johnny Depp or Cameron Diaz would work well for this practice round).
Step 3: Think of the overall theme of the letter. Will it be a declaration? A reinforcement of a sentiment of love, respect, or a sense of caring for that person? Your letter should have some theme to it. Perhaps the nature of it is that you are thankful for that person’s role in your life. It could even address a kindness that your loved one has recently bestowed upon you. Or, it might acknowledge that your recipient means the world to you. Whatever the theme, write it accordingly.
Step 4: Begin to compose your thoughts and address them specifically to that person on paper. It should be heartfelt and come from within. Allow yourself to feel the words flow out of you as you write them. If necessary, write a first draft before you put it in final form—or, be bold, and allow the first draft to be “the one.”
Step 5: Your letter should be like a good book—it should have a beginning (salutation), a middle (the body of it), and an end (a memorable closing). Again, let the prose come from the heart, and while Keats’s writing is poetic and elegant, this love letter should sound like you. Remember, this is intended to be saved, and one that your loved one will want as a keepsake and will perhaps even store in his or her memory box.
Step 6: Review it. Does it say all you wanted to say? Are you pleased with its tone and language? Does it look pretty? Is it a nice presentation and is it addressed properly? Does it reflect your feelings and the nature of your relationship?
Step 7: Present it. Mail it. Deliver it. Have someone else deliver it. Include it with a gift. The way you decide to get the letter in the hands of your loved one will be part of the overall impression it may have on him or her.
Step 8: Pat yourself on the back. You crafted a handwritten love letter and saved a dying art. And you probably made someone very happy in the process. You may not have saved the planet in this endeavor (trust me, the trees will be pleased that love endures on paper), but you have reacquainted yourself with the lost art of writing handwritten personal prose to someone you love.
Writing a love letter is one of the most romantic things you can do. And I’m pretty certain it will be one of the most appreciated gifts you give.