27 June 2013

How to Write a Love Letter

1.  Begin with Beautiful Paper.  There's something about beautiful paper that says you cared enough about saying lovely things to your sweetheart to purchase something more than plain notebook paper.  Beautiful paper says, I thought about you before I went to the store.  Then I thought about you while I was choosing this paper.  I thought about you while I stood in line, and when the clerk commented on my stationery I told her I wanted it for someone special.  I carried it home, and in a quiet moment, I wrote to you what was in my heart.

HOWEVER.  I realize the above paragraph may appeal far more to my female readers.  And I think I may safely say that while we would delight in the process of purchasing and using beautiful paper, a thoughtful love letter FROM our man would be treasured on any paper.  Yet...if he chose delightful stationery?  (as my husband has done on multiple occasions)  I think we ladies would feel especially treasured.

About the paper, though.  If you're a lady, you may be wondering whether the paper should be feminine or masculine.  Well, it could be either.  Feminine paper that you especially like will remind him of you.  Masculine paper that reminds you of him (maybe a fish theme for a fisherman, or botanical illustrations for a gardener, for example) has a way of saying, "I didn't just pull this out of my stash of paper I use to write to my girlfriend from England."

If you can't find paper you like at the usual places (Michael's, Target, Halmark, Walmart, Shopko), search for stationery on Amazon.  As usual, they'll have a lot of options.

2.  Choose Delightful Stamps, and Buy them Ahead of Time.  Expressions of love should be sent right away, to be enjoyed by your sweetheart as soon as possible.  Don't delay simply because you don't have a stamp in the house, or because you can't make it to the post office right away.  Slip the stamp on the envelope, and put the letter in the outgoing mail as soon as you've written the letter.  Forever stamps are great not only because they don't go out of date, but also because they tell your sweetheart you'll be together forever.  (I know.  That's sappy.  But we ARE talking about love letters, you know.)

Of course, if you're simply writing to a spouse, you can just leave the letter on the pillow where they'll see it at bedtime.  Even for married couples, however, there may be times to mail a letter to your spouse:  when you know he or she will be visiting relatives without you, when you have to travel for work and you can mail a letter home, or just for fun when you can send a letter to your spouse's office as a surprise. 

3.  Use a Good Pen.  Don't get stuck using a pen that's running out of ink.  Or a pen you hate.  If you like blue ball point, make sure you use that.  If you like gel pens, use those.  If you like the really liquidy inky kinds, use those.  Have a supply on hand.  A good pen doesn't have to be an expensive pen, but you don't want your thoughts to get interrupted merely because your pen isn't writing the way you like it to.  I'm serious.  It can (and does) happen.

4.  Slow your hand enough to write your best script.  Just in case you're wondering, there's still a place in the world for cursive handwriting.  Truly there is.  If yours is terrible, practice before you write the real letter.  Or if you have a carefully crafted print with personality, use that.  Whatever is your best, whatever is you, whatever is special.  Even if it's a little rusty or messy.  (Although it's nice when you make an extra effort to be readable, of course, because you wouldn't want the words "I love you" to be indecipherable.)  When you try to add a special touch of some kind, such as writing in cursive when you normally don't, your sweetheart will notice.

5.  Be Specific, Be Authentic.  I vividly recall sitting in my undergraduate music history class studying love songs from a few hundred years ago.  The poetry was beautiful, moving, creative, romantic.  Our energetic teacher called our attention to a particular verse, shouted over the music playing not so much in the background, and said something to this effect:  "Guys, take notice!  This is how you should talk to a lady!  Right girls?  What lady's heart wouldn't be won with words like this?  Am I right?"

Well, he looked at the wrong girl for an answer.  I was too practical for such questions.  I squirmed in my seat, and blurted out with an honest measure of skepticism in my tone, "I don't know!"

And I stand by my answer to this day.  I love a good poem, but I wouldn't love good poetry from a man who had no integrity, or who just said nice things to sweep me off my feet and then didn't treat me well in real life.  I wouldn't love the most romantic verses or the sweetest harmonies if all they were was an exercise in creative writing.  The problem with those old love songs in class was that they could have been written about or to anyone.

I love getting love letters from my husband, because he always writes things that are true, and he always writes things that are specific to me (and me only).

When he writes that he would never want to be married to anyone else, I love that because I know that's what's really in his heart.  When he writes that I'm beautiful, I know he means it because he treats me like I'm beautiful (and doesn't cheapen his talk by looking at any other women).  When he writes that he loves to be with me, he backs up his words by actually spending time with me.  When he writes about how much he appreciated something I did that day (paying bills, doing dishes, making a meal, running errands, whatever), I feel truly and authentically appreciated because he notices when I do things to feed our life and relationship.

So the point?

Say things your sweetheart knows you really mean, and don't go live your life in a way that contradicts those things or makes him or her feel like your words are cheap.  Freely say those things about beauty and how much you love the feel of his hand in yours and all that, yes (although be careful with the physical attributes if you're not married yet).  But don't be afraid the apparently mundane things will ruin the poetry.  Sometimes the real-life things, the specific memories, are the things that make the letter the sweetest.  Those are the things that say, This letter couldn't have been written to anyone but me.

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