Family Talk: How to write a love letter
Does anyone write letters anymore? I mean real paper and pen, stick ’em in an envelope, attach a stamp and mail ’em letters? I’m sorry to say I don’t — or at least not the kind I used to when I was in college.
Back in those days, I had a girlfriend back home that I wrote a letter to twice a week. I also had a mom back home who expected a letter from me at least twice a week. That meant I wrote four letters every week, and I did that all during my freshman year in college. Things got easier when the girl and I broke up.
Love letters are both harder and easier to write than regular letters. With regular letters you can recite events, comment on the weather, voice frustrations about work. But with love letters the words must be thoughtfully arranged. They must convey meaning and passion and reflection. Sometimes those words flow more easily than descriptions of the weather, but sometimes they must be pulled, taffy like, from the head and heart.
Dr. Christopher Peterson wrote about this subject some years ago in Psychology Today magazine, and after concluding that, no, people did not write letters much, said this:
What makes a good letter? For me, a good letter is personal and personalized. A good letter takes time to write. The thing about writing a letter is that no one can multitask while doing so, unlike emails or telephone calls. A letter represents undivided attention and is precious as a consequence. Oh yes, a good letter is handwritten, not a cut-and-pasted global searched-and-replaced bit of faux intimacy. It need not be written on fancy stationery or an expensive card. ... And a good letter is one that required the writer to find a stamp and an envelope and a postbox!
So how about you? Have you written a letter recently? Was it a “love letter?" With Valentine’s Day coming up, make it a point to not just rely on Hallmark to convey your very best. Take the time to solo task (no multitasking here). Focus. And thoughtfully write a love letter to someone you love. It might be a sweetheart or a spouse, but it could also be a child, a parent or someone you have admired and come to love. Here’s some quick pointers:
• Set aside some time. I’d say a minimum of 30 minutes. Gather paper, pen, stamp, envelope and sit down to the task alone and undistracted.
• Personalize it. Don’t just talk about what you feel. Tell the person what you have observed about them. Maybe there was a specific time you saw them do something you admired. Or perhaps, over time, you’ve observed a character trait or a physical characteristic that delights you. Describe it. Don’t worry if it doesn’t sound like Shakespeare. Use your own voice.
• Reread it. Make sure it’s the way you want it. You might need to copy it again because you made some changes and cross-outs. No matter. Get it looking right because it’s going to be a keeper.
Then mail it with a prayer that the recipient will receive it in the spirit of love intended. And don’t forget to jiggle the mailbox lid for good luck.