The art of the handwritten love letter is an ancient one. Follow these rules to rediscover the power of ink, paper and a stamp.
Just a special thanks to our friends at Glassful for our inimitable ‘Box of Love.’
Rule 1: Stop typing now.
There is little romance in typing on a keyboard. If you really need to ask why, consider the actual buttons of the keyboard you are typing on now. They are protectors, barriers really to your fingertips, which are not only what you touch others with.
“When you write a letter, you are taking your own energy and transferring it to paper,” Damien Echols once told us. “And then that paper has the energy, so you transfer that energy on.”
Echols should know. He spent eighteen years on Death Row in Arkansas for a crime he didn’t commit; he survived off love letters between his extraordinary girlfriend and wife Lorri Davis, a master writer herself.
Rule 2: Use a petname.
Hey, tiger. Say, darling. Bon voyage, pussycat. We all have nicknames. Even Ludwig Beethoven had the romantic inclination to pen love notes to his “Immortal Beloved.”
What is the pet name of your Beloved? Think. Be patient.
Don’t have a pet name?
Even better. Make one up.
Rule 3: Keep it light.
Nothing can ruin the mood like heaviness. Love is like a bird. Without freedom, it won’t sing.
Take these lines from artists Rockwell Kent, sent in 1926 to his wife Frances. Here is his opener:
“I am so lonely I can hardly bear it. As one needs happiness so have I needed love; that is the deepest need of the human spirit. And as I love you utterly, so have you now become the whole world of my spirit.”
Eh? Too Heavy?
We think so.
Rule 4: Embrace mystery.
As the French matador Sebastian Castella once told us, “The most important part of bullfighting is mystery. Without mystery, you can’t have reverence.”
Same goes for love letters. If there is no mystery, create some. Vladimir Nabokov was a master wordsmith, perhaps the best ever. Consider his turns of phrase to wife and lover and sidekick Vera:
“You are the only person I can talk with about the shade of a cloud, about the song of a thought.”
Not bad, Vladi.
Rule 5: Pick a size.
What kind of letter is this going to be? A novel or teaser? Or something in between?
Like all good letters, these words should do their job and no more. Decide if you are looking to entertain and inform, or playfully appear and go away. Without clear direction, medium-sized letters can turn into ramblers. So pick an appropriate length before you begin.
Rule 6: Strategize.
What is the purpose of your love letter? To win her (or him) over? To win him (or her) back?
Letters, like books and stories, need to have goals. Without goals, even romance can get lost. What is your goal?
Here are a five quick ideas if you’re feeling stuck:
1.) A playful tease.
2.) Taking the relationship to the next step.
3.) Sharing a strong memory.
4.) An apology.
5.) The baring of a secret.
Rule 7: Consider the rule of thirds.
No matter how long or short they are, the best stories or writing comes in three parts: a beginning, middle and end.
Each of these three parts should be unique, and yet come together as you strive to achieve your goal. Attempt to create them and they will give your letter shape and style.
Rule 8: Finish strong.
The end of a love letter is arguably the most crucial part. It’s like the last kiss goodbye. It needs to be original and impactful. Consider the whimsy, depth and playfulness of James Joyce.
“Her soul! Her name! Her eyes!” Joyce writes. “They seem to me like strange beautiful blue wild-flowers growing in some tangled, rain-drenched hedge. And I have felt her soul tremble beside mine, and have spoken her name softly to the night, and have wept to see the beauty of the world passing like a dream behind her eyes.”