I wrote my first love letter to my sixth-grade boyfriend. Back in the 1960s, there was no email or text messaging and mailing a letter was the only way to communicate a written message with someone who you cared about. It many ways, the handwritten letter is more romantic, poetic and sensual. It’s also more permanent, purposeful, engaging, reflective, thoughtful, individualised and requires and more effort than a cold electronic email message. These days we have many choices on how to communicate with others, but considering a handwritten message is a unique way to share your sentiments.
The handwritten love letter has a long history expressing a myriad of human desires and feelings. There might have been written by queens, kings, presidents and celebrities. Some even say that the art of writing love letters dated way back to the Song of Solomon, but the love letter as we know it, probably began in the early renaissance, evolving into the period of Enlightenment. In a sense, writing and receiving the handwritten love letter might be considered an aphrodisiac. Further, studies have shown that writing by hand forces us to think more methodically, thoughtfully, and carefully. Writing by hand also slows us down and helps us to get our message just right, which hopefully includes, reflection and introspection.
In many ways, emails, texting and instant messaging have brought back some of the qualities of letter writing skills, although for many people, it has taken away the allure of the stamped letter mailed at the corner mailbox. Even though most of my day is spent at the computer composing emails, I do have a drawer totally dedicated to stationary and note paper. After all, an email is not a ‘real’ letter and in many ways receiving a stamped letter delivered by the mailman seems to hold more weight and be more credible. It is just so precious. Although we can save emails, there is nothing like saving a handwritten letter, something we have stored away, a piece of paper which reminds us of a particular person. Sometimes the paper might even hold their fragrance.
Word processors are ubiquitous now, but holding a hand-written letter elicits different feelings than a typewritten one. Writing a handwritten letter is the next best thing to showing up at someone’s door. A hand-written letter also holds the story of the letter’s journey, perhaps across many miles. It holds the spirit and energy of the person who wrote it in a very tangible way.
When each of my children were born I wrote them a letter. When my grandmother died, when I was ten, I wrote her a letter and continue to do so when I have the need to be connected with her. When my father died, twenty-five years ago, I wrote him a letter. All my children are grown and every so often I love sending them a handwritten note or card. I hope they cherish it as much as I do.
To write a handwritten letter, all you need is stationary which reflects your personality, a smooth-moving pen and sealing wax.
Here are some tips for writing love letters:
- State purpose of your letter
- Recall a romantic memory
- Write what you love about the person
- Write about how your life has changed since your meeting
- Reaffirm your love
- Summarize with a potent phrase, such as “I can’t wait to grow old with you.”
As a way to learn love letter style, it’s sometimes it’s fun to read love letters written by others, especially famous people. You might want to check out some of the following books:
- de Ayala, R. (1999). Illustrated Letters: Artists and Writers Correspond. New York, NY: Harry N. Abrams.
- Gunwald, L, and S. J. Adler, Eds. (2005). Women’s Letters: America from the Revolutionary War to the Present. New York, NY: Dial Press.
- Fitzpatrick, E., ed. (2010). Letters to Jackie: Condolences from a Grieving Nation. New York, NY: Harper Collins.
- Tamplin, R., Ed. (1995). Famous Love Letters: Messages of Intimacy and Passion. Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest.
By Diana Raab, PhD