Quote of the Week: “Do you want me to tell you something really subversive? Love is everything it’s cracked up to be. That’s why people are so cynical about it. It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.” Erica Jong
Writing Exercise of the Week: Where were you on May 8, 1999 (or 2009 if you’re Generation Z)? What was your life like? Who were you with? What was important to you then?
This month has got me thinking: When was the last time you received a love letter?
I’m not talking about some past life where you were a Victorian man or woman with a dalliance on the side. I’m talking about a modern day love letter. Something for our time, for the world we live in, for the relationships that make our lives richer. A love letter for the 21st century.
Love letters withstand the test of time. People save them, tie them up with a ribbon, hide them in an old shoebox, take them out to read whenever they’re feeling down. Love letters reveal more than an heirloom piece of jewelry or yellowed photograph. They show the measure of someone’s love or admiration for another person. Think about what a love letter can do, how words on a page can send you straight to cloud nine and keep you there in a perpetual state of bliss. Nothing is more potent than knowing we are loved.
If you want to receive a love letter, consider writing one first. Here’s a love letter deconstructed:
1. Choose someone you love. It can be romantic love, familial love, friendship, man (or woman)’s best friend (that’s right—you can write a love letter to a pet).
2. Tell them what you love about them. Mention qualities you appreciate, enjoy or cherish about them.
3. Recall a few shared moments that meant a lot to you. Offer the details that are particularly vivid in your memory.
4. Sign your name and then put it in the mail or hand it to them. You can also save it for a future date—just make sure you (or they) have a way of finding it later.
That’s it. A simple one-page letter will take you 15 minutes to half an hour, the same amount of time it would take you to buy a greeting card and let a pre-printed sentiment do the hard work. Let your love letter stand on its own—pen, paper, envelope. Handwritten letters are rare these days, so consider sending a carefully penned love note instead of a typed one. If you prefer to type, be sure to sign it by hand. Add a little ambiance with a spritz of fragrance, a colorful sketch in the margins, a photograph. Choose good paper—a rich, creamy stock, something with a little weight to it or something tissue-paper thin and delicate, prompting the recipient to handle with care. Make it a sumptuous experience, not just for you as the writer but for whoever opens the envelope. Imagine them seeing the letter in the mailbox. Would you be delighted to discover such a letter waiting for you? So would they.
Don’t have anyone to write a love letter to? I won’t make you totally uncomfortable by suggesting that you write one to yourself (though it is a good idea, for so many reasons). Instead, think of someone alive or dead who fills you with appreciation. It could be a teacher, a celebrity, a philosopher, a stranger, an old crush. Did you ever have a moment when someone offered you unexpected kindness? Were you ever feeling great despair when you read or heard something that filled you with hope?
Love letters are powerful because they allow us to voice our appreciation in a physical, tangible way. Getting it down on paper releases those good feelings. Even if nobody sees it, even if you choose not to send it, you have your pen and paper as witness. Sometimes that’s all you need.
Darien Gee is the best-selling author of six books, including three written as Mia King. Her books have been translated into 14 languages and are selections of the Doubleday, Literary Guild and Book of the Month Club book clubs. Visit Waimea Community Education at waimeaeducation.com to register for Darien’s upcoming writing and publication workshops. For more information, visit dariengee.com.