Whether you’re writing a love letter to a long-distance lover, a romantic note to your bae of the day or a blow-by-blow account of your magical love story, it’s important to remember that your love letter doesn’t need to be perfect or meet a certain word count or even have proper spelling. What your heart-felt love letter, and what every great love letter needs, is genuine affection for your intended. Here’s my advice on how to write a love letter like you mean it.
LOVE LETTER IDEAS
What else should you include in your love letter beyond an outpouring of affection? Honestly, it could be anything. You could share a memory of when you first saw them and how your heart stopped, or when you knew you were madly in love with them and you finally understood what falling in love really means. Your love letter might include how you feel and cope when you’re apart, or what goes through your mind and body when you’re together with your beloved. Maybe you start naming all the places you want to travel with your sweetheart. You could share what you want to do when you travel to these places, such as trace the roots of their ancestry or kiss them on the highest mountain. Maybe you get poetic or borrow lines from poets to prompt your love letter prowess.
Beethoven wrote many letters to his nameless “Immortal Beloved,” including this memorable phrase that’s so luscious it was quoted in the Sex and the City movie:
“Though still in bed, my thoughts go out to you, my Immortal Beloved, Be calm-love me-today-yesterday-what tearful longings for you-you-you-my life-my all-farewell. Oh continue to love me-never misjudge the most faithful heart of your beloved. Ever thine. Ever mine. Ever ours.”
If you’re not inclined toward poetic prose, don’t be afraid to be simple in your words. Famous writer (and famous lesbian) Virginia Woolf and English poet Vita Sackville-West exchanged love letters. Where Woolf’s love-letter writing was ornate, Sackville-West’s was, as she dubbed it, elementary.
She writes, in part, “I am reduced to a thing that wants Virginia. […] I just miss you, in a quite simple desperate human way. You, with all your un-dumb letters, would never write so elementary a phrase as that; perhaps you wouldn’t even feel it.”
Her lover Woolf responds: “Your letter came this morning — But why do you think I don’t feel, or that I make phrases? ‘Lovely phrases’ you say which rob things of reality. Just the opposite. Always, always, always I try to say what I feel.”
HOW TO WRITE A LOVE LETTER
The important part is to just start writing! Take a page from Woolf by starting with how you feel. And then consider how you want your love to feel when they’re reading your love letter. Do you want them to feel happy and energized? Maybe dreamy-eyed imagining your future together, what you’ll be like when you’re older or what kind of home you’d like to create with them. How about a love letter that is as hot as a flame itself, sizzling with erotica, detailing acts you’ve done with them in the past or what you’d like to do to them (or have them do to you) in the future. Be clever or straightforward. But be yourself when you write your love letter! If it sounds like someone else wrote it, it won’t mean as much to your lover.
Don’t worry about any editing along the way when you’re writing this love letter. Start a draft on your computer even if you’re going to send them a handwritten love letter. You can write until your heart’s content, and then edit. Your love letter doesn’t need to be long. Perhaps you just want a sweet note to fit into a card. Or this is the love letter, the one you will give your dearest on your wedding day. And you want to evoke emotions, but not have them needing to sit down in an armchair to read your novel professing your love. Save some of that for your vows and future love letters!
WHAT GOES IN A LOVE LETTER
Build out a framework for your love letter, starting with the focus or theme. If you want to write about how much you miss them, begin not by saying “I miss you so much,” but paint the picture of what it’s like without them by your side. For example, “This morning I woke up beside an empty space filled with an imprint of you” or “Dinner for one made my heart break, and I vow to share all my meals with you once you’re back in my arms.”
You could create a list of favorites in your love letter, such as “Ten things I love about you.” (A throwback to Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnet 43: “how do I love thee, let me count the ways.”) But you don’t have to literally write one, two, three and so on. Just let that be your guide. Be careful to not be so broad that it could be about anyone. If you’re going to write that you love their kind heart, give an example that can only apply to them: I love that you’re so kind that you always ask cashiers how their day is going. Want to compliment them on their intelligence? Bring in an example of when they knew an answer to something that no one else did. The more specific you can be in your love letter, the more your intended will feel seen, known and celebrated.
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