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January 26, 2017

How to Compose a Love Letter—Famous Examples from Elizabeth Taylor, Johnny Cash, Henry Miller & More.


Sometimes, I worry that we’ve reduced our emotions to 140 characters or to the space of a text message.

We’ve confined our language into abbreviations to make more room, but are the messages we convey worthy of saving?

I know in the aftermath of a breakup, it’s easy to go back and read the words we’ve written and that have been written to us. We savor them and try to read between the lines to see if the future was foreshadowed there.

But once, not so long ago, there were letters. There was stationary and postage stamps and snail mail delivering messages to those we love. Here are a few famous letters that show how much can be contained in the written word:

To: Elizabeth Taylor
From: Richard Burton

“My blind eyes are desperately waiting for the sight of you. You don’t realize of course, E.B., how fascinatingly beautiful you have always been, and how strangely you have acquired an added and special and dangerous loveliness.”

To: June Carter Cash
From: Johnny Cash

“Maybe sometimes [we] take each other for granted. But once in a while, like today, I meditate on it and realize how lucky I am to share my life with the greatest woman I ever met. You still fascinate and inspire me. You influence me for the better. You’re the object of my desire, the #1 earthly reason for my existence. I love you very much.” 

To: Victor Hugo
From: Juliette Drouet

“I love you because I love you, because it would be impossible for me not to love you. I love you without question, without calculation, without reason good or bad, faithfully, with all my heart and soul, and every faculty.”

To: Immortal Beloved
From: Beethoven

“Oh continue to love me—never misjudge the most faithful heart of your beloved. Ever thine. Ever mine. Ever ours.”

To: Anais Nin
From: Henry Miller

“Here I am back and still smouldering with passion, like wine smoking. Not a passion any longer for flesh, but a complete hunger for you, a devouring hunger…Anais, I only thought I loved you before; it was nothing like this certainty that’s in me now. Was all this so wonderful only because it was brief and stolen? Were we acting for each other, to each other? Was I less I, or more I, and you less or more you? Is it madness to believe that this could go on?”

To: Diego Rivera
From: Frida Kahlo

“Diego my love—Remember that once you finish the fresco we will be together forever once and for all, without arguments or anything, only to love one another. Behave yourself and do everything that Emmy Lou tells you. I adore you more than ever. Your girl, Frida (Write me).”

~

There’s something beautiful about putting pen to page and confessing one’s feelings. There’s power in words, and although we could easily fit some of our feelings into a social media post or text message there’s something infinitely more powerful in the tactile experience of holding a letter in our hands.

So here’s a beginners guide for penning a romantic love letter:

1. Avoid the use of slang when possible. This isn’t the time to tell “bae” you love her. Please don’t sully the lovely gesture with ridiculous abbreviations or slang. Make the words you use count.

2. Say what you feel. Even if you struggle to express your feelings aloud, take the time to write them out. Speak from your heart, and be genuine. This isn’t going to win a literary prize. It just needs to be authentic.

3. Avoid clichés. No one wants to read how roses are red and violets are blue. Less is more in this case.

4. Consider your intentions. What do you really need to communicate? Do you want to tell your partner that you’re sorry for something you’ve done? Is your intention to express gratitude? Do you just want to share how much they mean to you? Is this a letter to someone who’s gone or who is still present in your life? Consider the letter’s intent and then speak from the heart.

5. There’s nothing wrong with a rough draft. If you’re a letter writing novice, take the time to practice what you want to say. Then just say it.

6. Hand-write this letter (if your handwriting is legible). It means so much more when you write out how you feel rather than just typing it out. But if your handwriting is truly atrocious, by all means type it out and then sign it.

7. Don’t worry about perfection. The best part about reading famous love letters is being able to feel how much someone was loved. We don’t read them for grammatical errors or mistakes. We read them because we want to capture the feeling of that moment and that relationship. Someone who cares about you won’t pull out a big red pen to start making corrections. This is about expressing feelings and sharing them.

8. Take some advice from Vincent van Gogh: “Do you know what frees one from this captivity? It is every deep serious affection. Being friends, being brothers, love, these open the prison by supreme power, by some magic force. Where sympathy is renewed, life is restored.” Also: “Love a friend, love a wife, something, whatever you like, but one must love with a lofty and serious intimate sympathy, with strength, with intelligence, and one must always try to know deeper, better, and more.” Simply love someone. Then take the time to tell them in a way that doesn’t involve social media or texting.

9. Avoid promises you can’t keep. Don’t make promises if you can’t keep them, so be careful with the words you use. Empty promises will take away from the message and can be hurtful later in the relationship.

10. Keep it simple. Perhaps you aren’t good with words. Perhaps you don’t know exactly what to say. It doesn’t have to be flowery or poetic. Just say what you feel.

Love letters seem to have gone the way of the dinosaurs, but with a little time and effort, we can resurrect this lost art. We can take the time to let those we love know how deeply we cherish them. We can say how we feel and do it in a way that will be appreciated. We can remember that romance still exists, and it always will.

Romance exists where love exists. Just not, perhaps, in 140 characters.

 

Author: Crystal Jackson

Image: kate gabrielle/Flickr

Editor: Catherine Monkman

 

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