If you ask your friends, family, or the guy down the street if they write love letters, you might get a funny look. The kind of look you give someone who just asked you for money. Not a kind look by any means. This is so because I believe the love letter is pretty much dead. This tradition has shriveled up in a world where heartfelt affection is an emoji of a panda with hearts for eyes.
Maybe I’m wrong. I sure hope so. Maybe tons of people write love letters, but keep this quiet since it feels like such an antiquated thing. They don’t want to be known as the kind of weirdo who articulates their heart’s beat for their loved one via thoughtful prose. What a total weirdo, amirite?
Despite the awkwardness around the idea of it, I’m a firm believer in the power of a love letter. I’ve written quite a few. Some private, some public. I’ve written some for my mother, some for my father, my friends, and, of course, my love. Some could argue I even wrote some for things, like books. It’s a way for me to share my insides; it helps me connect my internal with my external.
It’s a godsend. Because, you see, I’m a whole lot better on paper than in person. My lady will (a bit too) enthusiastically agree with this. I don’t take it to heart. We all have our strengths and our natural grooves, and for me that means that I’m better with the written word than with the spoken one.
Love letters, then, portray my deepest considerations all at once in the most coherent way I can concoct. The content of a love letter depends on who you are. That guy’s love letter could be filled with rosy language and emotionally-charged descriptions. That other lady’s letter could be calm, in comparison, and carefully list the things she appreciates about the other person. Neither is right and neither is wrong. Both are exactly as they should be, since both are true to the writer.
Just Write It
When you’re writing a love letter, you need to get out of your way and just write it. This sort of writing should be the least filtered piece of writing you can do. The typos, the redundant wording, the oddly placed commas, those are all irrelevant. They are secondary, an afterthought, after you’re done crafting the power of your message.
This message, in whatever words you end up using for yourself, essentially says: you’re immensely important to me and I just wanted to let you know that, because I could not spend another moment not confessing this to you. Open the gates, let the heart pour itself across the page. It’s a great unburdening, the best of all kinds. A love letter helps you breathe easier, that’s for sure.
Ignore Everyone Else
The editor in you will want to tear apart your letter. It will criticize, minimize, or ridicule you. If you listen to that cranky old hag you’ll never write anything that is pumped with life by your soul. Don’t listen to it, basically because that voice is not yours. It was created by everyone else, but what “people say.”
These people say that if you’re a man, and don’t spend your days wearing black turtlenecks, you have no business writing sappy things like these.
These people say that you are way too emotional and you kind of need to tone it down, because you make people uncomfortable.
These people are letting you know what the “right way” of doing things is, so pay attention…If you’ve read my stuff enough you know that I believe that complete bullshit. There’s no right way, there’s only the way that work for you.
You must ignore these voices! At all times and with all things. Writing this kind of letter is simply an example of how frustrating and limiting listening to other people’s definition of “right” or “success” or “normal” can be. People who have these opinions and need you to abide by them are, quite simply, bullies. Ignore the bully, and you take away their power. Human beings create a crowd, not the other way around.
Love + Honesty
Now, this can’t be left unsaid: a love letter is not all flowers and puppies. It’s not simply a proclamation of love. I’ve experienced that the most powerful love letters are those where you reveal yourself in every single way. The good and the bad.
I’ve done this with my lady various times. I don’t just tell her how much she means to me, how much I’m renewed by her laugh and smile and love, but I also tell her how imperfect I am. My concerns, my doubts, and my caution. The ways in which I am still selfish, and the dark thoughts that cloud everything else from time to time. I list the times I’ve failed her, and the fear I have that I will fail her once more, many times over. This is not simply a proclamation, but a confession. It contains both my appreciation for her, and my brokenness, my imperfect state of affairs.
Love letters are life-changing because it’s one of the few times when you can muster up that ultimate courage that comes with being vulnerable. It’s you dropping your pants and taking off your shirt and saying, “This is me, sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, but I promise that I’ll always try my best.”
Nobody is anywhere near perfect. Even that guy who runs around the neighborhood at 5am while taking a conference call with a $1m client stains his shirt with pudding from time to time. But few of us like to admit that.
It’s hard to say those things, I know it is for me. But when you do, and when you admit this to the person you love in a way that is uplifting, in a way that says, I know this and promise to be my best for you, you build one of the most human connections of all: that between two authentic and honest people.
In the letters I’ve written I can say that one thing always, without fail, happens. I breathe a lot easier. I feel like a rush of fresh, cool air has filled my lungs and has lessened my load.
Maybe we will all feel this way once we put down on paper, for the rest of the world to see, what we’ve often held for just ourselves. Maybe that’s the unburdening of being selfish with our heart beats. Sharing yourself is one of the most selfless things you can do, and this counts as that. Once I’ve shared my thoughts with my loved one, I feel renewed. Like we finished writing a chapter, and are turning the page to start what’s next.
I want you to write a love letter right now.
Here’s how: grab a blank page and write at the top, “Dear (name of the person or thing you’re dedicating this to). I just wanted to let you know I love you with all that I am.” End there if you want. That’s a love letter. But if you feel like writing more, don’t let me stop you. Once you have written all there needs to be written, write your name at the bottom and hit Send, put it in an envelope, whatever works.
You have now officially written something true. Congrats, the world is a whole lot better for it.