Use these tips for putting your love in writing

Love letter



If you need a little inspiration to get started on your love letter, consider these:

From Winston Churchill to his wife of 56 years, Clementine:

“My darling Clemmie, in your letter from Madras you wrote some words very dear to me, about having enriched your life. I cannot tell you what pleasure this gave me, because I always feel so overwhelmingly in your debt, if there can be accounts in love ... What it has been to me to live all these years in your heart and companionship no phrases can convey.”


From Oscar Wilde to Lord Alfred Douglas:

“Your sonnet is quite lovely, and it is a marvel that those red-roseleaf lips of yours should be made no less for the madness of music and song than for the madness of kissing. Your slim gilt soul walks between passion and poetry. I know Hyacinthus, whom Apollo loved so madly, was you in Greek days.”


Robert Browning to Elizabeth Barrett:

“My whole scheme of life, (with its wants, material wants at least, closely cut down,) was long ago calculated — and it supposed you, the finding such an one as you, utterly impossible — because in calculating one goes upon chances, not on providence — how could I expect you? So for my own future way in the world I have always refused to care — anyone who can live a couple of years & more on bread and potatoes as I did once on a time ... such an one needs not very much concern himself beyond considering the lilies how they grow: but now I see you near this life, all changes.”


Charles Darwin to his first cousin and future wife, Emma Wedgwood:

“How I do hope you shall be happy as I know I shall be. My own dearest Emma, I earnestly pray, you may never regret the great and I will add very good, deed you are to perform on the Tuesday: my own dear future wife, God bless you ...”


Woodrow Wilson to second wife Edith Bolling Galt:

“You are more wonderful and lovely in my eyes than you ever were before; and my pride and joy and gratitude that you should love me with such a perfect love are beyond all expression, except in some great poem which I cannot write.”


Zelda Sayre to future husband F. Scott Fitzgerald:

“Scott — there’s nothing in all the world I want but you — and your precious love — All the materials things are nothing… I’d do anything — anything — to keep your heart for my own —”


Gustave Flaubert to wife Louise Colet:

“On whom should I lean, if not on you? My weary mind turns for refreshment to the thought of you as a dusty traveler might sink onto a soft and grassy bank.”


Dylan Thomas to wife Caitlin Macnamara:

“I love you more than anybody in the world… I love you for millions and millions of things, clocks and vampires and dirty nails and squiggly paintings and lovely hair and being dizzy and falling dreams.”


Franz Kafka to fiance Felice Bauer:

“I belong to you; there is really no other way of expressing it, and that is not strong enough. But for this very reason I don’t want to know what you are wearing; it confuses me so much that I cannot deal with life; and that’s why I don’t want to know that you are fond of me. If I did, how could I, fool that I am, go on sitting in my office, or here at home, instead of leaping onto a train with my eyes shut and opening them only when I am with you?”

The heart is full, but the page… sigh.

How to translate such glowing adoration, such explosions of love onto the empty page?

“My dearest delight, you make my heart explode.”

So, that’s no good. New page, still blank. If the words come together, if they genuinely embody the ardor they represent, this letter will be saved. It will be read and re-read, cherished with a fluttering heart, tied in ribbon and wreathed in lavender. It will be found, decades hence in a trunk or a dusty attic, gently unfolded and read by the twinkle in someone’s eye, and they will know: She was loved. He was somebody’s darling.

“Sweetheart, you will still be loved even when you’re dead.”


They’re not easy, these love letters. Valentine’s Day is Thursday, and on this celebration of love a few fearless hearts feel moved to immortalize that love on paper. A love letter! Not a text, not an IM, not a link to Tumblr or Instagram or even a hilarious GIF, but actual words written in ink on something tangible.

But somewhere between heart and page these vivid emotions become fragile. How to write them without breaking them? Consider:

■ Show, don’t tell, advised Grand Junction writer Wendy Videlock. It’s one of the most fundamental adages of writing, and in a love letter it could mean painting a scene or creating an image rather than stating “you are pretty” or “I appreciate your kindness.”

“A good love letter declares itself plainly, then illustrates particularly,” wrote Tom Chiarella in GQ magazine. “Let the example precede sentiment. ‘I saw you watching the men play chess in the park. So quiet. I love the way you look at things.’ Show her what you love in her before you tell her what you love in her. Show, then tell.”

■ Think in images that capture your beloved and highlight those, said Grand Junction poet Luis Lopez.

“Find an image that draws you to the person that you love,” Lopez said. “It could be the eyes, it could be the personality, it could be all kinds of things that draw you to the person, and write about what it is you love about that particular trait. It shows you’re paying attention.”

■ Focus on the details. You always hear that the devil’s in the details, but in a love letter, perhaps it’s god that is.

“We think that pronouncements are the way to move others, but really it’s a more deep kind of observation and understanding of one’s own observation,” Videlock said. “Love’s so universal and so personal, and it’s the details that make it our own.”

So, for example, if you want to mention remembering how he looked the day you met, don’t stop there. Talk about specific small details: where he was standing, what he was doing, how he smiled.

“Be loyal to the past you share,” Chiarella wrote. “If your love emerged on a kayak trip, then you don’t just mention that experience, you make it. Use your memory. Let the river — the docks, the boats, the rocky shore — become your palette. Tell a story, one that only the two of you know. Or try narrating a moment in which she was unaware that you were watching her. Use detail to show what you remember and that you remember.”

■ Keep the letter’s focus on your beloved, said San Miguel County poet Art Goodtimes. Because love is such a strong emotion and so personal, the temptation is to veer into “I would move mountains for you, I am nothing without you, I would die for you” proclamations. And a little of that can be touching and good, because a shared love is about two people together.

But a love letter also should be about why the beloved being written to is special, Videlock said. What makes her lovable? Why did you marry him?

■ Don’t feel like you need to be Lord Byron, especially if that’s not your natural inclination or you’re not entirely comfortable writing. Sometimes, Lopez said, the simplest statements have the most power because they’re not wrapped — and obscured — in flowery sentiment.

“Maybe the best thing you can do is just say how you feel,” he said, adding that it’s easy to veer into syrupy sentiment if you’re trying too hard. Leave the rhyming couplets and washed-out pastels to Hallmark; just write what’s in your heart.

“Don’t work to be overly genuine,” Chiarella wrote. “Be clear. Earnestness is cheap. Too much of it throws off the alchemy of expression. Don’t feel obligated to wind up a spool of honesty. Clarity works better.”

■ Take a page from people who’ve been there and peruse famous love letters or poems, Goodtimes advised. Reading notable love letters may help you gather ideas for how the heart spills itself in ink on the page.

■ Keep it positive. “You make me happy when I’m with you because…” is a lot nicer to read than “I’m miserable without you.”

Lopez said that when he wrote his poetry collection “Each Month I Sing,” in which the poems are dedicated to his wife of 34 years, Maggie, he thought about what he specifically loved about her, an optimistic process.

■ Spill your heart onto the page, then give it a day and come back to the letter, Videlock advised.

Write without censoring yourself, she said, but read it again before sending it. It may be that you’re happy with what you first wrote, but it may be that, considering the letter probably will be saved for years, a few of the more florid descriptions could be toned down just a bit.

A careful edit before sending gives the emotions room to breathe and space to make themselves known.

■ And finally, if words still fail, simply remember these three: I love you.


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