Teach me how to write a better love letter.
February 4, 2018 7:13 PM   Subscribe

Or refer me to articles which you think offer good advice on this.

I'm in a new relationship with a demisexual (someone who needs emotional connection to feel attracted). They're an extremely talented writer; I'm just ok (despite writing as a profession).

I'm falling in love and want to give them letters of quality and substance and feeling. I don't know how to do a good job. Their letters are funny, heartfelt, and beautiful at turns. We write to each other about once a day, less frequently on days when we see each other.

I've been feeling a good amount of anxiety every time I sit down to write a letter. It might be imposter syndrome in part. I also just really like this person and don't want to mess it up. The bigger issue here might be that I feel not good enough to be their person.

I like asking questions that offer my person opportunities to tell stories, which they enjoy and I enjoy. I like asking silly questions to offset the heaviness of some of the "bigger" questions. I like offering appreciation and affirmation, but I try to be careful with this one because the person has stated they are uncomfortable with compliments. I'm nervous about getting the balance right. Our letters express desire, but haven't been explicitly sexual in their content.

Does anyone have a magic formula?
posted by unstrungharp to Human Relations (13 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Write. How you feel. How you talk. And never, ever stop.
posted by Mike Mongo at 7:18 PM on February 4, 2018 [4 favorites]

What you just wrote is what you honestly feel, right?

Rewrite it as a letter to them.

And after you've written it: do you want to send it? If so, do.
posted by tivalasvegas at 7:52 PM on February 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

Stop and really think about the specifics of how you feel about them. Write that.

My advice, as a love letter writer. Is to use your letters to say the things that you wouldn’t say in person bc it would sound too cheesy. It sounds better written.
posted by OmieWise at 7:59 PM on February 4, 2018 [5 favorites]

I think the best love letter of all time is in the book Kushiel's Justice, by Jacqueline Carey. It might be a little long to retype here (pgs 299-300), but the gist of it boils down to:

(a) I've been trying to figure out how to write a love letter to you that lives up to another couple's famous love letters, but that's not exactly my strong suit and that's not likely to change just because I miss you.
(b) "So if you are expecting a paean celebrating everything from the drowning pools of your eyes to the sinewed arches of your feet, lingering over the veined glory of love's throbbing scepter, you will be disappointed."
(c) "But I do miss you, and it is an ache that never goes away. Life continues, day by day. I pretend to be someone I am not, wearing my self like a mask, stretching over the aching void that is your absence in my life. I miss you. Waking, sleeping, eating, riding, talking, breathing; I miss you."

The recipient of the letter sums it up as having "love, desire, tenderness, humor; even the sweet mercy of gentle cruelty." He laughs and cries while reading it.

So what makes it great? Honesty. Not trying to put on the dog living up to famous writers. A (penis) joke. I miss you all the time.

Another idea is what Mr. Big did in the Sex and the City movie--he couldn't come up with what to write, so he sent letters written by others. Here are the letters he sent. Whether or not you want to do something like that, I don't know, but if you're feeling brain dead, reading them might help.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:03 PM on February 4, 2018 [4 favorites]

It sounds like you're doing everything right!! This person likes and loves you for you so if the letters have your voice -- which they surely do -- you should be set!

A good rule of thumb is the more specific the compliment the better. Share bits of your day and memories from growing up. Mention things that make you think of them during the day. Talk about your hopes and dreams and don't be afraid to discuss hard stuff because being vulnerable with someone caring is beautiful. You can include doodles and clippings from newspapers and magazines if that's your thing or stuff you find during the day like a pretty leaf on the ground. What about including little snapshots and grainy selfies taken with an instant camera?

Postcards are perfect because they're small but fun to get. A long letter is nice but short and sweet can be equally good if not better! If you aren't already, get some fun stamps and stationery to make the experience more fun and less scary. Or write on the back of napkins and receipts if that's all you have for a special note of a different kind!

You say: "The bigger issue here might be that I feel not good enough to be their person." That's a really tough place to be in. I am sure you are absolutely good enough to be their partner but I know the feeling: great people can bring out the best of us and also our worst self-doubt and fears we haven't fully processed yet. Hopefully, you will feel more confident with time as trust grows; fortunately, even if you keep feeling this way, it needs not be permanent. Therapy is wonderful way to work through this and is there if and when you're ready.
posted by smorgasbord at 8:04 PM on February 4, 2018 [5 favorites]

The typical advice for learning to write better is to read more. So maybe look for a collection of love letters written be literary figures. Not to copy them, just to influence your writing style and expand your options.
posted by bunderful at 8:05 PM on February 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

I think you are on the right track and echo the comments above. Perhaps another thing to try is to not sit down and tell yourself you are going to write a love letter, but to sit down and write about how you feel when you think about love and how you feel when you are in love, and about how they make you feel exactly that way.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:12 PM on February 4, 2018

I think the thing about a good love letter is that it does exactly what you are trying to avoid, it exposes you. It puts your feelings on the table. You then send it and wait and wonder how it will be received and how the person will reciprocate. If you can get comfortable expressing your deepest feelings, then whatever you write will be right.
posted by AugustWest at 8:35 PM on February 4, 2018 [10 favorites]

I agree with the others that you should just write how you feel. When I receive a love letter, I enjoy reading it in my partner's style and tone. However, if you need something for inspiration, I love the website Letters of Note. There are all kinds of letters there that are interesting (not just love letters), but you'll find love letters mixed in, and you can also query the website for those kind. Ultimately, have fun with this, don't overthink it, just write whatever has the most meaning to you. Good luck!
posted by FireFountain at 8:38 PM on February 4, 2018

I think smorgasbord is on the right track here. Write how you write(or talk/self talk inside your head), in ways that you find fun, and you may find you experince less anxiety about your perceived failure to duplicate/match your other person's style.
Type out your stream of thoughts just as you've done with your question here, that's the key to it being authentic and establishing that connection you're looking for. Vulnerability is a difficult place for some to put themselves in at first, but it gets easier each time that it's well-received, and eventually just comes naturally from a place of safety/trust with that person you're exposing it to.
On days you aren't feeling so inspired/creative, sometimes it's just as great if not better to simply have the recipient(you) acknowledge, respond to and validate whatever they shared with you and offer your own thoughts, feelings, experiences around/ about that.
posted by OnefortheLast at 9:26 PM on February 4, 2018

I like Baudelaire as a source of "ways these things can be written about."
posted by rhizome at 12:56 AM on February 5, 2018

Look at the sonnets: supposedly they're epic love letters to whoeveritwas. But they're all Shakespeare all the time.
I'm ancient and about to die but you still hanging with me, obviously I'm awesome.
You're pretty and everyone will know it forever thanks to me wutwuuuut.
Give it up already, soon you'll be ugly and the only way you can preserve your looks is to have my baby.
The very last thing you need to write a good love letter is confidence in your own writing.

You got the emphasis wrong and the person wrong for this project. Put the emphasis on the "love" part, not the "letters" part. And mostly it's not a first-person but a second-person exercise. Listen to your person, watch your person, conduct an intimate investigation. The love letters are your regular reports; you put your delight in your findings about your person--their thoughts, things they say, their little darling foibles in them.

These days every little chance utterance I make comes back to me months later in a card or a note or a little ingenious present that shows he's listening on a practically miraculous level. Before now I was with someone who wrote like a dream, my exact best writer that I loved best in the world to read--but I would no more leave my listener to go back to my writer than I would jump into a hog lagoon. The writer couldn't hear a thing I said over his barding. Fuckalottadat.
posted by Don Pepino at 10:29 AM on February 5, 2018 [6 favorites]

I read somewhere once that a good love letter should be mortally embarrassing were an enemy to get their hands on it. This is not the medium where prudence is advised.
posted by MiraK at 11:49 AM on February 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

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