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Taking Valentine's Day in Hand: A Guide to Writing a Meaningful Letter

14 February 2018
Cars are screeching into flower shops at break-neck speed, mobs are jostling for anything heart-shaped from the supermarket (does a wonky capsicum count?!), and constant love ballads are wailing from every speaker - whether of love won or lost, it will be crooned. It must be February 14 . 
Valentine's Day, also known as Saint Valentine's Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine, has been associated with romantic love since the ancient romans; though it's contemporary celebration has seen this diverge to also include all loved ones: friends, family and personal heroes. This celebration means a lot of different things to different people. Whether it brings delicious, if overpriced, candy from a secret admirer; a thoughtful card and home-cooked dinner from a long-time paramour; a brunch get-together of beloved friends; or, for the less sentimental among us, a horror-movie binge fest full of hearts that have stopped entirely.
If you planned to but have forgotten to reach out to an all-important loved one this Valentine's Day, not to worry! We have your guide to giving the greatest gift of all - a meaningful, personal letter. 
 

 

Letter writing as a Gift from the Heart

Whether for a romantic partner, friend, family member or someone else whom inspires you, February 14 is the perfect day to reconnect and express your admiration. Finding the words to express how you feel and to sharing this love with your loved one is an enriching experience that brings your relationship closer for both you as the writer and your lucky reader.
A thoughtful, hand-written letter is an exceptional present. Particularly in this period of instant and quick digital-messaging platforms. Writing letters is one of the most intimate and thoughtful ways to communicate. The words of sixteenth-century poet John Donne still resonate: 'Letters mingle souls.' 
Letters, being physical records, can also become wonderful time capsules of memory and meaning for your Valentine to treasure for years to come. The joy of receiving a heart-warming, handwritten letter is hard to beat ! So let's have a look at a quick and easy, but effective, approach to letter writing.
 

 

Tips and Tricks on Writing Personal Letters

 

Getting Started

Writing (whether to someone else or to yourself) encourages you to comb through and organise your thoughts so that you can express them clearly. If you're struggling with getting your words out comprehensively, you may even want to write a quick, messy draft first. You can then pare them back, organise them fully and write out a beautiful final draft for your Valentine.
Here are some starting prompts that you might find useful to start your mind ruminating and your words flowing:
 
I love you because ...
I'm so grateful to you because ...
With you in my life, I ...
Let's share the adventure of ...
 

Structuring a Letter

Now that you're inspired, let's think about how the letter can be easily structured. Like a story, every letter should have a beginning, a middle and an end!
 
Beginning
At the beginning is the greeting. Traditionally, a classic starter is 'Dear X', but you should adjust the type of greeting according to the relationship and personality of the person whom you're writing to. You may want to use an affectionate nickname that means something to the two of you.
 
Middle
The middle is the 'body' of your letter, where you write everything you want to say! There's no need to be formal or flowery - just write as you would speak in a conversation. Your letters should sound like you, not like Jane Austen or F. Scott Fitzgerald! You valentine wants to recognise your voice - so be comfortable writing as you would speak to them.
 
End
At the end is your farewell, followed by your name. For a personal letter, there's no 'right' way to sign off. A letter to a romantic partner might warrant 'With all my heart,' while a heart-felt but chatty letter to a friend could close with 'Lots of love from X' (your name). For a note to one of your heroes, an admiring, 'Keep doing what you're doing!' might be more appropriate.
 

Making your Letter Pop!

There are many ways of ramping up your Valentine letter's wow-factor:
  • Use coloured pens
  • Try a fountain pen - or even a quill and a bottle of ink - for oodles of old-fashioned charm!
  • Put little sketches in your letter - even a stick-figure drawing can add tons of humour and fun!
  • Decorate with patterned washi tape (tape that is decorated with patterns or pictures) or even gold or silver foiling
  • Tape in a printed photo or two
  • Learn some simple calligraphy or lettering skills to make a particular word or saying really stand out
  • Rub a little perfume or essential oil onto the paper for a lovely scent
 

The Gift that Gives Back 

Not only will your Valentine be touched by your letter, which should give you a real glow of satisfaction, but did you know that the act of writing letters has a whole range of other benefits as well?
For one thing, letter-writing can be a calming, almost meditative act, because it makes you unplug from the electronic hustle and bustle, sit down quietly, and focus on a single task. 
Letters can also play a healing role, helping you work through issues and reach a place of acceptance, which can be useful for a cherished but perhaps sometimes difficult relationship.
 
Letters of gratitude have been proven to increase happiness and life satisfaction and decrease depression - and the more you write, the happier you become!
 
So pick up a pen and get scribbling to give your Valentine, and yourself, some much-deserved love!
 
For further letter-writing advice and prompts; tips and tricks; and a complete set of removeable, self-sealing letters for a series of different important people in your life (from friends to your future self) look out for Hinkler Books' Letters to You, coming to stores this April.