How to write a love letter according to Morris Gleitzman
Children’s author Morris Gleitzman offers love-letter-writing tips to get you crafting yours in time for Valentine’s Day.
When Petula Clark sang about the world needing love sweet love, we assumed she meant it was needed back then in 1976. After what we've been through in the last few months, clearly she was also singing about now. Very impressive foresight, Petula.
I mention this with regard to Valentine's Day. Our fond respects to this third century patron saint have morphed over the years into an annual frenzy of dewy-eyed lust and desire, and I don't just mean card shop proprietors.
As a result, many of us tend to dismiss the whole thing as a retail sector romp rather than a serious matter of the heart. And so our Day Of Love languishes, an under-utilized global resource. Which is a shame, given that what the world needs now etc.
So I propose that we take back The Day. That we make it a true day of love, and that we express that love in its purest, most honest and intimate and unspellchecked form.
The love letter.
Traditionally, of course, written to potential life partners, as long as they're age-appropriate and not already signed up to marry a farmer on reality TV.
But also, I suggest, much deserved by those who have touched our hearts in other ways. By holding a hose to an escarpment of flame, perhaps. Or helping an anxious child. Or any of the acts of kindness and devotion and empathy that make us glad to be alive.
A few sentences, or even a few words, written from your heart, has the power to do more for another individual heart than all the clopidogrel in christendom.
It also has the power to be a tiny building block of human goodness, part of a global foundation of true community connection, undismantleable even by the current crop of world leaders known more for their hair than their hearts.
Given all that, I imagine you'll want to get started with a love letter post haste. Unless your ardour is feeling slightly dampened by technical anxiety.
Fear not. I've canvassed a bunch of my writer friends, and they've authorized me to share a distillation of their love-letter-writing craft skills.
First, no social media. I'm sure that's making you feel less loving towards me immediately. But think about it. Do you really want your human essence mined for marketing purposes?
I still regret the love message I sent via social media years ago, foolishly including the words, 'your eyes are bluer than the deepest ocean'. I'm still being bombarded with ads for ultramarine house paint and abalone diving holidays.
OK, there are times when we all doubt our desirability. If you're having one of those moments, perhaps you'd prefer to spread the risk and tell 687,000 people that they're the only one for you. But you still don't need social media. Two words. Carbon paper.
Because a love letter should be hand-written. It's your love coming from your heart and it should be enshrined in marks made as only you can make them on a piece of paper uniquely dampened by the sweet perspiration of your labour and possibly by the off-dry pinot grigio in your other hand.
I mentioned spellcheck earlier. If you're not that hot at spelling, it's part of your true self. Don't try and hide it. A hand-written love letter, blemishes and all, is the perfect expression of the truth and honesty that all relationships depend on, along with the pinot grigio.
You just don't want your newly-betrothed, when you leave a tender honeymoon note on the pillow, to discover that the relationship to date has been partly with you and partly with spellcheck. Reading 'I luv ewe' for the first time can be very upsetting, particularly if you've just married that farmer.
These days, many of you probably only write actual letters for business purposes. For you, a few tips. Love letters are different. 'Dear Sir/Madam' won't be appropriate in most cases. You won't need to include a reply reference number. Unless you write a lot of love letters. And even then, only if you write them all to the same person.
Delivery of your hand-written love letter is, of course, a little less convenient than a click or a tap. But more than worth the effort. Your loving words will be all the more loving tucked into a lunch box, slipped under a door, attached to a bunch of flowers, or even folded into a paper plane and launched across the office (not if you're an air traffic controller).
Or, if your loving thoughts need to travel further, that timeless stop-off for the enraptured Aussie heart and all its stationery and telegraphic needs, the post office, awaits. Pop your love letter into an envelope, spend the dollar, and if you're truly passionate, splash out on the postie-cycling-faster surcharge.
However you send it, whoever you send it to, I wish your heart's loving message good speed and a safe arrival. And all the joy to its recipient, and to you, that only a love letter can give.
I'm feeling quite inspired to write one myself. In fact, rather than the usual silent thanks I give to each imagined reader when I finish a piece of writing, this piece, hand-written of course, on the back of an old fan letter to Petula Clark, is my love letter to you.