As lovers of writing, we at Phreelance Writers appreciate all forms it takes. Sure, we hold debates over punctuation and whether or not different types of writing are detrimental to other types, but overall, we respect and admire the ways in which we communicate. Recently, Ori, one of our contributing writers, mentioned that, while cleaning out his room, he found some old love letters written to him by an ex. This got us thinking.

Is the art of the Love Letter extinct? By this we mean is the practice of creating a hand-written note full of romantic or erotic prose a dead art? We asked our esteemed panel of friends and fellow writers to weigh in on the subject. We’d like your thoughts too, dear readers. Join our discussion by leaving a comment.

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Gage

It’s been at least a year since I wrote a handwritten love letter beyond the length of a greeting card.  Does that mean the love letter has died out?  I don’t think so.  Perhaps the handwritten letter has dwindled, but I’m pretty sure my love will come across just as well if I type a letter and print and mail it as it would if I scrawl it in pen—perhaps even more so, since the writing will actually be legible.

I understand the sentiment that people have about handwritten letters.  The dedication it takes to write and mail a letter gives it more weight than a simple email—we get loads of those every day.  But I don’t buy into the pessimism shared by people who say romance has to be handwritten.  Sure, I save the handwritten love letters I receive.  I have a drawer full of them.  But I also archive all my Gmail love letters, and often re-read them when I feel like reminding myself how romantic my relationship is.  Love letters aren’t dead—they’re just evolving.  Those emails work just fine.

Ori

Last weekend I organized a drawer in my bureau that I’ve been using as a memory dump for many years now.  Special finds include identification cards from 6 years of schooling, ticket stubs from every high school dance, and a sealed, unused condom, expired in 2002, which I think must have been from the first package I ever bought.

But the artifacts I was most excited to uncover were bundles of love letters.  The first I ever received was written by my kindergarten-sweetheart after I moved from Mississippi to Massachusetts.  The envelope is bordered in tiny hand drawn red hearts and they replace the dots on each “i”.  The last batch was written to me at a writing residency where in order to encourage artistic isolation, the proprietors did not provide internet or phone access.

Every few years for the last 20 years some philosopher, writer, or technophile feels the need to proclaim that print media is dead and will soon be supplanted by digital media.  Print media endures because people enjoy books not just as ideas, but as objects.  Someday convenience and price may put an end to the print era; however, I hope we never reach the same point with love letters.  Love and writing love letters should never be matters of convenience.  The extra effort helps makes love letters special.

But even if a lover were also a digital designer and took the time to craft a compelling digital billet-doux, it still wouldn’t compare.  You can’t touch an e-mail knowing that your lover touched it.  An e-mail will never be S.W.A.K. (sealed with a kiss).  An e-mail cannot carry the scent of your lover.  And on the darker side, if a lover spurns or betrays you, you can delete the e-mail, but that’s a cold and empty gesture, whereas burning a stack of love letters can be extremely satisfying and at least pays suitable tribute to the passion
the relationship inspired.

Andrew

The handwritten love letter doesn’t need a Cialis, nor does it need an epitaph. There are many ways to communicate love through the wiggling of your fingers, and those fingers need not simply stroke lustful words with a pen. Those fingers can stroke the keys of a keyboard, ejaculating a stream of erotic prose in praise of your amour. Those fingers can stroke your lover’s aching scalp before whispering sweet nothings. Those fingers can stroke your lover’s stiff neck, sowing the seeds of seduction.

If you think you want me, then text me, email me, call me, or write me. If you know you want me, then hold me, touch me, kiss me, and tell me. Express the love you feel, and your love will be felt.

Nick

Handwriting love letters is not a dead art. It is a rare art, true, somewhat like a waning species that can only be found in the last beautiful, unspoiled places of earth. But there’s no reason to give up hope or resign the love letter to extinction because it’s hard to find. It’s a private thing to begin with, so you wouldn’t see it often. I don’t believe in the cranky, cynical rhetoric that is so ubiquitous in any time, in which navel gazers eulogize the lost golden age of generations past. That’s a too-easy and lazy approach. You have to work to sustain a good thing in an ever-evolving culture. We can take matters (literally) into our own hands and cultivate a regrowth of this rare art by writing love letters ourselves from time to time. Only one person anywhere needs to write a love letter for the art to live on.

I recently watched Love in the Time of Cholera, based on Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s book. It’s about a man who is fanatically in love his whole life with a woman he can’t be with. He consoles himself, partly, by helping other young lovers write letters to each other and says it’s like writing a love letter to himself each time. In his business letters, he weaves romantic, expressive language into otherwise plain communication, and when chided by his boss, he admits that he can’t stop because he needs love, has to express it somehow. Maybe that’s the essence of the act to begin with—the expression of love, more even than its object. As long as that expression remains important to our existence as a species, love letters will survive with us.

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