Soon it will be upon us. The day of whispered, passionate promises, a dark, crisp evening of gasped breaths and pouted lips. A night for candlelight, for shadows – for love. It will be a day when all romance is unhinged and goes rolling through the dark streets like a tumultuous wave, spreading its warm, comforting tendrils into coupled hearts. It will be Valentine’s day.

Except, this year it will be different. This will not be a Valentine’s day of romantic restaurant meals or moonlight trysts in the park. This will not be a Valentine’s day where bunches of roses hide coyly behind the backs of hopeful youths, who scan the mingling crowds for a glimpse of their beloved at the appointed hour. This will be a Valentine’s day of restraint.

It will be a day where twin passions are kept thrashing against the cages of exclusive confinement. Alas, there can be no hand-in-hand walks with a lover in lockdown – there can be no kissing through a mask. If you should be fortunate enough to live with your lover, and be consigned in this, the prison of pandemic, to the same cell – then bravo. Pat yourself on the back, and nestle this fact amongst your dearest blessings.

To be close to the person you love is truly a wondrous thing, for to have found the person you love and to not be with them, is to feel yourself with half a soul – to see the world with a colour absent from life’s rich palette – to draw breath with only one lung.

Do not despair, my beautiful reader. For if you and your beloved are separated and you may not whisper your sweet words into their ear, there yet remains a way to bear your soul. A time-tested, honoured, enduring and if I may say, aesthetically pleasing way. I speak of course, of the love letter.

And indeed, even if you and your love are yet fortunate enough to creep the grounds of the same dwelling, do not feel yourself excluded from letter-writing. How exciting it would be, the prospect of stealing a moment in secret, in coy seclusion to compose your heart’s desire, even as it pounds, knowing that you may be discovered at any moment!

In writing a love letter, one is continuing a truly ancient practice in the art of writing. All good letter writers know that a letter is so much more than the formation of ink lines on paper, for posterity. A letter is a fragment of time. It is a shard of one’s soul within a certain moment, it is the purity of human thought, captured, in its brief twinkling, on crisp vellum. The ink, glistening as the nib carves its truth into the accepting surface, does not shine only with wetness, but with a reflection of its author’s mind – a reflection that endures long after the ink has dried.

A person of great letters thus commits their soul to posterity. A person of love letters, thus, commits a deep, secret shard of their heart. Therefore, this Valentine’s day, as we prepare to celebrate our passions with our loves, near and far, let us write love letters.

Writing the perfect love letter is a recipe with no fixed ingredients – save for love. Every love letter is special in its own way, but the goal remains constant. It should be to make its recipient feel as special when they open it, as they make you feel with their love.

Choose your very favourite pen. After all, you are able to compose a letter for your very favourite person. As you take its satisfying weight into your hand, close your eyes, and imagine your darling’s fingers slipping into your own. Fill this pen with ink specially chosen for the occasion. Consider your lover’s favourite colour, and what things they find pleasing to the eye. As the pen fills with ink, fill your mind with thoughts of your beloved. Pick out the very best paper, the kind that when you brush it lightly between finger and thumb, thrills you with a gentle sensory satisfaction. Imagine how their fingers will feel as they, trembling, unfold the sheet.

And now, the words. Take your time, dear reader, and let the words come. Consider the deepest reaches of your heart, the small smiles within your soul that sustain you even if they do not crack the surface of your lips. What words lie within these? What words are hidden that would cause your cheeks to blush, your throat to clench, if you tried to give them a voice aloud? Give them a voice here. A love letter is a conversation between two hearts. As your lover’s eyes consume your inked declarations, their heart will spell out the meaning – and know that it can be a meaning even more direct and true than a conversation of quavering voices may allow.

You may find yourself, love-letter-writer, in moments of trepidation, when having completed the curve of some entreaty’s final letter, you may worry you have bared too much. That you have gone too deep, spoken a truth too fundamental and left yourself vulnerable. Do not be alarmed. This is indeed, the elusive moment of where true art lies, the apex of a relationship between two hearts, the give, and the take. Vulnerability will be your beauty – for even as a diamond, hardest of all things, yields to no blade – its twinkling beauty comes from the way it permits itself to be perfectly pierced by light.

As you finish your love letter, set your pen down with care. You have created a wondrous thing. This creation is more than a mere physical artefact of affection – you will have also created the light in your lover’s eyes as they receive this gift. The nervous excitement of the fingers as they unfold the paper, the dilation of the pupils as they read their own name at the top – the pounding in their heart, the warmth of love flowing through their veins as they converse openly with your soul – all this, you will have created.

Fold your love letter and conceal it until the perfect moment. Take care, my dear letter-writers – and have a very happy Valentine’s Day.