I've been writing letters on behalf of other people for just about three years. I launched a letter-writing service, LetterLover.net, as a lark — not thinking people would take me seriously. To my pleasant surprise, some of them did, and my letter-writing assignments are always different and inspiring. As with any job, however, a cloud of routine eventually sets itself high above the work desk and, unfortunately, the work suffers. This has happened to me recently, and I was made aware of it when several of my customers said to me that I wasn't being sappy enough in my (their) letters. Excuse me? Not sappy enough? Isn't sap a bad thing? Isn't it messy and sticky and impossible to get out of clothes? Of course, I didn't say this to anyone. When I write a letter for someone I take what ingredients they give me and try to whip up a tasty little missive. For some reason, I was unconsciously leaving the sap out. They wanted apology letters that were over the top and love confessions blown all the way out of proportion, and I didn't have it in me.
Without giving myself too much of a psychiatric evaluation, I let this become a job. It was never meant to be a job. It was meant to be an adventure. Instead of people commissioning me to paint paintings, they commission me to write letters (which is like painting, only with words). In the beginning, I had so much fun, and I probably erred more on the side of too much sap rather than not enough. Even still, I was reluctant to incorporate more sap on demand only because I don't like being told what to do, but in the name of "the customer always being right"I marched over to the maple tree and filled up on epistolary saccharine.
It took a few letters for me to let my guard down fully, but once I did, I was reminded of why I went forth with this ridiculous idea in the first place. We all need poetry in our lives, and if we can't be overtly emotional in our correspondence with the people we love, then where can we be? This was the perfect reminder for me, as the self-proclaimed letter-writing expert, and also for all of us as Valentine's Day draws near. Sometimes our relationships become jobs to us and we settle into a routine. Nothing will snap you and your loved one out of it like some sap, syrup, and even Cheese Whiz. Pour it on!
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Books mentioned in this post
Samara O'Shea is the author of For the Love of Letters: A 21st-Century Guide to the Art of Letter Writing