THE BLOG

Hot or Heartfelt: How to Write a Meaningful Valentine in 18 Minutes or Less

02/13/2015 04:42 pm ET | Updated Apr 14, 2015

Sure, most women love receiving an exquisite bouquet of long stem roses, dinner at a Michelin Five Star restaurant or a bit of bling, but the most lasting of gifts for a heartthrob of either gender is your valentine. Why not make it special?

I know, Hallmark makes it so easy. They've gotten cleverer, hip, even. And there are those boutique-y imprints nowadays that you could almost have written yourself--if you were more of a writer. Why bother putting yourself through the torture of writing?

First, because it doesn't have to be torture. Writing a Valentine can be a pleasurable exercise, I assure you. And secondly, she--or he--will appreciate your effort. Your personally written words will mean more than anything a copywriter in Kansas City can come up with.

Dr. Craig Malkin, a relationship expert and Instructor in Psychology at Harvard Medical School says, "A personal valentine, from the heart, tells your partner they're important to you. Our capacity to be open with our partners about their importance in our lives is one of the surest ways to strengthen the relationship. And nothing conveys that more clearly than our own words."

So, how to write a valentine and where to start? Try these 7 simple steps:

Step 1: 1 Minute: Know Your Audience: Duh, right? Seems obvious that you do know your audience, but this first rule of writing is particularly apt here. You may be tempted to write the valentine you would like to receive, but first determine what would make your little honey-bun's heart go all a-flutter: admiration? Adoration? Something hot and sexy? Flirtatious? Should you make him laugh? Not sure? Ask him (or her).

And how do you want her to feel when she reads your valentine? Deeply loved? Admired? Turned on? Happy? Do you want her to laugh? Smile? A well written valentine starts with the end in mind.

Step 2: 1.5 Minutes: Tune into Tone: For a new relationship, you may want to hold back a bit. Don't assume the person feels the way you do, unless he's told you so. Perhaps, find one special moment to relive in the valentine. If you want to be flirtatious, do so, but leave something to the imagination if your relationship has not visited such territory before. On the other hand, trust your intuition. If you sense it's time to take a risk, you may be right.

A long-term relationship may benefit from a little sizzle. You can go sexy, passionate or deeply loving and adoring. You can even try a little of all three.

Don't underestimate the power of humor. Says Dr. Malkin, "Humor's a known aphrodisiac. For one thing, it lights up the pleasure and reward centers of the brain. Bottom line, funny is sexy."

Step 3: Half a Minute: Dear ______: Sure you can go all saccharine with "To My Beloved Wife" but it aint' gonna sound fresh. This writer suggests you stick with the tried and true, "Dear Abigail," unless, of course, her name isn't Abigail.

Step 4: 10 Minutes: Get to the Heart of It: This is the part where you come from your heart. What do you truly love most about your beloved? What do you admire? Or what sexy thing do you want to try with him after that 5-star dinner (do ask your intuition if he's likely to find the idea a turn-on or turn-off. If you don't know him well enough, save it for when you do).

Here are some tips to make your writing meaningful and elicit the emotion you're looking for; try one or two:

  • Get Quirky: Here's where another important rule of writing comes in: get specific. If you say she's beautiful, give specific examples. And don't just go with the obvious--eyes, curves. What's something unusual about your loved one's beauty?
  • Reminisce: Recall a particularly powerful moment you experienced--the time you climbed Mt. Rainier, the time you went camping in Big Sur and got rained out, only to discover a cute log cabin with Sunday Brunch and a 5-piece jazz band, the trip to Manhattan where your heel broke off and he gave you a piggy back ride for two city blocks, the picnic dinner on the beach that happened--unexpectedly--to be the evening the symphony played. Time in nature can be especially evocative.
  • Get Showy: You've heard the writing adage, "Show; don't tell," I presume. Use a metaphor, or a specific experience to illustrate your point. Compare her to a summer's day--or not.
  • Look to the Future: If it's appropriate, paint a picture of your future together. What would it look like? Again, use those quirky and specific details to make the image real for your sweetie-pie. Remember, if the relationship is new and you're not sure your honey feels the same way, take it slow.
  • Should it rhyme? Rhyme's a funny thing. It's certainly not very modern to rhyme. On the other hand, if you're being a playful--and you're good at finding the surprising rhyme--go for it. Maybe stay away from iambic pentameter, though, unless you're writing a sonnet.

Step 5: 1 Minute: Add a Quote? Feeling that your writing falls short of the depth of your love? Or looking for a little humor to close? After you've shared in your own words, you can certainly cap it with the expert wordsmithing of a professional writer or public figure. Here are a few of my favorites:

Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on another. - George Eliot
Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction. - Antoine de Saint-Exupery
It is only love which sets us free. - Maya Angelou
What is love? It is the morning and the evening star. - Sinclair Lewis
A loving heart is the truest wisdom. - Charles Dickens

You can find more quotes about love here.

Step 6: Half a Minute: End Simply; Simply End: Here, you may simply end with "Love," and your name. However, if you wish to get playful, feel free to add an adjective and title, such as "Love, your adoring wife, Lisa." It's a little mushy, but no one would hold it against you.

Step 7: 3 Minutes to 3 Hours: PS Surprise Him: Want to add something fun? Send your beloved on a mini-adventure. Perhaps you've left a little surprise for him in the bedroom that he needs to search for. Or maybe a mini-scavenger hunt in the garden leads to a candle-lit table (well, not in the garden in New England in February, but you Floridians and Californians can get away with it). This is your chance to be romantic and add a sense of playfulness and creativity.

Bonus: Dress it Up: You've written such a lovely valentine. Shouldn't it look as charming as it reads? Consider a card made from pink construction paper. Cut out a few red hearts (remember how to fold the paper in half, so the two sides look even?) and glue them onto the card or even add a doily (one of those white lacy things). You can add a little glitter and add a few extra words to encircle the center heart. It doesn't take much to make a pretty valentine that will be treasured forever. If cardboard and doilies are not your style, consider a collage using images from magazines or create something on your computer with clip art. Your creativity is bound to be rewarded, because you're putting something of you into the gift.

You can put your valentine in an envelope, attach it to a gift, or even put it in a box with a bow on its own to accentuate the love that went into writing and making it.

Happy Valentine's Day. It's all about the love--show some by writing a personal valentine.