The Christmas letter must be written. And so must the writer’s group packet assignment. Neither of these pieces will write themselves. Effort and forethought and vision must take place in my head and heart. It’s time, again.
I must get an idea. Build on it and maybe make an outline of it. Write it out. Get all the words out there on paper. Never mind the mess. Just get it onto a work space.
I remember some of the Christmas letters I’ve read. I thought about what made them memorable. They were real. I mean that they were honest and didn’t try to hide their humanness. I’ll re-read a Christmas letter that makes me laugh or cry. I enjoy the things with which I can identify.
Then there’s the picture ruse. I’ll wager that most folks who send out a letter and a picture are sort of banking on the picture to do the real stuff of the Christmas greeting. I do it, too, so I understand. I have in the past sent out a picture itself. You can figure out a lot by a picture how folks are doing. But pictures don’t tell the hard parts. And sometimes that’s nice for both of us.
Generalizations feel cold and pretentious to us. So why is it, we are satisfied with writing in generalizations for others to read, you know, because it feels safe. But we don’t get much of a kick out of reading sterile words in others’ letters.
On the other hand there is a comfortable zone of honest sharing the newsy goodwill, being neither too private and preachy (I want to pinch you and see if you’re real), nor too garrulous and tacky, telling all your secrets out of town.
We write the Christmas letter because we like to get them. The golden rule applies here. I must go to the effort of writing a newsy, inspiring greeting for you, our friends and family, because we are anticipating your letters. I love getting the mail these days. I pour myself a fresh cup of coffee then sit down to savor these letters. Two or three new Christmas letters arrive most days from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Yesterday, we enjoyed two family portraits on a card from The Dexters. On the first, Mom and Dad were kissing while the four tall teenagers were hiding their eyes behind their hands and such antics. This made us laugh. Of course, they all stood tall and pretty for the formal, too.
So every year I have this question. How shall I say “Hello”, “How are you?”, “We are well”, and “God bless you” in a meaningful letter that will make you smile and feel a few warm fuzzies to boot?