I have to take stock of the pantry, order the prime rib, buy the ingredients for the pies, edit the address list, Mary Sue likes Cran-Apple juice, Ted likes V-8, Sugar Snaps is toddling, put the tree up on a box or table, and I forgot Sissy’s birthday card. If I could just get out the newsletter, a really good one, that would take care of half the obligatory notes in the one-hundred ten Christmas cards. I can do that between the 9th and 10th and get all those in the mail with all the packages, on time for Christmas Eve.
Or, I could just forget it. But every year I argue with that inner voice that urges me to do a creative newsletter, maybe with an artful, hand drawn Santa and sleigh over the roof tops, or a bucolic scene with deer and bunnies and magically decorated trees, snow falling, and of course, starry night sky—-ah, no, if it is snowing it wouldn’t be starry, then maybe snow on the ground. Or quick! copy a graphic and send out e-cards. Oh, right. Now I am exhausted just thinking about it. Why does it have to be so hard?
Well, it does not have to be hard. I know, I wrote the book KISS, Keep It Short and Simple, and I’ve learned how to quick start a writing project. Although it sounds contradictory, listen to the chattering thoughts a few seconds. Is there a recurring theme—-leaving out all the expletives? For me this year, there is nothing particularly newsworthy. Okay, then, what about an artsy approach? Hmmm, what pops in mind is a wine glass pouring out words onto the paper. Okay, I can go with that and a simple line that the family is happy, healthy and will be celebrating the holidays together. Last year, the newsletter had twelve paragraphs bulging with anecdotes, some hilarious and some quite disheartening, in a calendar format, as my life had been one incident after another the whole year. I could laugh about it in retrospect and apparently, so could others.
What makes a good Christmas newsletter? News about the family. It is in the telling. “Well, it’s that time of year again….” does not make for a felicitous greeting. Start on a positive note, simply “Merry Christmas!” can be a good start to a chatty newsletter. If you are not good on the computer with graphics, buy some seasonal cheerful paper which has the added benefit of shortening the format. The idea is to make your readers feel as though you are talking to them, not bragging or to induce envy of your good fortune or make others feel sorry for you, or dread hearing the same old thing from you year after year. It is a short story. Short sentences are far easier and memorable than long, run-ons. Remember that a sentence is built on threes: a noun, verb and adjective; a beginning, middle and end, and at least three sentences to a paragraph. Use the CCI concept: compare, contrast and interrelate. As an example: We were so fortunate to have our clan, six couples, 5 children, one bachelor, together for a Christmas ski vacation. Our nephew Kyle, a competitive racer broke a record in the Jingle Bell run, but unfortunately, also broke his ankle the first day. However, as all true romantic stories have a happy ending, by the end of the week, Kyle was engaged to his high school sweetheart, a charming waitress who brought him a daily cup of coffee as he sat by the fireplace. Kismet?
I suspect for most people, it is hard to find the right tone, or voice, to write one’s story. Is it far nobler to be serious or more impressive to be charming, witty, and funny? Or far better to be yourself, which may be plain spoken, out-spoken or reticent. If the whole thing of writing out a newsletter is overwhelming, don’t stress, address. Get the envelopes done and the letter becomes an accessory. Once you begin, the rest will come easy.
Then again, “Merry Christmas! Happy New Year y’all” works like a charm, too. Sign your name to the card and you are good to go.