December 24, 2013

Our Writing Life: This Year I…

Blank Christmas stationary with text: This Year I...

My Christmas to-do list is finally down to a manageable size, and I think I’ll complete everything on time. If you’re celebrating this week, I hope your plans all unfold smoothly, your travels all go safely, your family members all behave perfectly, and all your dreams for the New Year come true.

I’ll be mostly offline the rest of the week, but before I head out, I want to talk about Christmas letters. You know, those letters people stuff in Christmas or holiday cards to catch family and friends up on their doings of the past year? You’ve probably seen (or written) a Christmas letter at some point in time.

Can Those Shiny-Happy Christmas Letters Be Good for Us?

Christmas letters are well-known for providing a “perfect” glimpse of a family’s life. The adults in the Christmas letters never argue about money or leaving the toilet seat up. The kids never show disrespect to their parents. And the pets never piddle on the carpet.

In short, Christmas letters are all about putting our best face forward for others. Everyone knows they’re not quite real, and in some ways, they deserve the teasing and rolled eyes.

I have a love-hate relationship with putting the annual Christmas letter together. I often feel lame when I start (because my life feels lame), but by the time I finish, it becomes a good exercise in reminding myself of all the good things that happened to my family during the year.

Sometimes the bad things rise into our memory more easily. Too easily.

But when we concentrate on the good things, we force ourselves to see—in one place—all those positive things. That end-of-year review can be good for us and our mental health. It can make us feel more grateful, more aware, and more blessed.

Could a Writer’s Version of the Christmas Letter Do the Same?

This idea got me thinking: What if we wrote a writing version of a Christmas letter? If we summarized all the good things from our writing life over the past year—what we’re proud of, what we’ve accomplished, what warmed our hearts or felt special—would we feel similarly positive?

I’m going to try it, just for my own sake. I’d list obvious things like contest wins and finishing manuscripts, but I’d also list things like helping out during the Writers Helping Writers Amazing Race and becoming more involved with the writing community by coordinating (too) much of WANACon.

As writers, we suffer from self-doubt too often, and something that helps us see our writing life in a more positive light couldn’t hurt. We might even feel like we’ve had more positives than negatives this year. And that thought might keep us warm during the dark nights of our soul. *smile*

Whether you celebrate Christmas or not,
I wish you all the best during this season.
Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays—heck, Happy Everything!

*passes around platefuls of this year’s Christmas Cookie Baking Extravaganza* Take as many as you want—I made over 500 cookies this year. I have chocolate fudge, fudge oatmeal bars, and peanut butter, mint chocolate chip, caramel blossom, eggnog, and snickerdoodle cookies. *grin*

Do you love or hate receiving Christmas letters? Have you ever written one of those types of letters? Do you enjoy writing them or do you struggle to come up with enough positive items? What would you put on a writing version of your Christmas letter? (And feel free to ask for recipes if any of those other cookies sound interesting.)

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Comments — What do you think?

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I leave the letter writing to my mother. I don’t send Christmas cards anyway 🙂

Yay for contest wins and WANACon! Awesome accomplishments for the year. If I were to write my own (or, more likely, what my mother would put in hers) I’d include landing my very first publishing contract. And because I can, buying my first house (not very writerly of me, but it’s my letter *grins cheekily*)

Merry Christmas, Jami, and I hope you and your family have a lovely one stuffed with far too many cookies.

Teresa Robeson

I think it’s a great idea to write a letter based on one’s writing instead of family for the fun of it! I just might carve out a little bit of time to do this exercise. 🙂

And, yes, I am one of those who almost always writes a Christmas letter. But I only did a conventional one for one year. I know people’s eyes glaze over large blocks of text (I know I do!), so I break up news in small, bite-sized chunks interspersed with photos. I also avoid writing more than 3 sentences about each member of the family – there are only four of us anyway, so it’s not so overwhelming. One or twice, I even use bullets/point form to make it super easy to read. We actually have people who tell us they look forward to our letter so I know I’ve not bored too many folks. LOL!

Wishing you a very merry Christmas, Jami, and a wondrous 2014!

Serena Yung
Serena Yung

Ooh, I’ve only heard of the concept of Christmas letters once, but never really knew what it was until you told me here, haha. But they do sound like a good idea to me, especially as, as you said, it makes you focus on the positives that happened during the year.

Hmm, I actually find it very easy to focus on the positives of my writing experience, but I don’t remember the negatives very well, lol. Me and my selective memory. Though DURING my writing, I WOULD be struck with the negatives sometimes—I don’t know how to do x, y, z; I have no idea how to fix a, b, c, etc. So, since I naturally have a positive memory focus, maybe I should write a REVERSE writing Christmas letter, lol, so I can remind me of the miscellaneous issues I struggled with this year, in the hope that I will find solutions to those problems in the future, or that I will improve in those areas. In other words, I’ve got to pull myself away from being happy and complacent with my positives, and pinpoint my “areas that need improvement/ working on” XD Haha.

Btw, this is totally unrelated, but “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” —J.K. Rowling <–this is one of my favorite quotes too, lol.

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