Saturday, December 4, 2010

The annual holiday letter: prickles and problems

2010 is far from over—27 precious days remain—but I've already received one Happy holidays! letter. Email makes it so easy to review the year for friends.

Or is it for ourselves? I feel ambivalent about these annual letters. I enjoy receiving them but have usually refrained from sending them. Why? Well, my writerly professionalism kicks in with editorial challenges. I find it's very hard to get the tone "right". I don't even know what tone I should attempt to strike.

Purpose paralysis: Seems simple enough at first sight: to review the year as lived by me. Or is it the year as lived by my family?

Audience ambiguities: This is a chance to maintain contact with friends and family that I don't keep in touch with during the year. So, first problem, would I send also this letter to close friends and family, who know perfectly well what I've been doing all year?

And those not-so-close friends: what would interest them, honestly?

The holiday letter audience is an unusual audience, non-specific yet personally known to me: a bunch of friends, family and acquaintances. They're special to me in their individual ways.

No wonder the holiday letter is difficult to write. It's not a personal letter. It's not an open letter. It's not an article. It's not a blog post like this, which is primarily for me, but which anyone can read. Maybe it's more like giving a speech at your own party.

Content quandaries: what to say, how much to say, how little to say? Are big adventures more interesting than little everyday realities? To whom? Should social events figure more than my professional interests? Does what interests me interest my correspondees?

Tone torture: How to prevent my letter from seeming like one big boast. You know what I mean.

I am so happy that my children, grandchildren and sisters are all living their own lovely, healthy lives. All grandparents ooze with excitement about the triumphs of their grandchildren. But if I write about that to a non-specific but known audience, how does that affect a friend whose beloved grandson died this year, or all those friends with tiny disfunctional families?

I'm tickled pink by my own adventures in developing the business of and this has dominated my year. But to most of my friends and family, that's either a big yawn or yet another irritating boast.

This year, 2010, has indeed been truly wonderful for me. My main discovery is that for me personally, 70 is a marvellous age. Everything is ticking over nicely right now and I expect that to continue for another 10 years at least. And all the fun has an extra veneer of glee, just because I'm 70.

Maybe this is a cop-out, maybe a wise editorial decision: I'm thinking I shall just email everyone (well, not everyone) a link to this blog. The entries are pretty random but they mention at least some of the highlights of the year, and are more like a conversation than an executive summary. They don't mention my family much if at all. Yes. That's what I'll do.

To all my friends and acquaintances, and anyone else who happens to read this blog:
Happy holidays!

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