In preparation for a brilliant late-life writing career, I spent 30 years writing the annual Christmas letter. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of making your life sound more interesting than it is. Unless you invented a cure for herpes last year, you’ll need to find something compelling to grab your readers’ attention. Your friends and family are just going to skip over the story of how you found a dead lizard in your shoe.
This year, I have two strikes against me in my effort to entertain and inform. 1) My kids have moved out and are making up their own misleading letters; 2) I have no cute grandchildren doing cute grandchildreny things. This calls for drastic action, in the form of extensive lying. Face it, nobody wants to hear about how you developed lactose intolerance and had to switch to soy milk.
I’ve listed some do’s and don’ts for getting your Christmas letter to the top of the rubbish pile of cherished holiday missives.
Do: Include a photoshopped picture of you with Carrot Top. This is a classic ice-breaker, which will peak the reader’s curiosity. No one can look away from a train wreck.
Don’t: Talk about your dog, unless he rescued midgets from a burning building. Your friends will not be impressed with his ability to eat stuffed animals and then knit sweaters in his rectum.
Do: Use spell check. It’s just plain embarrassing when you misspell Ponzi, or leave the silent “C” out of “indictment.”
Don’t: Talk about medical issues. Let me be brutally honest: your friends don’t care if your bones can snap in a strong wind. They will perceive your ____________ (insert random –ectomy here) as a shameless bid for attention.
Do: Trot out your accomplishments. Maybe you didn’t get a personal invitation to go to the space station (I got mine yesterday). You can still impress your friends with your mastery of Swahili, ballroom dancing, and taxidermy.
Don’t: Gossip. You don’t want Uncle Trevor’s affair to eclipse your own news, unless you were the other woman in question.
Remember that Christmas letters are a marathon, not a sprint. You can brag about your new baby seal fur coat next year. So get your creative juices flowing, and remember that I have dibs on solving world hunger this year.