What to write and what not to write? That is the question. We all hear the complaints about the perfect Christmas letter where the heroine regales her readers with stories of her perfect children and their perfect accomplishments in sports, music, and academics. The perfect husband takes his family on no less than three perfect vacations, while landing the perfect big client at the office. Meanwhile the perfect heroine manages the most perfect law firm in the city, wins an unwinnable case and saves an algae from extinction while driving her children to their activities and so on…
On the other hand, there is my Christmas letter. Dear Family and Friends, This year we went to work, came home, ate dinner and went to bed everyday except when we went to church, came home, ate lunch and took a nap. With Love Loren and Delinda. The problem with my Christmas letter is that while completely accurate it’s a bit short. My family and friends would like a few details other than the ones about the cat barfing on the bed. I do include the story of the cat barfing on the bed because I have to say something.
My annual Christmas letter is where I honed my creative writing skills. We’ve all suspected that the perfect heroine and her perfect family are fiction so I will confess that I sometimes embellish my Christmas letter with details that may be just slightly fictional. For example, while the slugs in my garden may actually be six or seven inches long, they do not have mass rallies in the Enchanted Forest where they chant, “Down with the lilies! Devour the cabbage! Death to the chrysanthemums! De-bud the dahlias!” I don’t think slugs are that smart. They’re smart enough, but they don’t have language-that I know of.
My stories about the deer in the gardens are absolutely true—every word. They really do have secret armies that hide in the forest and train in commando techniques for raiding the tastiest gardens. They have special-ops forces that will attack large hunting dogs, such as poodles. Training includes agility for sliding under fences and strength for jumping over. They must learn to dismantle and reassemble gate latches until they can do it in their sleep. The deer are smart, they are organized, and they are coming for your roses.
I confess that the walls, carpets and furniture in my house are not sentient, despite the fact that I may have hinted that they were out to get me in the past - except for the piano. The piano is sentient, and we have a long relationship of lovingly tormenting each other. I shout at the piano, “One, two, three-and, four.” It jokingly tinkles back at me, “ One, two, rest, wait-figure-out-the-next-chord, three, four, and what is that note doing here?” This is a game the two of us have been playing since I was four so if I complain, I’m only joking that my piano is out to embarrass me.
Since I am being honest here, I’ll confess that I don’t go shopping and spend all my hubby’s money. I do go to the grocery store occasionally, but I seldom buy clothes. People who spend their lives in the house writing don’t need many clothes beyond their ratty pajamas and a big ratty sweater. The big ratty sweater is an essential part of the writer’s wardrobe. I wear mine over my PJ’s when I take Loren to the ferry. I pretend that people won’t know I’m out in public in my PJ’s and slippers if I have on the sweater. The big ratty sweater is suitable for garden wear and tending to the poultry. It is warm enough for sitting and writing, and for harvesting the daffodils.
Let’s face it. When the only excitement in a writer’s life is what is happening inside her head, a little creativity in the annual Christmas letter is essential. Perhaps next year, I will update my family and friends on the lives of all my characters. Others think their hubby is successful? Ha! My hero, President Jake has just been asked to lead a United Nations effort on negotiations in the Syrian civil war and to advise the Somalian government on how to strengthen their economy and curb piracy while heading an international symposium on terrorism. My hero… “Delinda, I have no intention of doing any of those things. When my term is over, I will go home, putter in the garden, make love to my wife, and watch the sun go down with all my family around me. Find another entertainment for your letters. I envy your peace. – Jake”
Oh well, the purpose of this article is not really catharsis through confession but a form of enlightenment for my readers. The annual Christmas letter should become an exercise in creative writing, but don’t fall into the trap of the fake heroine. Elevate your common challenges of getting the children off to school to the level of slaying a dragon. After all, waking up in time to kiss them goodbye as they leave for school is a challenge.
Let your imagination run free though the wind and waves of your own creative sea. Let your world and your life become a hero saga of the triumph of human over machine. Let love triumph over finding your slippers while fatigue loses the battle to throw off the bed sheets. Your life is exciting and magnificent! Learn to look at it through adventure colored glasses.