It has been written, revised and re-written. Its original wordage has been skinned down to bare bones with each word scrutinized, weighed, and edited. And no, I am not writing the novel of the century. I have been working all day on the 2012 Holiday Newsletter.
Newsletters. Some people love to read them; others roll their eyes, skim the close-typed pages and move quickly on. Some friends demand their inclusion. Others would really rather I didn’t bother.
With so many holidays happening at this time— Christmas, Hanukah, and Kwanzaa to name three—many cards and newsletters are even now being written for the edification of distant friends. In this spirit I have been sitting here for hours trying to squeeze the essence of 2012 into a few paragraphs.
“Keep it short,” advises my husband, who stops in to supposedly offer morale support. “One page is all anybody wants to read.”
I tell him that several people enjoy more details than I can cram into one page, but he is adamant about this. Old friends, he says, want to hear about the family—the doings of the kids and grandkids—but briefly. “One page,” he warns. “And keep it light.”
That’s fine for him to say, of course. He isn’t the one writing this. To keep a newsletter humorous, to keep it brief, to keep it newsworthy—this requires as much craft as do a dozen short stories! But humor does seem to be key. “I like your newsletter,” one kind friend wrote last year. “A lot of others are long-winded; yours are funny.” Humor is essential, then. If I write about how we nearly missed our cruise ship, will that do? Or will it make the newsletter sound long-winded?
All life’s adventures
From this year are being compressed
Into one short page.
I go over what I have written. The sentence: “We danced the rumba on the Cathedral steps in Barcelona,” jumps out at me. It is too long and needs to be pared down. Who would care that we danced a rumba—or the wild fandango— anyway? So the word is tossed. And the Cathedral steps—do they matter? But when I read: “We danced in Barcelona,” this sounds too prosaic and dull. With a heavy sigh I eliminate the entire sentence. Perhaps I can mention dancing later. Somewhere.
But where? There is no such place, for in spite of all my efforts I have run well into Page Two. What and where on earth do I cut? News of the family, of children and grandchildren, must stay as written. So must the really important snippets of news. This leaves all the light touches, the humorous observations, and the carefully chosen bon mots without which this beastly thing reads like a grocery list.
The temptation to forego writing anything at all this year is strong. Unfortunately, a friend phones me at the moment this thought crosses my mind. “What, no newsletter this year?” she exclaims when I have unburdened my soul. “You’re a writer, aren’t you? Getting lazy, are we?”
If tearing my hair would help, I would tear. Controlling the impulse to shriek with frustration, I tell my unsympathetic friend that I will talk to her later— because right now, I am too busy.
I have a hundred and ten words to cut.