Christmas is a few days away and I hope you’re not scrambling to get last-minute presents. If you are, I have a suggestion: Instead of fighting the crowds at the mall, write a legacy letter. Instead of shelling out megabucks for this and that, you’ll have a Christmas gift from the heart.
A legacy letter is a collection of your thoughts to a loved one. You can write anything, from how much you appreciate him/her to an experience you want remembered. You can even add a favourite recipe or attach photos and songs. Here are some step-by-step directions for you to get started.
Get your laptop/computer/tablet/phone/pen and paper.
Go somewhere comfortable — ideally, somewhere you won’t be interrupted. (That means putting your phone on silent and/or telling others not to talk to you for half an hour.)
Here are some prompts to get you going:
Those are only suggestions. You can write whatever you want. The next step is, well, writing. Writing is work but don’t let that deter you. You’ll be surprised at how much you can jot down in half an hour.
Don’t worry about spelling mistakes and grammar in your first draft. Just get your thoughts on the page. Let the words spill out and fill the empty space. Don’t edit yourself by thinking you have to use big words and long sentences: short stories are great too. You don’t need some giant, fantastic event to make a compelling letter. Sometimes, the simplest moments are the best – moments like your family sitting around the supper table trading stories or the smell of your grandmother’s scones cooking on the griddle.
Once you have your thoughts and stories down on the page, leave it for a couple of hours. Then go back to it and see if you need to take anything out or add anything.
Next, spell check your document. Once that’s done, read your piece aloud. That’s really helpful when looking for missing words or words that are spelled correctly but aren’t supposed to be there. (I always type “clam” instead of “calm.”)
Print your letter and put it in an envelope and you’re done. If you want to e-mail your piece, you can schedule it to arrive in a mailbox on Christmas Day. You won’t be just giving a gift, you’ll be leaving a legacy that will make the recipient feel loved any day of the year.
I instruct writing workshops and one thing I teach is a story has to have a beginning, middle and end. An easy way to accomplish this in a piece is to remember to use the three o’s: objective, obstacle and outcome.
To get the point across I split a class into groups of three. Then I have everyone write an objective (beginning) and pass their paper on to the next person. That person then has to add the tale and write the obstacle (middle) of the first person’s story. After he or she is finished, they pass the story on to the next person, who concludes the story with the outcome.
The end result is usually a pretty cool story: even though it’s been written by three people. But the point is not to write a masterpiece but to show how easy it is to craft a story when there’s structure. Some amazing tales have come out of this exercise. Here is one:
Oct. 23 2013
It was supposed to be a nice day and he hoped the sun would keep shining. He had a ring in his pocket and a proposal on his mind. He loved his girl and it was time to make her his wife.
The only problem was she lived in Toronto and he lived in Calgary. Neither of them had enough money to visit each other in person, even though we were able to converse over e-mail. The man had heard that sometimes web dating didn’t work out because a lovely woman could turn out to be a burly guy. But in his heart, he knew his situation was different.
“That’s it!” he said to himself. “I have to get to Toronto. Nothing will stand in my way.”
He took the ring and pawned it. With the money from the trade he bought a ticket to Toronto. If she loves him as much as he loves her, she won’t care that he don’t have the bling.