Confession: I don't consider myself a writer, but I do know that I have a way with words - except when I need to write a card. That's when my creative limits are tested to the limit. For some reason, I'm usually hit with a debilitating case of writer's block when faced with something as simple as a Thank You card.
Maybe it's insecurity. Or maybe it's the fact that you can't hit "backspace" when writing a card. If you fuck it up, you have to go out and buy a new one.
But somehow, I manage to get by, though I've noticed a pattern of cards over the years. See if any of these ring a bell.
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Cards That Write Themselves - Complete strangers, people you really don't care about, and distant family members fall into this category, as well people you've just received a Christmas card from - and it's December 23rd.
Because of the nature of your relationship, you can get away with something generic, like "To Jennie, From Chris." "Dear" and "Love" are completely unnecessary, because you know you'll never hear from them again. On the other hand, good friends you see or hear from often are easiest, since you can reference a recent anecdote or inside joke off the top of your head, such as "Hope Santa can you get you off unemployment this year!"
Cards You Need to Think About - Active family members you are moderately close with, or coworkers you see often require a little effort on your part.
These are cards you send out of guilt or obligation. Here you might want to throw in a little side note like, "Merry Christmas!" or "Here's hoping that infection clears up soon!" You can underline key words in the preprinted verse inside the card for effect. This is to show the recipient that you did, indeed, read the card and think of them (even when you did not). You'll want to be even-toned and politically correct here, in order to avoid that awkward phone call or social interaction later on.
Cards You'd Rather Not Write, But Must - Sympathy cards, the most excruciatingly hard to write, dominate this category.
Sure, you feel bad for the person suffering the loss, but you don't want to sound like you picked a random phrase from www.whattosayinasympathycard.com. Keep it simple and avoid cliche phrases like "I understand what you're going through," (Do you, really?) or "Call me if you need anything" (You might regret that promise when the phone rings at 3:00 in the morning). A simple, "My thoughts and prayers are with you at this difficult time," will get you off the hook and clear your concience.
Also borderline impossible are cards for your significant other the day following a nasty argument. Do you still say what you would have said had you not gotten into that fight? And what if those sincere words now sound fake and forced? On the other hand, if you pare down your words, you might now sound cold and sterile, sparking another fight. If your significant other really loves you, he or she will have forgotten whatever you did or said that caused the police to show up at the door.
Or maybe it's best to just wait for your partner's card, then fill yours out in the bathroom.
I hope this guide comes in handy. If it does, feel free to send me