Letters to My Kids 101: Part 5

Here, to flesh out my top-10 list, are two more tips on how to write letters to your kids:

6. Keep It Spontaneous. I know: this tip directly contradicts tip # 2 (Plan It Out). Let me explain: I planned the journals precisely so I could then be spontaneous. If you start with a sense of the general direction to take, then you no longer need to worry too much about coming up empty or the course to follow. So I wrote with absolute spontaneity, my operating principle to shoot straight from the hip, going with pretty much whatever I felt the impulse to say. I changed nothing, crossed out nothing, added nothing after the fact – no second-guessing, nothing off-limits, everything done on the first take. If I veered off-topic, so much the better. I went what Robin Williams, in describing peak experiences in standup comedy, once called “full-tilt bozo.” You may find it takes you some place holy. Disclaimer: You might prefer to sweat over every sentence. Be my guest. Who am I to suggest you do otherwise?

7. Briefer Is Better. Most of my journal entries ran about 400 words (a little longer than this post today). I’ve always liked writing that’s more suggestive than expansive – writing that’s implicit, allusive, understated, elliptical. It seems to me infinitely more dramatic to leave more between the lines than you put in the lines themselves – to say what you have to say without quite coming right out and saying it. I also believe in letting facts speak for themselves. Facts tend to be eloquent. Let those facts accrue, telling your story for you, the less explanation, the better. The trick is to leave out whatever you can leave out without actually appearing to have left anything out. Kids, like adults, know how to fill in the blanks. Trust me on that. Disclaimer: Ramble willy-nilly from one non sequitur to the next without any prayer of coherence for all I care. Digress about wallpaper. No need to take my word about anything. I just work here.

P.S. – Part 6 (the final installment) will appear tomorrow.

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