Saturday, January 11, 2014

Indirect Benefits of Writing an Annual Letter

For decades, my mother-in-law used to sit down in front of her typewriter and write her annual Christmas letter. Her audience is identified by the salutation used in each iteration -- "Dear Family, friends, and missionary friends." The content was a summary of the year's events and of course, Christmas season's greetings.

After we wed, my wife's mother asked us to contribute to this letter, which we did happily. A couple years later, we appreciated this valuable tradition and embarked on our own Christmas letter with our own style and to our own distribution list. The typewriter was replaced with Microsoft Word, and we wanted to share our year in pictures too. At some point in the early 2000's, we registered our own domain name, (pronounced e-bay". Sidenote: it was a toss-up between "" and "" which is a play on The Bay, a trademark of The Hudson's Bay Co.). Since we found it was difficult to get this done in time for Christmas, we called it the "eBai Annual Report" and sent it out in early January.

What started out as a simple text-based letter became not just about content, but also visual appeal. As I grew as a photographer, so did my skills in Photoshop. Let me be clear: I'm no graphic designer, but I try to be creative. My approach has always been the same -- to use photos and elements from the past year only as it helps tie the annual report together.

It's interesting to use the main banner of our annual report as an indirect indicator of the evolution of my photoshop skills. Another indirect benefit is that working on the banner helped me learn features of Photoshop I would never use otherwise, but now that I know them, are part of my "toolbox."   This year, I even made notes on some ideas I could do for next year's banner.

So here is the evolution over the years (I haven't included all the years). You can really tell when I stepped it up:





I encourage any couple, family or individual to write your own version of a Christmas Letter. Not only will your friends and family appreciate it, it will help you remember events or details that you may not otherwise years from now. Or you can just keep it to yourself. Think of it as doing a diary entry only once a year. It's also reason to pat yourself on the back or kick yourself in the butt to change things.

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