Behind the Scenes: Creating My 2018 Holiday Letter

For a few years now I’ve been sending out a holiday letter to friends and family in December. In 2015 my letter was half-paged, typed, and double-sided. The next year I made a one-page (single-sided) letter, but abandoned the keyboard and wrote it by hand with pen. Last year I made a handwritten letter again, but it ended up being four pages long!

I definitely wanted to handwrite my letter again this year, as I love the look and enjoy the process. After some mind maps and scribbles in my everything-journal near the end of November, I sat down one day in December and used post-its to try out different elements.

Holiday letter brainstorm post its

I’d been toying around with the idea of including a map in this year’s letter, too, so I was excited to find I still had—in my bedroom at home—a pad of paper which was a map of the USA, gifted to me by my grandparents on a single-digit birthday waaay back when. I ripped off a piece and did a rough sketch to see what I wanted to include and how much space it would take up on a page.

Holiday letter rough draft map

Whereas in previous years I drew each element exactly where it would be on the final letter, this year I decided to do some cutting and gluing. This way, I could play around with different arrangements and also wouldn’t ruin the whole piece if I majorly screwed up on a drawing and wanted to re-do it. (Luckily that didn’t happen—everything in my final letter was only written in pen once! I did have a more noticeable mess-up on the trekking poles on page three, but didn’t try to fix it before photocopying.)

So I began with some drawings on regular old printer paper. I’d look up a picture online or put the item in front of me for reference, outline with pencil first, and then draw over it in pen.

When I had all my images drawn, I cut them out and moved them into different arrangements on an 8.5×11″ piece of paper.

Holiday letter cut outs

When I was happy with the layout, I glued them down and then added written comments in pen. Here’s what the final first page looks like—at a blurry distance! (Blurring is intentional.)

2018 Holiday Letter Preview

I was sucked into this activity all day, so much so that I forgot to eat lunch. That never happens. Ever! I always thought it was crazy and unthinkable when I’d hear people say that they were so busy they forgot to eat. Well, I was in such a state of flow that it happened to me.

I definitely took note of this, as well as how much fun I had making this year’s letter. There’s something about handwriting and photocopies that I love.

If you want to see this year’s letter and have your own copy, you can get it here or click the button below!

Show me the holiday letter!


My 2016 and 2017 letters are also available for download—together as a package:

For both of these you name your own fair price. Don’t overthink it—if it feels good, go for it!

Do you make or send out holiday cards/letters? What sorts of formats have you tried?