A Storytelling Serial
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TALES FROM THE MODERN INBOX
How does your inbox look?
True confession: At the moment, my professional email account holds thousands of emails I’ve saved and stored in folders over the years I’ve been running an online business. And in my inbox, there are one hundred eight-seven messages, two unread.
In my personal email, the same address I’ve had for twenty-five years, I have a mere seventy-six messages in the inbox, again with two unread. Oh, and seventy-two folders, containing saved emails from people long dead (and from many still alive).
Sometimes I feel as though I’m drowning; and when I’m working on deadline, my total untouched emails can easily balloon to fifty by the time I reach exhaustion and turn off my computer for the night.
The overwhelm doesn’t come from people sending me individual messages. Those I can handle. Rather, add by add, I’ve gradually put myself on a dizzying jumble of writing-and-copyediting-related email lists.
Every January, I read articles urging me to declutter my online life. It’s supposed to be as easy as hitting “Unsubscribe.”
Except that it’s not. I get a plethora of emails because I wanted the information promised by their sender. I can’t click “Unsubscribe”; I still want the information.
Plus, I continually run across someone new who offers even more information I crave. Who could resist “The Series Marketing Escalation Paradox”? (Thanks, David Gaughran. Now I’m on your list too.)
I suppose I was always an information junkie. I’ve been haunting libraries, reading, researching for information since I was nine. Even before I became hooked on informational emails, I never missed reading the print version of the daily paper. I still don’t. When my eyes are too crossed to take in another piece of information online, I can crawl into bed and fall asleep over more information. It’s my treasured bedtime ritual.
In dealing with my current abundance of online gurus, my approach is the same as for clothes: when I buy a red shirt, it’s to add to the three red shirts I already have, not to replace them. They’re all different styles, and I need them all at different times. I like each one. Why would I get rid of any?
At least clothes cost money and take time to select and maintain. They even wear out. So although my closet has become more crowded the past few years, I’m able to stay within reasonable limits. Well, at least within not-ridiculous limits.
But email lists are free; and in the few seconds it takes to type my name and email address, I’m added. Emails don’t require laundering, and they never need to have a seam restitched.
They do need reading, though, just as my red shirts demand to be worn. With steely determination, I eventually get through every single one of them, and I delete or save, and I desperately try to remember the information so generously and competently imparted, or at least where I read and filed it.
And every day, I’m at my computer just a little longer than the day before, while my undone pile grows at the same rate my unread email numbers shrink.
Before dismissing me as an obsessive gatherer and hoarder, though, know that my endless knowledge collecting has another side.
At heart, regardless of any other label I give myself, I’m a teacher. It’s impossible for me to ignore that in the dozen or so online writing and copyediting communities where I interact, and with my several copyediting clients, the need for information seems unquenchable, and my opportunity to share and educate endless.
So nearly every list email I read is for the purpose of passing on the wisdom. In this information-hungry online universe, an educator’s job is never done.
Speaking of which, four emails are still waiting for me, and I must excuse myself to learn something new that I can eventually teach to other writers or copyeditors.
Oh, and if you have any questions, just ask. I’m sure somewhere I have an email that answers it.
Are you a sucker for “Subscribe”? If so, we’d love to learn how you handle the resulting tsunami.
8/26/2020 06:06:47 pm
It was good to see your newletter come across my--dare I say it?--email. I've been overly fond of the Subscribe button, too, but for literary magazines, calls for submission, publishing advice, marketing advice, etc., etc. It's gotten to the point where I've saved so many resources in Evernote I can't find anything because I forget what notebook/tagging schema I used. Needless to say, I'm becoming more judicious about what I subscribe to.
Thanks, Liz! I knew I could depend on you for pointing out the irony of receiving a list email about the challenges of receiving list emails.
9/4/2020 10:55:46 am
Lisa, it's wonderful to hear from you! And I'm sorry to admit that I take some perverse pleasure in knowing we fight the same email war, with both of us craving information and the more the better.
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