Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Confessions of an E-mail Addict

by Stephanie Black

My mother considers e-mail to be a great blessing in her life. I agree. E-mail allows our family to remain close in a way that would have been impossible in pre-Internet days. My parents and two brothers live in Utah, I live in California, one sister is in Arizona, one is in Pennsylvania and one is in Virginia. Without e-mail, we’d still have the phone and the USPS—but how often would we actually sit down, write a whole letter, make six copies and mail them out? Not often. And phone calls are great, but are usually between two parties—not the whole gang. E-mail can be a group conversation. Rather than long letters sent only occasionally, we can fire back little messages and updates and encouragements and pictures on a frequent basis and get rapid responses. We can cheer each other on and help each other through the rough times.

I love e-mail.

Besides the keep-in-touch factor, I also love e-mail for practical reasons. Administrative/planning issues that would have once taken a jillion phone calls to organize can be dealt with through one e-mail sent to multiple parties. Or do I need to discuss an upcoming YM/YW event and the YM’s president is on a business trip? No problem. All hail e-mail.

E-mail makes being a writer much easier. A decade ago when I wanted feedback on a manuscript, I printed the manuscript, put it in a binder (and it was big—somewhere between 400-500 pages), packed it in a box, took it to the post office and paid to ship it my sister in Houston. Now, when I want to send a manuscript to test readers, this involves clicking “new message”, “attach”, “select file” and “send.” Send it next door or send it to Germany, it’s a snap either way. I can get multiple reads on the manuscript without spending a penny for postage or ink cartridges. Love it. Then when it comes time to submit a manuscript to my publisher, it’s the same process—a few clicks and it’s there, with no more fussing over manuscript boxes and printed pages and postage. E-mail is also great for little questions that don’t seem to merit a whole phone call. I can fire off a quick e-mail with a formatting question and my editor fires an answer right back.

The problem I have with e-mail is that I’m addicted. I remember learning that intermittent reinforcement—where you don’t get the prize every time you push the button, but sometimes you do and you never know when it will be—is the most powerful type of behavior reinforcement. E-mail is serious intermittent reinforcement. Even if I just checked my e-mail three minutes ago, there might be something new there. It might just be Amazon ads, but it might be a fun e-mail from my mom, or an interesting post on an online writer’s group, or a message from my editor saying they’ve picked the title for my book. No way to know unless I check! Sometimes I try to turn my e-mail off while I work, but then when my mind wanders, I think hmm, maybe I’ll open it back up just to see if there’s anything interesting there. . .

I need help. Somebody e-mail me the name of a good counselor.


12 Comments:

At 5/16/2007 2:18 PM, Anonymous rob wells said...

This is seriously funny. I took vacation from real work yesterday and today, and I'm at the library writing--scrambling to get something done before school starts this fall. And then my mind wandered, and I thought "I'll just check my email quick" and then I check something else and something else, and now I'm commenting on your blog. Crap! Back to work!

 
At 5/16/2007 3:18 PM, Blogger Josi said...

I'm most definitely addicted, but I won't give you any psychiatrist info before they might fix you and then I'd be alone. I'm also addicted to the DB best seller list. Even though I know they only update it every 48 hours or so, I check it two or three times a day. Sick, sick, sick!

 
At 5/16/2007 3:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't forget these important benefits of e-mail!
1. Avoiding the "Chatty Cathy can't possibly get off the phone in under an hour" person when you just need a simple yes or no answer.
2. For us night owls, being able to send off the info at our convenience without waking anyone up.
3. There's a record of what you wrote. My dh frequently will say things like "You never told me about your plans to go out to dinner with your sister tonight!" - so sometimes I'll e-mail things to him so I can pull it us and say "Yes, I did, and you even replied to the e-mail."

 
At 5/16/2007 4:47 PM, Blogger Evil HR Lady said...

I love e-mail. I love it. Did I mention I love it?

 
At 5/16/2007 6:00 PM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

E-mail is definitely dangerous. I'll go "turn off my computer" before bed and return 45 minutes later because I was checking, reading, and sending email. Addictive? Oh yes.

 
At 5/17/2007 1:16 PM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

Addict? I'm not an addict. I can quit any time I want to. Yes, I can! Just watch me! (But let me check it just one more time before I turn the computer off. Just one -- I swear that's all.)

 
At 5/17/2007 2:30 PM, Blogger Jennifer said...

It's the first thing I check in the morning and the last at night and about a billion times during the day.

 
At 5/17/2007 3:57 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

I feel much better knowing I'm not alone in my obsession!

 
At 5/17/2007 4:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a friend who calls me every time she e-mails me, just to let me know that she e-mailed me. And while she has me on the phone, she tells me what's in the e-mail. makes me laugh every time, and as much as I rib her about it, she ALWAYS does it!

 
At 5/17/2007 5:46 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

LOL, Anon! That's too funny.

 
At 5/19/2007 12:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dealing with e-mail:


http://www.43folders.com/izero/

http://www.slate.com/id/2165452/

--William Morris

 
At 5/23/2007 6:13 PM, Anonymous Dave W. said...

I'm not paying for your email addiction counseling- you're on your own for that one.

 

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