Monday, October 15, 2018

More Noodling about Email-- and Dispatch Boxes

By C.M. Mayo

screenshot of a few antique dispatch boxes for sale

I stand by my 10-point protocol for email, but the past few months, after my mother's passing, have brought a tsunami of correspondence. Much of this, from friends and family, has been very welcome, actually; it's just been challenging to keep up with it and everything else. All of which is to say, if I owe you an email, dear reader, please know that I have not vanished into some befogged plane of hyperspace. I am working on it, and with good cheer!

On the ever-gnarly subject of email management, I note that my favorite guru of Attentional Focus Theory, Cal Newport, has recently posted "The Average User Checks Email 5.6 Hours a Day. This is Not Good." It's a bit thin that gruel; Newport is simply pointing out some recent report that, by Jove, that's the number (and I believe it). I mention it here because I would like to add the thought that, for many professions, the need to manage large volumes of correspondence is nothing new. (Check out the antique dispatch boxes here.) In my case, as a writer, translator, and workshop leader with several books published, and family and friends, it is to be expected-- and this would be true were I somehow to be transported to 1918 or, say, 1818.

You know, I'll bet Jane Austen complained about the hours she spent on her correspondence.

The seachange of course is that our smartphones have brought us all into potentially instant contact. It used to be the case-- I am old enough to remember-- that really good friends and doting relatives might write, oh, say, every few weeks or so. And I have decided, in my case, that's about reasonably right. In other words, I do not use FB or Whatsapp; I use an old-fashioned telephone, send occasional snail mail and, above all, email. This is consternating to some, a shrug of so what to others. When I write an email I write a thoughtful one, and-- further evidence of thoughtfulness-- with proper punctuation. Some people appreciate this. Some don't. And... the world keeps on turning.

Today I received a charming letter from poet Kim Roberts-- a real letter, placed by the postman in the mailbox, which box I opened with a key, and in an envelope I slit open with an letter opener. After I read the letter, I walked my dogs in autumn sunshine. Then I made a batch of split pea soup.

Life on earth.

And now, dogs snoring, having finished this Monday's post, I will work on my correspondence, I mean, email.

I am thinking of my laptop as, among many things, an early 21st century dispatch box. It's kind of magic, how letters just appear inside it. It has the image of a white apple on its lid.

> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.