Friday, October 3, 2008

The Blessings of E-Mail

I consider e-mail to be a great blessing in my life. (I suspect that my husband, when wading through 3,452 business e-mails, might not feel so warm and fuzzy toward it, but I love it).

E-mail allows my 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 post office—but how often would we actually sit down, write a whole letter, print six copies and mail them out (in an actual envelope with one of those square, sticky things . . . what are they called again? Oh yeah—stamps). And phone calls are wonderful, 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 support each other through the rough times. Because of e-mail, I got a peek at the darling Halloween ghosts my sister-in-law in Utah created out of pillowcases and hung in her front yard. I know that my almost-two-year-old nephew in Virginia is having a bad morning—major tantrum when my sister wouldn’t let him have chips for breakfast (the nerve!). And despite not seeing my nieces and nephews in person for up to two years at a time, I can watch them grow up in pictures. When my family gets together at our family reunions, we’re not strangers—we’ve been sharing our lives with each other via e-mail.

E-mail has also opened the door for me to become part of the vibrant and incredibly supportive LDS writing community and to make new and dear friends—such as the wonderful ladies of the V-Formation. If it weren't for e-mail, I'd have little contact with the LDS writing community, and I'd have nothing resembling the fantastic support network that I enjoy at the click of keyboard.

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 a few e-mails sent to multiple parties. And 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, packed it in a box, took it to the post office and paid to ship it my sister out of state. Now, when I want to send a manuscript to test readers, this involves clicking “attach 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.

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.com ads, but it might be a fun e-mail from my mom, an interesting comment posted on a writers' line, or a message from my editor regarding my new manuscript. 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 . . .

8 comments:

Cheri J. Crane said...

I so agree, Stephanie. I don't know how we got along before without e-mail and the internet. I was talking to someone the other day who was complaining about how long it takes to get a letter to and from her missionary son. I know my mouth was hanging open in an "attractive" fashion when she explained that in this particular mission, the mission president doesn't allow e-mail. Wow---I live for those weekly e-mails from my missionary son. =)

Jennie said...

I'm another e-mail addict. I know I "waste" a lot of time on it, but it saves me oodles of time too. My siblings are a generation older than yours and it has been hard dragging them into email technology, but with those who have succumbed it has proved a great way to stay in touch. My kids established a family blog and we have a ball with it.

Nancy Campbell Allen said...

Love, love email! My kids die when I tell them that when I was really young we didn't even have a VCR. And our first microwave was as big as the kitchen table.

Love email, am loving blogging...it's all addicting and cuts into my writing time waaaay too much. ;-)

Great blog, Stephanie.

Jeri Gilchrist said...

My name is Jeri Gilchrist and I'm addicted to emails. ;)
I'm guilty of spending way too much time on the computer sending and reading emails or IM than I do trying to write books.
But it has made my life so convenient.
Great blog, Stephanie!

Michele Ashman Bell said...

All I can say is . . . thank you! I'm not alone in my addiction. Bless you for bringing this epidemic out into the open.

Stephanie Black said...

I feel so much better finding out I'm not alone! Thanks, ladies!

Heather B. Moore said...

Definitely agree. I have to tell myself not to check email before I go to bed, or I'll get stuck at the computer!

Nancy Campbell Allen said...

Heather, that's the worst. And then my husband wants to know why I "never came to bed last night." Well, I did, it was just midnight. Or one. Maybe one-thirty...