Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Friday, April 22, 2005

Buried by E-mail.

“I know what it's like having a full inbox; I've got nearly 1200 emails as it is!”

This quote comes from a recent E-mail I sent out to my mailing list, when I asked if there was anyone who wanted me to stop sending them my monthly writing-related updates. (Apparently, having a weekly blog doesn’t do the trick in summarizing everything going on in my writing life each month.) It pretty much clued these people in to why it takes me FOREVER to get back to them. It’s not so much that I got two small kids to take care of, a house to keep clean, a mother to help out and, oh, yeah, about a zillion books and articles to write; it’s also because I have SO MUCH FREAKING E-MAIL!!! (To any of my friends reading this: Please don’t take that outburst personally.)

Admittedly, it’s my own fault that I have so much E-mail. There are mainly two reasons why I let it build up: I am subscribed to SOO MANY writing newsletters (plus Shadowlands – but that’s moot since I write for them!) and I have a bad memory. And how does my bad memory fit in here? Some of my E-mails are about information I request for my monthly E-zine and I have to wait until the E-zine comes out to get back to them, thus leaving their E-mails in my inbox so that I don’t forget to do this, and also some are interview requests for deferred assignments (don’t get me started on how many I have lined up; I have to write them all down in a timeline just to remember them all). Some are also unanswered E-mails because I am unable to supply the requested information and/or I don’t really have the “right” thing to say yet – as in the case where an author I know excitedly informed me how she’d just had her book “accepted” by Publish America and I didn’t have the heart to tell her that PA takes ANYTHING thrown at them and that signing with them is a VERY. BAD. IDEA. She might as well be signing that contract with blood. That is my immediate response but I’m not going to tell HER that. I still have to figure out how to nicely (*cough, cough* naively) tell her “congratulations” without crushing her excitement, because I think that what PA will do to her and her book will hurt enough, as it is.

But I’ve figured out a method to tackling this beast. As much as I hate to do it, I HAVE to put off reading all those writing newsletters that I get (especially the ones from people I call my friends. Sorry, Frank, Peter, Christine and Carolyn!). Sure, I skim them (and usually almost always read their little editorial notes because that’s where you get their non-newsletter messages) but I don’t read all of them word for word. My time online is limited and I ALWAYS make sure I spend as much of it as I can securing/submitting work BEFORE taking the time to read extra, non-work-related stuff online (it’s been AGES since I’ve read my regular dose of The New York Times online – I DO love the L.A. Times, but the NYT has always been my main source for news). When I get a chance, though, I will open those newsletters up and read them.

First and foremost, though, anything pertinent to my writing assignments has to come first. Anything related to my regular work (Shadowlands and SIGNews) takes precedence. From there, I will tackle E-mails on freelancing; articles I’m submitting to sites and magazines as well as looking for new sites and zines to get published at. Of course I also put top priority to any E-mails from certain friends (since they make MY E-mails to them their top priority, too), but I’m doing this in addition to the work I have going on. Then I move into the MANY review requests I have for my TIPS book, as well as notes from other writers/editors/authors I hear from who saw a mention about me relating to an article I wrote, one of my books, or my E-zine. Then, finally, I tackle those newsletters, which almost all contain more writing opportunities and writing know-how.

It’s not a perfect system but it works. I don’t just feel guilty if I don’t do SOMETHING that would push my writing career forward every day; I feel TERRIBLE. Just like with being a writing parent, managing a full E-mail account is a matter of priorities. If I miss out on an opportunity because I didn’t get to an E-mail in time, I don’t let it bother me, because I know that I missed it mainly because I was busy working. I was being careful with what E-mails get replied to right away and which ones don’t. And I know that doing so doesn’t mean I’ll miss out on anything, it just means that I’m making sure that what needs to get done NOW gets done.


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