A journey back in time
In what I was about to call ‘the old days’, until I realised that it wasn’t that long ago, if you sent an agent or publisher a manuscript, or a magazine a short story, or a person a competition entry, you did it by post. Back then you worried about delivery problems such as the recipient’s Rottweiler tearing the postman’s leg off, or your local post box being struck by lightening, rendering all the letters within nought but blackened dust.
It all came down to Mr Postman
But all those things aside, the most important thing was, of course, waiting for a response. Because you know when the post comes, this meant there was only one moment a day when your anticipation levels would rise to unbearable heights. You’d stare out of the window, or (if you have one of those post-boxes that was at the bottom of a driveway) lie in the garden under a camouflage blanket of leaves with your binoculars. Your heart would leap with every noise. Is that the postman’s car coming now? Was that high-pitched scream Rover from next door tearing a delivery boy’s leg off? Would it be heartless of me to run over and rummage through his bag for anything addressed to me whilst he writhes in pain, awaiting an ambulance?
Response window for today is now closed. Please resume excitement tomorrow.
If your post arrived with no letter for you from the people in question, you could ride out the surge of disappointment and get on with your day. You had until tomorrow before there was any point in getting excited.
24-hour panic stations
Now, however, thanks to the miracle of instantaneous communication, it is possible to receive a response at almost any time of day. This particularly applies if you have submitted work oversees, when different time zones mean you can experience the joy of starting you day by checking your emails and receiving a soul-destroying rejection. To be able to feel that depressed early in the morning is a feat that could only have been achieved pre-email by having a photo of some abandoned puppies on your cereal box. Look at them, they’d love some of that milk you’ve just poured liberally onto your cereal.
We’ve all become obsessives
With the potential to receive a response at any time of day, there is no longer that window of opportunity that we could enjoy with the postal system. Which means most of us will become email goblins, checking our messages every few minutes on PC, or laptop or smart phone. We can no longer be tense just for an hour or so in the morning. Now, thanks to email, it’s an all-day experience. The wonders of technology, eh?
To be honest, it’s amazing we don’t hear more stories about writer’s whose heads have exploded through the sheer strain of anticipation. Then again, maybe not. After all, who’d be able to write it? Not them, obviously.
Coping. Or not.
So how do you cope? Do you cope? What are you tips for avoiding copious email-checking?
Follow me on Twitter @RewanTremethick.
Got a question? Want to request a post? Got a topic you’d like my take on? thehypertellerATgmailDOTcom.