One Box, Two Box, Mailbox, Inbox


Once upon a time addictions were so innocent, no one thought to call them addictions. Yes, children. We would sit down for a leisurely hour or so and write long letters to friends and family, tri-fold the lined paper into a business envelope, affix a first-class (styling!) stamp, and away she went.

The reward for this long-attention span work? Every day we would check the raised red flag on the mailbox to see if it had been lowered by the friendly postman (what do dogs know?). Walking to that mailbox was, for writers who love to read (but what else?), the highlight of the day.

Maybe a long missive would be harbored in that tiny tunnel of tin darkness. If so, we’d find the right spot, grab the right drink, and enjoy another long-attention span activity: reading and re-reading a long letter from a fellow enthusiast of the screed trade.

Such, such were the days! And, as we became writers (read: supporters of the USPS) who constantly sent out submissions with self-addressed stamped envelopes (SASEs), the trips to the mailbox became all the more thrilling. Who would’ve ever believed that waiting for rejection would be such a high for young writers? But it was so!

Now we’ve supposedly increased the odds of feel-good hits via the mailbox stand-in, the e-mail inbox. Yes sirree Bob, writers can now get rejected at any hour of the day! And each time we do, we give a Whitmanesque yawp, saying, “Yes! I am a writer!” That’s what rejections do. Give us credentials. But only if aided by the element of surprise. What would that be? Acceptance. Publication. It happens. And it happens more and more with time and practice, increasing a writer’s inbox addiction (sigh).

The moral of this tale? For me, it’s this: I can pat myself on the back all I want for avoiding the ubiquitous and ridiculous spectacle of e-mail and, worse still, texting addiction by not owning a cellphone, but the truth is, as a writer, I’ve had to face the technological music of addiction, too. Only the hardcore writing warriors manage to get so lost in their work that they don’t worry about the marketing aspects of the trade by checking that secret inbox.

One box, two box, mailbox, inbox. It’s all one. Keep your checks to a concrete number a day (the magic number three, say) and count that as a victory. The rest of the time? Though rejections and acceptances may be washing ashore, writers have work to do, and it doesn’t fare so well with constant interruption.

As Aristotle said too many times, “I write, therefore I am… boxes notwithstanding.”



  1. I bless Facebook every day. I’ve sold more copies of my new collection through FB connections than i ever would have through old school marketing.


  2. Yes, so true. Not stacks, but megapixels of rejections are possible and can be saved forever (some place). There is another big change though, to reading and rereading those old style wood-paper treasures that can be tied with a ribbon proving that you really do exist physically. They were certified with the investment in a postage stamp and a human delivered them. The cardboard sheet-music box of slips has been replaced with blaring e-mail discourse including advertisements. One more lost luxury was meeting with a friend or relative to show and read the formal notices looking for reasons, if they gave any, for the news and then discussion of the failed (rejected) product. Progress with on-line submission is promising but another problem exists now which is that a lonely work alone genius must compete not with thousands of other available product submissions, but with tens of millions. An author has to have a computer. Forget privacy. It has turned into a lottery of marketing skill instead of talent.
    Yes, I would have loved the good ol’ paper submission days but I also was born too late. Got to check my e-mail in-box now. I wish it was delivered by the postman. There will be no need to pull up my e-banking statement to look for acceptance remunerations either. I go to the bank for the free coffee and talk to the new lobby ATM.


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