Battling the urge to check email

So you sent the email. You hit send and it went flying off into the depths of cyberspace. Now what do you? Refresh gmail every other minute until the response comes back, right? (Don’t lie. I’m guilty of this too.)

I saw this tweet earlier in the week and something inside me cringed a little:

For some reason I foolishly thought that once you were published and established this level of terror and obsessive email checking after hitting send would level out. But no. Even the wonderful Laurie Halse Anderson still gets tense when sending off pages. Why does being a writer wreak havoc on your sanity? Why are we seemingly incapable of patiently (and calmly) waiting to hear back in regards to anything (queries, submissions, revisions, you name it)?

Every time I click send, I do exactly what Laurie has explained above. Until I hear back, I agonize over my inbox. And this cannot be healthy. I was talking with my dear friend Caroline Richmond about this the other day. We chatted about how important it is to stay busy when you are “waiting to hear back.”

» So now, a list of suggestions for staying busy that I myself could benefit from practicing:

  1. Keep writing. This is the number one suggestion I hear from people over and over again. Sometimes it’s terrifying to jump right back into a new story when you just wrapped one up, but it is the best medicine for obsessive email checking. So start on the next story. Or just write some exploratory prose if you don’t have a New Shiny Idea yet. Either way, when you are busy crafting new words, you think less about the words you are waiting to hear back on.
  2. Keep reading. When I am in the bulk of writing or revisions, I find it difficult to dedicate a ton of time to reading. I’ll sneak it in here or there, but I never really curl up with a book for hours on end. Well, what’s a better use of time: refreshing gmail every five minutes for two hours while you “pretend” to browse the internet, or reading one of the books in your to-be-read pile for two hours?
  3. Do something new. Take a weekend and travel to someplace you’ve never visited. New places and unfamiliar cultures are some of the best things for creativity. That being said, do other new things that will inspire you, too. Take a cooking class, hit up a museum exhibit, hike a mountain. It sounds so cliche, but it’s true: when you do new things, you never stop learning. Not to mention most of these activities are half-day once, meaning you’ll avoid your email for an entire afternoon. Go you! (Resist urges to check it on your phone. Resist, resist, resist.)
  4. Do nothing. Not literally nothing–that would definitely drive your email-focused brain crazy. But try, try, try to relax. Get lunch with a friend. Take a nap. Spend an afternoon with your husband (or wife/bf/gf/bestie/partner/significant other/family/children/etc) watching movie after movie. I am the absolute worst at being lazy. I always feel guilty for not getting anything “done”. But everyone deserves some occasional down time.
  5. Help others. Chances are you are awesome and have been doing this all along, but when you are waiting for feedback on something, don’t forget to scratch the back of those who have scratched yours. Critique others’ work. Follow up with friends and offer to read things. Just because you don’t have a pile of MSs to critique doesn’t mean a writer friend won’t have a chapter or two they’d love feedback on. Or a New Shiny Idea they’d like to run by you. If I’ve learned anything so far from my adventures in publishing, it’s that this community is a tight-knit team. Help each other. Support each other. What goes around, comes around. Karma, baby.

So that’s my list of ways to (try and) avoid obsessive email checking. Some things take time. Don’t spend all your waiting time waiting. Spend your waiting time doing.

How do you stay busy when your waiting for that certain email response?

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