Friday, June 02, 2006

The Weight of Paper

So last week I got back a politely worded rejection of one of my novel-excerpts-turned-stories. Seeing as how I've become thick-skinned to this sort of thing from working within the wide world of publishing, my main response was not "Oh my goodness! The entire world hates my stuff and I want to die!"

Instead, I sort of hm'ed and might have let out a half-sigh when I got the email. The sigh was partly because I'd been rejected. But mostly it was because that meant that the next journals on my carefully-researched list of venues were all ones that would only take submissions by mail. And that meant that I was going to have to print stuff off. And pay to send it off. And trust the glorious union of the Canadian and American postal systems to get my submissions to the right place in a reasonable amount of time (and when you're planning on 4 to 6 month reading times as it is, another 2 weeks for it to get there isn't a thrilling prospect).

Basically, it felt like a lot of time and energy (not to mention the expense) to send things by paper mail instead of the oh-so-easy email many of us have grown to love. But I was committed to keeping things in the submission cycle at all times. So on Monday I did it (in spite of a crazy homework day).

And once it was done, it felt like a more significant event than the last couple of submissions, which I did by email. Email is easier, but, perhaps because it takes less effort, has less emotion attached to it. I had one of those small twinges of the overused metaphorical creative writer "sending out one's babies" emotion when I sent it by email, but when I sent it by mail, I really felt it. Perhaps a part of this is the seemingly greater damageability of the paper en route, as well as the uncertainty of the timing of the delivery--both things I take for granted knowing instantly when sending an email.

But there was more to it than all that. It's true that sending things out by mail costs quite a bit more--even the in-Canada submission was a chunk because it was the longer story--but there is something to be said for paper. In spite of its inconveniences, it has a greater feeling of accomplishment attached to it.

I wonder if that's one of the reasons we've come to expect so much productivity of ourselves in today's society--if you've done it by email, it doesn't feel like you've done as much. I wonder what would happen to the pace and sense of accomplishment of people in today's society if everyone had to do at least half of their correspondence (including business correspondence) using paper and the postal system. Would be interesting to see. Not that I'd be keen on being in on the experiment itself, mind you. But I wonder whether, if the experiment was tried long-term, whether people would gradually come to feel like they had done more.

1 comment:

Jodie Boyer said...

Sorry it was a no go. I keep getting them for academic papers. I confess I don't have the same tough skin and I go through a "I'm a total moron and every one knows it period after each reject."