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by Joan L. Cannon

Since finding my way to the networking possibilities with a few blogs and happened-upon websites, Ive discovered not only how many kindred souls seem to be available through cyber space and electronic technology, Ive come to realize how lonely Ive been of recent years. The sensation is a bit like having been through an illness that you didnt recognize the severity of until you began to feel normal again.

The truth is that I have craved writerly contacts more than I would have thought possible. Id hate for that to sound like someone with a terminal case of intellectual snobbery. If Ive read something that rings bells in the 'little gray cells,' I have too few ears to catch the same reverberations if I point it out. If you can remember those first days of being in love when everything beautiful or awful struck you as requiring the reaction of the object of your affections, you know sort of what Im talking about.

The Internet has become the conduit to confidants I didnt know I needed, and now I behave as though I couldnt survive without them. Actually, I doubt if I could.

Nowadays I need to remind myself of how easy its going to be to overwork my new roster of what I can think of only as friends real friends in most instances, as opposed to acquaintances. Its such a temptation to tap out an email whenever a thought strikes me that I know would be of no interest or would be likely to be misunderstood by available ears, or worse, to raise hackles or prejudices that would spoil the relationship on the spot. Another temptation is that of brain-picking. I want to send a question that no one nearby could possibly answer and that doesnt qualify for an Internet search, wonderful as they can be.

To that, add the inescapable desire not to have to face a listener, the way you unburden to a stranger in an airport lounge, if only because of the assurance that youll never see that face again. Even though I have this feeling of connection, I dont have to see the expression of annoyance or bemusement on the face of my correspondent, and thus am apt to expect to get away with a whole lot more than I have any right to.

There should probably be some rules of etiquette for emailing, like the caution against using all uppercase letters.

1. Dont treat a new correspondent as though they already understand a) your family background, b) your phobias, c) your pet peeves, d) your most cherished dreams.

2. Dont expect that every brainstorm or tantrum is automatically of interest to someone you've not met or has heard your voice.

3. Dont assume that your children, grandchildren, spouse, pets, and potted plants hold the same fascination for the correspondent that they do for you.

4. Especially eschew discussing your aches, pains, bad dreams, and real illnesses.

5. Dont let matters of taste that seem so obvious to you interfere with your ability to absorb the likelihood that not even that correspondent automatically adores eggplant, or teal as a color for a study, or mop-head canaries for pets. You have to remember that maybe theres an allergy you dont know about, an aversion to numismatics, a passion for tarantulas as pets.

6. Remember that your newfound cyber-pal has a life too. That life may not be strictly confined to the chair in front of said friends computer. Dont succumb to the temptation to send a message a day as you did letters when you were in love at twenty. Try to resist the temptation to react with keystrokes the instant you've read just the words you were either hoping for or against.

7. Since finding this lode of pure gold, Ive been fortunate to discover how wide and deep it really is. Someone from France sent me a note; my editor lives 3,000 miles away; and incredibly, my biggest first booster lives less than 100! All well and good, but it must be taken into account that there are such things as time zones. When youve fired off your latest minor brainstorm or tirade, remember that if its a comfortable nine in the evening where you are, it could be as much as a day later or earlier where your message is going. So dont despair or fly into a rage if the response youre awaiting as eagerly as that from a potential agent doesnt come at the moment youve been expecting it.

There are doubtless a good many more hints that could be added to this little list. I have to keep reminding myself not to get carried away every time I think of those supportive successful writers, the poets who make me think of the Kansas State motto as one to adopt for my own, the women and men who have rather suddenly shown me a fellowship I didnt know was available to me. Maybe it isnt even fair to let you know how much I need you all when the next rejection arrives in the in box. I do thank you.

If I havent properly observed the above cautions, please accept my apology for presuming too much.

©2009 Joan L. Cannon for SeniorWomenWeb



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