Texting, many claim, is the primary mode of communication in the 21st century, but I insist that it’s emailing. Emailing allows for more content, or variety in content, whereas in texting you’re forced to make tactful and short messages designed to elicit a sure response. Emailing is more stress free, and you can say more.
It’s not all smooth sailing with emailing, either, because of the universal phenomena of email-writer’s block. This happens when, for whatever reason, an email writer can’t seem to be able to produce the right content to send off.
I’ve spoken with scientists—in other words, myself on four cups of coffee—and have discovered a handful of the most pertinent versions of Email Writer’s Block.
1. The Block
Much like regular writer’s block, the block happens when you’ve suddenly forgotten how to say words. This is the case for most of my email-writer’s block, and I find it disconcerting, because word usage is supposed to be my specialty. In this form of block, writing even the most simple responses – ‘Thanks, sincerely’ or ‘I will get back to you on that’ – can appear extremely daunting, and the explanation for it quite elusive. Your hangover probably doesn’t help, but it’s tough to pinpoint what exactly creates the block.
Quite plain and simple, you’ll sometimes receive pushy emails from people you essentially don’t want to talk to and/or have anything to do with. You don’t want to be shady, but you also really don’t have anything productive to tell this person, or at least say it in a way that doesn’t have you come off as a brute. And so, you must resort to diplomatic relationship killing, which leads to number three:
3. Need more time for an Excuse
The season hasn’t changed, and in fact you’ve never felt better physically, and so you can’t blame it on that. You can’t say ‘let’s shoot for next week,’ because it’s only Tuesday and what good reason do you have for Wednesday thru Friday not working? You can always say ‘this week is crazy,’ but you don’t know if that carries enough weight. All said, coming up with a steadfast and well executed excuse requires thought and time, two things you might not have.
4. Temper Tantrums
Other times, your office arch nemesis drops an aggressive email loaded with ‘please advise’ and ‘circle back’ bombs. He’s playing victim here, like you’re the one causing the dissension, but he’s actually just being an idiot who clearly hasn’t read your last three emails. All you can do, if caffeinated, is go on an impulsive, stream of consciousness rampage, ranting against this person and proving to them the depths of their stupidity and incompetency and feeling as though you’re on a moral crusade. For the most part, you can’t actually send it, but you write it anyway and leave it as a draft for an indefinite amount of time.
Once you return to your draft and try to adjust what appears to be a Hitler speech into a composed email, which contains hints of attitude but not to excessive levels, you’ll see that you have several aesthetic, tonal as well as contextual decisions to make. You realize, at some point, you’re essentially editing a literary monologue. Or maybe it’s just me.
Other times, people write things and you can’t understand what the hell they’re saying. Reading back and forth, back and forth, you can’t get a grip on the overall message they’re looking to convey, or even the simple things. When you realize a few hours have passed and you’ve got to send something back, your fingers are useless—what are you supposed to respond to?