The SEND button in Outlook looks a lot like the other buttons. It’s small and rectangular with rounded corners and, when hovered over with a mouse, turns a pleasant apricot shade of yellow. This serene design belies the power of SEND, for as we all know and – more than once wished otherwise – once SEND is clicked, there is no going back.
Of course, we can go back (and often do!) to read what we’ve SENT (SEND’s dark partner), by turns admiring and despising our prose, but we can never, ever retrieve what we’ve launched. It’s out there. And the person to whom we’ve SENT the email is maybe reading it already. Knowing this has created such havoc in my gut; I sometimes feel as if I’ve accidentally initiated a nuclear strike against my hometown.
SENT emails may contain nothing more offensive than a typo. In an email to a friend, this matters little. In an email to your boss, it matters more. A quick curse word typically assuages our flash of anger, but, depending on the number of errors, feelings of inadequacy can linger all day long. SENT email can also contain a carefully worded justification of our point of view, which, when reread several times afterward sounds petty and small. Too bad – it’s gone! All we can do is check our email inbox every ten seconds, hoping for a response that won’t escalate the situation.
Often, we attach something to an email – a book manuscript, say, as was the case with me the other day. And while I don’t necessarily want it back, I was not necessarily ready for it to be gone. Should I have read through it one more time in search of flat description or dialogue that doesn’t ring true? Is a writer ever convinced that the manuscript she’s just SENT to the publisher is the best it can be? I don’t think so. This is why so many of us don’t read our books once they’re on a bookstore shelf.
The SEND button also has its lighter, brighter moments that engender feelings of productivity and accomplishment. Right?
There, I’ve waited ten seconds. Now I can re-check to see if my publisher has responded.