I once worked with two editors who lived in different parts of the country. My job was to provide support and direction. It was a perilous balance of communicating too often and not enough, fraught with misunderstanding and battles over control. It was like juggling eggs and knives. At the same time.
I am not cut out for email communication. I am talky and not a paragon of patience. So if I want an answer, I want it now. The editors gently complained about the volume of emails I sent them and so I scaled back. My company got some bandwidth back. But then the silence began to eat at me. Were my editors eating bon-bons? Were they buried under a metric ton of galley proofs in their home offices? Were they on the phone with each other complaining about my ineptness?
It turns out that this paranoia prepared me for the freelance lifestyle. At least I had met these editors in person. As a freelancer, I work with people I’ve never met; some of whom I have never even talked to on the phone. I have no idea what their voices sound like or what it means when they sign off “thanks!” or when they don’t sign off at all.
When I don’t hear from them I assume I did a terrible job editing their work. They are talking to the lawyers about a possible suit. They are hiring hit men. They are reading my blog.
To talk myself down from the ledge, I imagine the average editorial office. There are meetings about new releases, cover meetings, panic in the marketing department, rivalries in the art department, someone’s birthday, the flu is going around, an author is threatening to quit. In short, there are a thousand and one reasons that my contact isn’t answering her email that have nothing to do with my fragile self-esteem.
And so I take myself out for a cup of coffee. Maybe I stop at the grocery store on my way home. I think about how much I hated being the editorial dogsbody and think about ways to have a more robust communication with my contacts. I resolve to communicate more in fewer emails. And sure enough, my contact emails me when I’m out, and I write on my return, “sorry not to get back to you sooner, I had a meeting.”