As you engage in correspondence, particularly of the electronic variety, you may find your exchanges with an individual growing at an amazing pace - the quasi-instant nature of it allows responses to be fired back and forth with amazing rapidity such that it is practically a conversation! Quoting features allow us to be considerably more punctilious than we might have been in pen-and-paper letter-writing; we can break down the missive line by line and contribute our thoughts regarding every single phrase, word association, motivation question or non sequitur.

Unless you are a master of economy of text, the replies will grow somewhat upon each back-and-forth iteration, the text a gestalt of two people's delights and interactions, becoming more than the sum of their individual contributions.

Eventually the words become a monument, reaching a plateau where the time constraints in merely reading it become constrictive let alone the time required to properly meditate on it and compose an appropriate response. Because e-mail is fast, and even if I wait until tomorrow to send it, they'll get it tomorrow the initial putting-off is a crime easily perpetrated. But there are hidden costs - if I've alloted more time to this response, it should contain more. An honest attempt is made at attacking it - reading-over happens, a deep breath taken and a few paragraphs committed to the keyboard. Then a phone call, a knock at the door - the draft is saved and put away for a bit. Tomorrow, tomorrow for sure.

More effort required to match the increasing time invested in it - maybe I'll look up the book and post that quote I was referring to, maybe I'll tell the story I alluded to last time, maybe I'll let them in on a secret to reward their patience. If this post is taking so long to bounce back, it had better be a hum-dinger. My god, it's 4 am! Surely this can wait until the morning!

A curious follow-up is received - Don't you love me anymore? What happened to our conversation? - you respond reassuringly, Don't worry, I'm working on it - but doubt begins gnawing in your heart. They noticed your absence! How can mere words make up for the rift I've caused? Exertion is doubled and tripled into the adversarial letter - in an attempt to produce exceptionally meritorious text personal secrets and deep and meaningfuls instiled in to it (I'm getting really intense here - am I going to scare them off?) and still it doesn't get sent. Some of its contents get resolved in conversations or other forums - this eases the load of composition but increases the load of editing, making you go back and remove the now-redundant finely crafted lines or paragraphs, time that could be spent going forward and further writing instead spent going backward and amending, excising, omitting.

In short, the monument becomes unassailable. There is a continuum of time and value - quickly fired-back-and-forth chatty messages aren't expected to contain much, but leisurely-paced packages of thought and care (if I can't have quantity, I can at least have quality!) are, well, anticipated to a much more serious degree. It'll come when it's ready. There is a critical moment along this continuum where the cumulative expectations for the time spent on the letter exceed the practical possible value of it (if I spent 3 hours every day for a week, I could just about take care of this, but I decided it would be tidier just to start it over in the form of a novel). It is never ready.

... and thus the message never gets completed or sent. You fall out of correspondance with the person, their address changes, and some weeks, months later you come across the incomplete manuscript, boggle at your then-intensity and rue bitterly that you no longer even know where its intended recipient can now be found. Superficial correspondances can be ponged without half a brain - 30 seconds and it gets slap-dashed back to sender with its two-word answer. Only the profound, engaging, interesting and important matters fall into that morass and it is that which makes it all the more tragic.

Stronger men than I have broken down and wept.

This is why I usually reply to messages straight away. As soon as I see whom it's from I hit reply. Reading along, the ideas rush to me and I write them down as they are fresh in my mind. Before you know it you're done, and it only took 3 hours... but it didn’t feel like it, because you were having fun! You were interested by what they were saying, and your response was enthusiastic and inspired by the moment -- not 3 weeks stale!

I usually subconsciously format the message as I go along, making it look all purdy, but more importantly clear and neat! I purge old threads and old comments, leaving just enough so they know what I'm talking about in my reply. Even then they inevitably get awfully large. If this happens I usually try to, clear out all the threads which look like this:

> > > > > > > > > > > > > > > hahahhahhahah
> > > > > > > > > > > > > > hahahahahahaha
> > > > > > > > > > > > > hahahahahahaha
> > > > > > > > > > > > hahahahahaha
> > > > > > > > > > > hhahaahahhahh
> > > > > > > > > > hahahahahaha
> > > > > > > > > hahahahahaha
> > > > > > > > hahahahahaha
> > > > > > > hahahhahaaah
> > > > > > haahahahaha
> > > > > hahahhahaha
> > > > hahaahahaha
> > > hahahahahha
> > hahahahahaha
> hahahaahaahh

(This is actually out of a real intellectual message! Grin...)

But even if the distinction isn't that easy for you, you can always ask yourself, "does this matter?", "do they care?", "is this really worth replying to?

In this way, you can cut down the correspondence to what really matters, and save yourself from inevitable self-destruction! Its worked for me so far...

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