Losing Track of Time

When I first started sending books and articles to editors in hopes of being selected for publication, the passage of time possessed few markers.

For example, the mail arrived once a day. There was no trail like this on the touchtone wall phone:

  • Wednesday, 10 AM: Your Amazon order was received.
  • Wednesday, 8 PM: Your Amazon order was shipped.
  • Thursday, 11 AM: Your Amazon package is scheduled for delivery tomorrow.
  • Friday, 9 AM: Your Amazon package will arrive today before 8 PM.
  • Friday, 5 PM: Your Amazon package was delivered to your mailbox.

Instead, you went to a store and stood in line to have your manuscript copied at great expense and the expense of about an hour of time. Then you went to the office supply store to buy a padded envelope. Then you went to the post office and stood in line to have the package weighed and stamped for delivery. Then finally, off it went, into the wild blue yonder.

Then you waited. Mail arrival was a momentous event. It happened, then it was over. Once. A. Day. Except on Sundays and Federal Holidays.

Now, seeing a U.S. Postal Service truck making rounds on Sunday is common, at least near my house. And for some time, through texts and email, we’ve had hundreds of chances every day to touch base with anyone, anywhere, to find out anything.

As for your manuscript? I’d say you could trace its progress through the mail system online, but few use hard copy now. Instead, you can email your agent or editor any time and hope for a quick response.

Today, I handle way more questions and issues over email than I ever would have if I had been a literary agent when Ma Bell (the only telephone company) charged by the minute for service. Few people wanted to spend money to call “long distance” and rack up charges. When they did, the call was usually important. Answering a letter? At least a half hour to compose and type, three days to get to the recipient.

I’m grateful for my ability to interact quickly and efficiently on dozens of issues with as many people daily even though all the communication seems to make time speed along. Bottom line? Agent time really does move faster for us than it does for writers. That’s never changed, and probably never will. Just know that we’re not setting out to ignore you – we may have lost track of time!

Your turn:

Do you wish times and things were simpler? How?

What do you see as the biggest benefit to being wired all the time? The biggest drawback?


41 Responses to Losing Track of Time

  1. Janine Rosche February 15, 2018 at 4:50 am #

    The benefit of being wired is the ability to connect with people who are outside my town. I also love that we can send messages to authors of books we love. (I once had a whole conversation with Beth Moore over Twitter about race relations and the Christian’s role!) The downside is the digital divide it creates. Not everyone has the same access. At least with envelopes we stood on a somewhat level playing field.

    I wouldn’t mind returning to simpler times, but I also appreciate where we are. I’m just glad we aren’t still in the in-between, when my high school long distance boyfriend had to send love emails to my dad’s email address for me to receive. CRINGE!

    • Tamela Hancock Murray February 15, 2018 at 7:07 am #

      Oh, wow, being in contact with Beth Moore like that is AMAZING! And a highly doubtful prospect in an earlier era.

      Some of my relatives live in rural areas where getting good Internet is a challenge, so I get what you mean about equal access as well.

      So funny about email — then again, if you’d been chatting on the phone, there’s always a chance of being overheard!

      Thanks so much for sharing, Janine!

      • Janine Rosche February 15, 2018 at 7:28 am #

        We had a ten yard long telephone cord in high school. If a boy called, I would go out the patio door, slide it mostly shut and stretch it as far as I could, which was the dog house. It sounds extreme, but I was the baby sister of six and they didn’t hold back any teasing! It was bad enough that after they answered they’d yell, “Hey NeNe, it’s a boy—oooooh!”

    • Karen Cogan February 15, 2018 at 6:01 pm #

      There are times when I wish times were simpler. There seems to be more frantic rushing these days than I remember when I was a child. There are so many more things to do and so many more choices.
      However, I like the convenience of being about to make nearly instant contact with anyone. I like the feeling of increased safety of having a cell phone if I’m on the road. I suppose neither choice is better or worse. It matters more how I chose to handle my more complicated time issues.

  2. Kim February 15, 2018 at 5:38 am #

    I actually discuss this when I give school talks, “when I started there was NO internet!” I tell how I had to submit with a SASE, then wait and wait… I have a three-ring binder full of early rejections, and the kids are amazed. I have a cartoon I love to use of a dog staring out the window, then suddenly major barking spree, mailman walks by window, it ends with the dog thinking, “I love for the mail.”

    Simpler times? I don’t know, but I believe snail mail is now more of an art form, and it makes a good impression for authors to snail mail a thank you note if they receive any rejection that isn’t form mail, thanking the editor for taking the time to “personally reject me…” (How I teach it to the kids…)

    Love your agency blog!

    Kim Childress

    • Tamela Hancock Murray February 15, 2018 at 7:10 am #

      Sounds like a great presentation, Kim. I wonder if many younger writers would enjoy hearing about it at conference!

      Yes, I should have mentioned the good ‘ol SASE. Including that doubled the cost of doing business!

      I don’t expect a handwritten note for rejections, but I do receive those, too. It does cause me to take a stronger look at the author if s/he submits subsequent proposals.

      Glad you enjoy the blog!

  3. Loretta Eidson February 15, 2018 at 6:10 am #

    In today’s instant world, electronic submissions and messaging fit with the times. On the most part it’s a great thing, but if we’re not careful it can alleviate the personal touch. I’m from the era of hand written letters and party line and land line phones. Snail mail was the only way to communicate unless you sent a telegraph. Ha! I love the internet, email and instant messaging these days, but a hand written note makes the letter even more special.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray February 15, 2018 at 7:11 am #


      I don’t miss party lines. Our neighbor used to share one with a drunk. It was sad.

      We shared one with a neighbor who always had to “call the hardware store before they close at five o’clock.” This put a big dent on plans with my friends regarding whether to wear pants or dresses to school the next day!

      • Barbara Scott February 15, 2018 at 2:31 pm #

        You got to wear pants to school? We wore skirts or dresses below our knees… even if it was below zero. Try waiting for the school bus in the snow wearing a dress. Glad those days are gone!

        • Tamela Hancock Murray February 15, 2018 at 3:57 pm #

          Yeah, I’m still a fan of pants. We weren’t allowed to wear jeans, though!

          • Janet Ann Collins February 15, 2018 at 5:05 pm #

            We couldn’t wear pants to school, but changed to jeans or peddle-pushers when we got home. And we had to wear dresses to church or when we went to ‘the City’ (San Francisco) to shop.
            I’m glad I didn’t live in the 1800s when women wore long dresses, corsets, and cooked over fires in the Summer.

        • claire o'sullivan March 13, 2018 at 11:02 pm #

          ha ha yes. I remember that too!

  4. Vanessa Burton February 15, 2018 at 6:13 am #

    It is nice to communicate with one another so easily in terms of staying connected with family and friends! I do think we’ve lost the value of time and when thing a do take a bit longer, it’s not necessarily a bad thing! Thank you! ?

    • Tamela Hancock Murray February 15, 2018 at 7:12 am #

      I always tell authors to “take the time you need” with submissions. I say that A LOT! Thanks for the reminder.

  5. Julie Christian February 15, 2018 at 6:26 am #

    Thanks again, Tamela for a timely post!

    As I compulsively refresh my inbox, these are the things that I force myself to do:

    1. Review and edit my manuscript to prepare it for the eventual, “Yes!” response.

    2. Spend time in prayer and Bible study, asking for God to equip me with patience and humility.

    3. Reach out to others in the community who are in need of encouragement and support.

    4. Start writing the next book so that I can begin this process yet again!

    Time spent waiting on eventual rejection OR acceptance isn’t a bad thing. I suppose we all must ask ourselves, what can I learn in the quiet space?

    • Tamela Hancock Murray February 15, 2018 at 7:13 am #

      Great pun! 🙂

      And a wonderful list for any time of the year, but most especially poignant during this Lenten season. Thank you.

  6. Mark Alan Leslie February 15, 2018 at 7:33 am #

    The wait. The wait. Omigosh, the wait! That’s what I remember, that and the cost of making copies of a manuscript and then mailing them. You had to do multiple submissions because it took three months or so to get a rejection. And then, when you did multiple submissions the cost was almost prohibitive.
    Thank goodness for the Internet and Word files and pdfs — especially in these times where it appears patience has flown out the window.

  7. Elena Corey February 15, 2018 at 7:34 am #

    Thank you, Tamela, for a fine and timely post. When I can observe time seeming to shrink or expand from a disinterested point of view, it is interesting–not so much when I’m yearning for it to behave as I wish.
    One of the most satisfying periods is when I lose track of time when I’m writing something dear to my heart.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray February 15, 2018 at 7:40 am #

      I know, right? Time does fly when you’re having fun — and absorbed in your work!

  8. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser February 15, 2018 at 7:48 am #

    Interesting subject, because I’ve been left marooned on a small island in time’s river. I have a clunky landline internet connexion and an ancient laptop, and that’s it. No 4G wireless, no cloud, and no bluetooth unless I gargle with ink.

    I have my dogs, my books, and on the rare days when I’m well enough, my hammer-and-rock hand tools for fabricating aeroplane parts. I figure I will die with hacksaw in hand.

    The most salient feature of an old-school life is the isolation; I don’t share much of the same vocabulary as many of those with whom I regularly communicate (including my wife), and more importantly the ‘speed’ different.

    That’s were time comes in. The wired world moves at a pace that’s conditioned, and I’m not part of it. There’s no way to fake it, and that kind of passage of time has made a gap that I suspect is unbridgeable.

    • mark Alan Leslie February 15, 2018 at 8:00 am #

      It sounds like your “island” metaphorical and real, Andrew.
      We so often cry out for “the good old days” but wouldn’t have any part of them if given the opportunity. I look back on little old Pembroke in Downeast Maine and pine for my childhood. But THAT Pembroke is long gone… like Alan Jackson’s song about towns gone by.
      Enjoy your surroundings!

    • Tamela Hancock Murray February 15, 2018 at 8:46 am #

      Amen, Mark. And Andrew, you are an active member of our blog community and no doubt participate in many online activities. You bridge gaps every day!

  9. Martha Whiteman Rogers February 15, 2018 at 8:44 am #

    Well, from my perspective, the “good old days” weren’t always so good. I doubt my husband would be alive today if not for the technology and advances made in medicine. Times were simpler and maybe more laid back, but living wasn’t always easy. The ’50’s are glorified and celebrated today, but those years and into the ’60’s were anything but great all the time. I love having such quick access to my family no matter where they are. A birthday message from son and daughter-in-law in Cambodia would not have been possible back then like it was last summer.

    The only thing I dislike about our electronic world today is the way teenagers are losing the ability to truly communicate. They have their eyes on their phones all the time. We made it a rule that our grandkids couldn’t have their phones at the dinner table on Sunday at Gramma and Granddad’s house and had to spend at least half an hour with cousins after dinner.

    All that said, the conveniences we have today make our lives easier as writers. The methods of sending and communicating may change, but the time of waiting for acceptance or rejection will always be there. 🙂

    • Tamela Hancock Murray February 15, 2018 at 8:49 am #

      Martha, I think you are spot on! I walked down a college hallway a couple of years ago and all but one person was walking while looking at a phone. While I didn’t have any reason to greet the students, I did realize that this habit makes even a brief wave or hello impossible. So sad.

      But I couldn’t communicate with my daughter in South Korea if not for technology today. And I have several relatives who can attest to the miracles of today’s medicine.

      As my daddy says, “You have to take the bitter with the sweet.”

  10. Anne Carol February 15, 2018 at 9:05 am #

    While I enjoy the convenience of today’s quick connections, I do sometimes miss the days when it was normal to not be constantly “on”. If you needed down time or were out and about, you weren’t bothered with distractions. The people you were with didn’t keep checking their phones, you actually had their full attention! That is tough to come by these days.

    The biggest benefit to being wired is connecting with others, even if you’ve never met them face to face. I’ve found many friends and acquaintances online, many who understand me better than my local friends. It’s possible to built a support system of people around the globe; we’re no longer limited by location.

    Drawbacks? Other than what I mentioned above, the immediacy of connecting can backfire. When I know someone is online or is quick with texting, yet they haven’t gotten back to me, I become insecure and assume I’ve done something wrong. “Why aren’t they getting back to me? Did I sound dumb? Offend them?” And when people (i.e. close friends or family) don’t communicate, even if the ease of texting or emailing, it can feel like rejection. Basically, electronic communication offers more opportunity for hurt feelings.

  11. Crystal Caudill February 15, 2018 at 9:15 am #

    Being wired all the time makes “shutting off” and just being present so much harder, at least on family. We’ve instituted a rule of no phones at the table – adults included. Even so, my husband’s watch constantly buzzes with work emails. We can never escape and just be present. And maybe that is something we need to work on—creating boundaries.

    There are definitely times I long for the simpler times, the lack of guilt for not making an immediate response. It is all about learning to manage the new world of technology etiquette and the reality life isn’t meant to be tethered to technology at the expense of deeper relationships.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray February 15, 2018 at 12:33 pm #

      I think we all just have to force ourselves to take time out. When I had young children, I deliberately made opportunities for them to be bored. They had to figure out how to deal with that. I think in part, our phones keep us from being bored.

      And yes, adults can be addicted to the phone!

  12. Joey Rudder February 15, 2018 at 10:40 am #

    I’m actually torn on this one. I miss the days when I was a little girl, sitting outside of the Dairy Queen with my Grandpa and watching the cars go by, enjoying the thrill of a thunderstorm from the porch, and even fishing and waiting for hours for a single bite.

    By being wired all the time, it feels like I’m running in circles some days; check this, research that, email here, text there when all I really want to do is sit down and read a good book…or write one!

    But I’m thankful too for such access to so much information. I can research and learn things in the comfort of my pajamas instead of going to the library and putting a dozen or so books on hold and waiting for days/weeks for them to arrive.

    On the submission side, I remember sending out queries/SASE and waiting. Checking the mail was exciting, even excruciating when all that arrived were rejections. But I think it made it more real, more personal too. Something I created, printed, and held in my hand was going to be held by someone else.

    I hope to find a balance. Enjoy my online time, do the work, and then turn it all off to go outside and listen as the thunder moves in…and remember my Grandpa.

    Thanks for another great post, Tamela. God bless you.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray February 15, 2018 at 12:34 pm #

      Thank you so much, Joey. I used to love the front porch swing. You’ve made me want to install one now!

  13. Janet Ann Collins February 15, 2018 at 11:10 am #

    I guess there are pros and cons to everything. I remember everything you mentioned in the post, and miss those times. My neighbor friend and I felt so smart when we’d go home, pick up our phones and talk over the dial tone because we were on the same party line. But I love connecting and keeping in touch with old friends on the internet. And I miss getting rejection slips in the mail. I wish publishers would let us know if they can’t use something we sent so we could send it elsewhere. And I worry about the constant electronics use damaging the brains of kids who grow up using them constantly. One day we’ll all communicate by brain implants and then an evil world government will use that to control us. Can you tell I’m a writer? 😉

    • Tamela Hancock Murray February 15, 2018 at 12:35 pm #

      Sounds like you’ve got the beginnings of a great dystopian novel! 🙂

      • Janet Ann Collins February 15, 2018 at 12:43 pm #

        Thanks, Tamela.
        Maybe I should do a modern version of 1984. Lots of things in that novel have already happened. We can cook food in a few minutes and be watched in our homes from someone far away. But that’s not really my kind of writing … yet.

  14. Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D February 15, 2018 at 2:36 pm #

    Tamela, your photo looks so young, I would never have guessed that you have been around that long. (I have also been around that long, for the record, though I claim to be 32…forever).

    Before being wired all the time, we could go for walks and no one would call us. Nowadays, the phone rings often or someone sends us a text. Goodbye quiet stillness.

    Before being wired all the time, we didn’t need a cellphone on our walks. We could walk all around town without the fear of being attacked. We use them now for safety so that we can call for help, if need be.

    The benefits of being wired is that we can find out right away if our best friend has good news or we can meet our soulmate online (like my son did last year).

    While I enjoyed not being constantly wired, it does have some benefits, including my getting a daughter-in-law this coming fall!

    • Tamela Hancock Murray February 15, 2018 at 3:56 pm #

      A wedding! What wonderful news! Congratulations!

      And you know what? I could sometimes go for AN ENTIRE WEEK without taking a photo!

  15. Claire O'Sullivan March 13, 2018 at 11:19 pm #

    Hi Tamela,

    If you see that this is a month later than your blog… it’s because it landed in some random folder I *just now* checked through, because a critique partner in South Africa hasn’t received any emails/and me either– in gosh! twenty-four hours. That is a downside.

    I fuss with formatting the Word document. Heck, I used to use a … typewriter. I had a word processor later, plus printer. The printer was slow. One manuscript was a slow chug of a page at a time (not dot matrix ha ha), and at the angle, I’d turn, grab the page, bend to put it onto the chair, turn back, ad nauseum until I had my exercise in for the day. The cost of paper, boxes, and whatnot (not to mention the tedious wait), I printed one copy. One. Most of the publishing houses AAA, Acme to Zebra, wanted one submission. That meant, a lot of waiting.

    (I didn’t know what SASE meant for about an hour. Thought, ‘I’m doomed! I’m doomed!’ Silly, I know)

    So there are ups and downs to both. Sharing critiques across the globe is amazing, especially when my Christian manuscripts make it into the hands of atheists, agnostics, Muslims. I love being able to be a missionary from my chair. Pray for my FB and Twitter folks who pop up needed prayer – I may not know them, but I get to be a line back in the football arena of spiritual warfare.

    On the other hand, now I can print up a wiggly-looking manuscript and it appears normal on print.

    I learned a lesson from the floppy disk days. Always have your manuscript printed up and safely locked away from the eyes of the spouse who is cleaning everything out…

    I just don’t get that same work out….


    ps- sorry this is disjointed but I have to run off and find my South African friend!

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