My Mailing List: a Memoir
For as long as I’ve been doing art “professionally” I’ve had a mailing list. As a musician it was your Bible at shows. If you didn’t have a mailing list binder or notebook open to a hopeful blank page with an accompanying pen at every gig, you were not only silly, but dumb. In my musician days people would give you a snail mail address and MAYBE an e-mail address and it’s amazing to me now to remember how every month I made a postcard, took it to Kinko’s, bought postcard stamps, and mailed stuff out. Even if it was just one gig that month, I did it. I did it with the not-all-that-improbable hope that someone would receive my card stock postcard with the flaking toner and come to one of my shows.
Of course, times have changed. With social media e-mail is the new snail mail and snail mail is now a RELIC (or as I like to think of it, A SPECIALTY). I still have a mailing list of both snail and e. I also have a blog subscription, a twitter feed, a tumblr, and a flickr account to get my NEWS and WORK out into the
ether world. My current mailing list is 10-15 years old and a frankenstein monster of all the artistic lives I’ve lived so far and is so warped with time and practice that I worry I’m pissing people off every time I send out an e-mailer. It comprises of people who have signed up over the years, people who have bought my wares and work, requested work, family, friends, fellow artists, and so on. A couple of years ago through an unfortunate and (too boring to recount) accident my mailing list sucked up ALL my contacts and I realized too late that a mailer had gone to every one I’d ever received an e-mail from. My osteopath wrote to express his gratitude for keeping him abreast of my work and promptly signed me up for HIS mailing list. I got a number of bounce back returns from some of the most random e-mail addresses, but my hair almost TURNED WHITE when I saw OUT OF OFFICE responses from old bosses, colleagues, and an ex-boyfriend. I tried to manually delete as many of these addresses as I could, but I still occasionally get the angry PLEASE DELETE ME FROM THIS LIST e-mail–and it’s all I can do not to write them again and AGAIN and apologize profusely for committing the ultimate SPAM crime: spamming without permission.
Fortunately, I don’t send e-mails to my mailing list that often anymore–maybe at most twice a year. I use it as a way to express What’s New and Important. I don’t think of them as Spam and try not to write them as such, but who am I kidding? It’s hard to sound personal to many e-mail addressees, no matter how personal it is to YOU. The truth is it does help get the word out, and remind people (that want to know and don’t check other means regularly) that I exist and am still at large. Admittedly, most of these want-to-know folks are relatives and old friends. My uncle Mark, who I adore, but don’t see often, will respond with an update about his family. One of my oldest and dearest friends who rarely has time to call, has been known to call me after receiving such e-mails. These are welcome reliefs among the UNSUBSCRIBE, which happens at every mailing. Those affect me more than I like to admit. The rejection is delivered as direct and personally as people get these days. When e-mail arrived, the letter got killed, but so did the phone call. Now thanks to texting and social media, the phone call is extinct, and e-mail is the new phone call. The UNSUBSCRIBE is calling and telling me: STOP CALLING ME.
I sent an e-mail to my mailing list this week that was full to the brim with information: teaching, talking, and publications. Things are good for me right now, but it felt terrible telling people about it. I’m just too self conscious about e-mailing people about my stuff. Thanks to the trauma of the e-mail contact debacle mentioned above, each mailing is an act of holding my breath and pushing send, hoping against hope that I won’t piss someone off and/or embarrass the hell out of myself.
So I’ve made the decision that the e-mail list must go.
I’ve decided to do one last e-mailing as I have 2 comic collections coming out at the end of the month and I really want as many people as possible to know about them, but I plan to add that this will be the last e-mail of this nature they will receive from me. If they want to “keep up” they can subscribe to the blog, twitter, etc. They can also send me their snail mail address. Yep, I’m going back to the postcard. In these instant times, I find that the handmade and tangible is special and the most welcome. Plus, it gives ME the feeling of being directly connected with those out there in the world who might care. The worst I will receive back is RETURN TO SENDER. You know what? I can handle that.