I’ll just say it. Selma and I aren’t going to be answering email this year.

Yeah, I’m putting in a header just to have a little space around that.

It’s an experiment. A let’s see what 2009 will be like without email experiment.

Actually, I’m thinking of it as a sabbatical.

<Homer Simpson voice&#62 Mmmmmm. Sabbatical.

And since I know that this announcement is going to freak people out, which will then — oh the irony — produce crazy amounts of email questions …

I’ve taken the liberty of writing a FAIQ (frequently asked imaginary questions). A fake FAQ, if you will.

No one’s asked them yet — that’s pretty much what makes them imaginary. But I’m answering them, just in case.

I’m definitely feeling nervous and anxious about posting this, because I’m needing some reassurance that things are going to be okay between us. I know some of you will feel hurt and disappointed … and you’ll also be needing reassurance from me that I’m still going to be here for you.

That’s what the questions are for. For you. And also for me to talk this through and find my own peace inside of it.

Gah! Nooo! But I have questions I want to ask you! What am I supposed to do?

I definitely get that this feels uncomfortable.

Here’s what I’m thinking. It used to be that you’d have to hire me at about a thousand dollars a month because that was pretty much the only way I worked with people.

Luckily now there’s At The Kitchen Table With Havi & Selma which is a much, much less expensive way to hang out with me and still have a place where I’ll answer anything and everything.

And if that’s not the place for you yet, we can hang out here on the blog. And on Twitter.

So my email to you will just be ignored?

No, of course not, sweetie! Not at all. Marissa (my wonderful personal assistant) will be responding to things.

If you don’t know Marissa yet, let me just say that she’s much, much nicer than I am and she gives great email. So you’re actually better off with her anyway.

Trust me. You will love Marissa. She is my favorite everything ever.

And the only thing I will add to that is that she’s not, you know, Dear Abby or anything.

So my thinking is that it’s not really fair to burden her with things like “How can I lose ten pounds this month?” or “What should I name my website?” or “Here is the entire history of my life. What do you think?”

So you’ll probably want to keep it to more administrative stuff.

Wait just a minute! Have you been having Marissa answer me all along and pretending that it’s you?

Uh, that would be dishonest and icky. So no.

If an email has my name at the bottom, it’s me. If it’s signed by Marissa, it’s her.

But what if it’s an Ask Havi question?

Honey, I’m sorry.

I have over sixty partially-answered Ask Havi questions in my Ask Havi folder.

Over sixty. That means if I post one a week for a year, there will still be some left over.

I’m feeling a little overloaded here and I’m really needing some breathing room.

If you’re at the Kitchen Table and you have a question that’s too personal to bring up in the forum environment (sneaky plural avoidance), then yes, send it to me.*

*Write in the subject header something like “super personal just for Havi” so Marissa knows not to read it. And I’ll answer it (anonymously) here on the blog.

Other than that, I’m not taking any more Ask Havi questions this year. I just can’t. I’m truly sorry.

Are you going to Tim Ferris spam me?

Good heavens no! No no nooooo!

I don’t hate Tim in quite the way that Penelope Trunk hates him (that’s some quality hating, by the way), but I do agree emphatically with every single word of her Point #3.


A pox on the house of Ferris for propagating the online disaster that is the automated “Sorry, this looks like an answer but it’s really just an announcement that I only check email at 4pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays and days when I wear red socks” email message.

When Marissa writes back to you, she may end up referring to this very post that you’re reading right now — so that you don’t think I’m only not writing to you when in fact I’m actually not writing to anyone.

But I promise that you will never ever get a robot-sent “Thanks for contacting us. We’re sorry we have to clog your inbox with an irrelevant automatic message about how we’re more efficient and streamlined than you are” message.

Because argh. Also, I get that I’m not a heart surgeon or anything. I know that people can mostly wait a couple days for an answer. And anyway, most of you know about my 100% guilt-free email policy already.

What if I need to write something personal?

Add to the subject header that it’s super personal and Marissa will know to file it in the “Just for Havi” section and let me know that I need to read it.

This is stupid. Just because you got a bunch of criticism last week is no reason to stop answering email.

This has actually been in the works for a while.

When I was sitting with my “here’s what I’m needing to happen in 2009” thoughts (my version of New Year’s resolutions), getting away from email was something that came up loud and clear.

The insane volume of stuff coming in, combined with the fact that some of it isn’t very nice, has just made it easier for me to step away.

The time I spend there takes me away from my true business of helping my Right People. Yes, sometimes I am helping one Right Person via email, but that’s not my path.*

*Translation for those of you who speak business and not yoga: it just doesn’t scale.

However, I will also add that lately I’ve caught myself self-editing when I write posts in order to cut down on future email. Which kind of sucks and I really don’t want to end up there.

For example, I was recently writing a somewhat goofy, light-hearted post and I wrote “There are only two types of people in the world.”

And then, instead of taking it somewhere amusing, I was already completely regretting having written it — maybe half a second later — because I could already picture the fifteen emails I’d get.

You know, saying things like “Well, actually there’s only one type of person in the world” or “How can you be so shallow and narrow minded?” or “Actually, there are never just two types of people in the world.”

So I didn’t write it.

I know, right? To hell with that.

But I really just want to hang out with you. And I can’t afford to join the Kitchen Table yet.

Twitter. I’m there a lot. And here. I’m here like, six days a week or something.

Aren’t you sad? Won’t you miss us?

Yes. Very much.

I have met some of the most amazing people ever through the beautiful and surprising things that come into my inbox.

In fact, I have even become friends with some of the very cool people who have written me anonymous Ask Havi questions or just wrote effusively to express joy and love about what I do here.

So I’m definitely aware of what I might be missing out on and yes, that sucks for both of us. I’m sorry. This is a thing I need to do to take care of myself so that I can keep showing up here.

But what about Douglas who just turned eighty and writes those fabulous letters to your duck? Is there no exception at all to this madness?

I will still write to Douglas. Though probably by snail mail.

But I have more questions.

I’m sure you do. I’m sure we’ll be talking about this lots.

And I hope sincerely that you know how I adore you and how much love I have in my heart for you. I’m still here.

This added chunk of time that I’ll have is time that I get to devote to (excuse me, about to be cheesy) my mission in the world. To work on being able to help my Right People on a larger scale.

Some of it I’ll spend at the Kitchen Table, yes. But a lot of it I’ll be spending figuring out how I can be a part of bringing good stuff into your life, seeing as how you’re one of the many neat people who hang out here with me.

This sabbatical is intended to bring only good things to both of us. That’s what I’m hoping for.

I’m still feeling a bit apprehensive about posting this, but better. Definitely better. So … internet hugs all around. And thank you. You know why.

The Fluent Self