As I packed for the move to Seattle this fall, I made decent progress on all but one front: a, mountain of personal papers. Imagine 3000-5000 pages--everything from old love letters to leases, poems, resumes, professional correspondence, contracts, published articles, ancient bills...Okay, now imagine all of that thrown into a barrel with 600 rejection letters dating back 20 years--picture all of this shaken wildly, then removed in handfuls and tossed pell-mell into boxes.
I faced something like that. And I suppose I could blame it on a half-dozen cross-country moves...or on a miserable divorce. But I think the truer answer may lie in the staggering number of rejections received over the course of two decades (after I'd published four novels preceded by twenty more years of rejection). I believe I numbed myself in ways I never knew. As I started to sift through the wreckage, I found unopened envelopes--which I'd rightly guessed to hold tiny form rejections. They'd have broken my back on the rack at that time. But I also found a crucial, unopened note from a dear friend that might have changed my life if only I'd known I'd received it. It had gotten trapped, apparently, between a few unopened No's. And I only learned she'd moved to Portland weeks before I left.
My eyes grew misty as I tore through No after No after No. Why didn't I throw the whole lot of them out? Who needed further reminding of so many years of neglect and abuse? Did I need to remember the poor broken fool who dreaded the sight of his mailbox?
But on the project's second night, my heart began to rally. I wanted these papers in order and, by God, I needed to keep them. The greater risk lay in forgetting the System I'd chosen to fight, writing the novels I felt born to write as well as I could write them. Whatever my problems, whatever the cost, I held fast to my love of my art.
I've gone on to publish six ebooks, with a seventh on the way. So let me give the many No's their burial inside a box--and get on with the Yes of Seattle.