Posted by Lorraine Bartlett

And so I've been cleaning out my office closet this past week. It wasn't pretty stuff. Not at all pretty. I managed to whittle down an 18-inch stack of paper to about six inches. (Yee-Ha!) I actually FILED all six inches of paper. (Who remembered that so many people have read all or part of the third installment of my Jeff Resnick mystery series? Mind you, the second installment won't even see print until June 2008.)

I chucked old candles; cassette tapes; labels suited to a dot-matrix printer (which I haven't even owned for at least six-seven years); empty boxes; old newsletters; wrinkled Christmas wrapping paper; and lots, lots more.

But there's still about nine inches of shelf space I'm still considering tossing: three very large three-ring binders full of rejections letters.

These rejection letters are from agents and editors on more than half a dozen projects. They go back as far as 1995 up until 2005. (They stop there because I haven't had any rejections since then...and I haven't submitted too much since then, either. The three projects I did pitch in 2006 were purchased by publishers--thank goodness.)

I didn't spend a lot of time looking at those rejections. They're just--there. "Not for me." "Doesn't fit our line." "Sorry, not what we're looking for." Etc. Etc. Etc. Tackling the mess in the closet was enough of a turnoff; did I really want to revisit the heartache every one of those letters (cards, scraps of badly photocopied form rejections) represented?

The answer is a resounding "NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!" (Yes, I meant to use all those exclamation points!)

They're not doing me any good. I mean, my bathroom looks just fine without rejection wallpaper. Most of the letters were received from agents who barely read my queries, let alone a sample of my writing. Somewhere in amongst those binders is a rejection from the woman who has now become my agent (with a much different project). I'm not sure I even want to reread that one. (But I'm very, very pleased she now represents my work!)

Before I was published it seemed important to archive each and every rejection. After all, I'd heard that "every rejection brings you one step closer to publication." I didn't realize that those first baby steps were the beginning of a million-mile march.

I'm trying to let go of stuff that no longer has meaning for me. I've been fairly successful if this closet clean-out is any indication. I'm pretty sure I'm ready to part with that painful part of my past. I feel a lot more confident as a writer/storyteller. I'm am not the writer I was when I received 99% of them.

Still...today is garbage day, and those binders full of yellowing rejections still occupy space on my closet shelf--storage space I could use for other more meaningful items.

Maybe next week....

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