Showing Off My “Happy Stamps”

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Ok, I’ll admit it. I’m not a fan of horror films. Yes, I find them scary, and not in a good way. Years ago, a friend told me she’d watched The Silence of the Lambs by herself at home with no lights on, and later confessed that was not such a great idea. Me? I’ll take my chianti on a sunset patio somewhere in Italy surrounded by other people, and yes, you can keep your fava beans.

As a writer, I’ve found that rejection letters are also a kind of horror. The way they sinuously make their way into your inbox, with their “Thank you for giving us the opportunity to review your work” or “We regret to inform you that” can send chills down your spine. And yes, I mean the kind of chills that makes you want to cook up that plate of revenge and throw it in the freezer so that it cools down superfast, ready to serve.

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So what’s horror got to do with rejection letters? Simple: Stephen King. And yes, you may be asking what a horror-phobe such as myself knows about Stephen King. The answer is plenty. I’ve read The Shining. And let me tell you, those topiaries? Creepy! But it’s true, when it comes to movies, Stand By Me is about all the Stephen King I can handle.

Of course, it’s Stephen King’s memoir, On Writing, that is really instructive for writers. You may have heard the story about how he stuck a nail in his wall to hold all the rejection letters he received when he first began writing and submitting his work. Eventually, the nail was so full, he had to replace it with a spike. (And personally, Mr. King? I’d like a pitchfork attached to my wall for that purpose!)

But what’s really interesting to me about King’s story is that right before he stuck the first letter onto that nail, he “wrote ‘Happy Stamps’ on the rejection slip”. What? ‘Happy Stamps’? On a rejection letter? Yup, ‘Happy Stamps’. And I love that. It makes me think of myself as the owner of a writer’s passport. Or like a philatelist, a stamp collector, gathering all those unique and interesting stamps from faraway places into some kind of album, some kind of showcase.

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And what do people do with their passports or their albums? Show them to other people! See? This is where I submitted to, and they didn’t like my work. Oh, and see this one? They actually took the time to say they would like me to submit again.

The amazing thing about a passport or stamp album, though, is that it shows where you’ve been, or tells a story about how you collected that stamp. In other words, it says something about your career as a writer. It shows you are writing. And as a writer, to be writing is probably the most important part.

So I’ve made peace with rejection letters because it shows I’m still writing, and that’s pretty cool. As for my relationship with horror movies? Now that’s a different story!

3 thoughts on “Showing Off My “Happy Stamps”

  1. I love this way of thinking about it, although I think if I received those letters in the physical mail I would be a lot more interested in collecting them. And I enjoy a lot of Stephen King’s work and have long loved this particular anecdote!

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