PJ McIlvaine: The Best Laid Plans…

Ms McIlvaine relaxing in her domain

by PJ McIlvaine

As I sit here, coughing, hacking, and sneezing, with my nose a continual fountain of snot and mucus, I had started off January with such high hopes. I always do…until reality bites me in the butt.

2018 ended with a bang. In late November, my husband had major surgery. It was quite unexpected, and the surgeon was candid in what could go wrong. Maybe too candid, which only added to our fear, worry, and confusion. Thankfully, husband sailed through it, and is now pretty much back to normal.

What is not back to normal is my writing routine.

I’m the type who has always blustered through. I’ve written though anything: hurricane, stomach flu, sinus, moving, kids puking, and various other travails. I always prided myself on my strength and stamina. I wrote 365 days of the year, come hell or high water.

But I have to be honest….November was pretty much a washout…and having my sinus/cold flare up just as I picked up hubby from the hospital meant another week or so of feeling lousy. Yes, I was writing, but it was a real slog. I was from from the “zone”, where I write on auto-pilot.

Then, December, well, that was pretty much a wash, what with the holidays and hubby still recovering, and kiddies being sick here and there. I don’t think there was one week where one of the older grand kids wasn’t home with something (or one of the grand babies was running snot like lava).

But January, which also happens to be my birth month. I always start out with high hopes and good intentions. This was going to be the year!

Until the grand babies came down with an awful cold/grippe…then my husband…and then me, and of course, I had it worst of all. No appetite, no sense of smell or taste, and no energy. In one week I went through six tissue boxes.

The last couple of January’s have been like that. Awful flu, stomach virus, sinus, cold, grippe…the germs find me and don’t let go. I don’t know if it’s because of the change of season or that as I get older I’m more susceptible to disease and infection, but man, I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.

And as sick and as miserable as I was, I still wrote. Sure, not as much as I’d like to ideally, but even when I wasn’t physically writing, mentally, I never stopped.

I got off queries.

I wrote down ideas.

I sent off requested material.

In my head, I continued to plot out the three novels I’m currently writing.

I gave notes.

And I still wrote, even if it didn’t seem I was making progress.

So yeah, even though there were days I felt like going to bed and pulling the blanket over my head, I still trudged on.

Which leads me to my next train of thought…

Rejection.

It sucks.

I mean, REALLY SUCKS.

It’s one thing to get generic, form, bland passes. I tell myself, just one more no until I get a yes. I don’t dwell on them.

But when you get a pass that is just so lovely, so complimentary, so very close to a yes but is still a no, no matter how many times you read it, you’re gutted like a filet of fish. No matter how long you’ve been doing this, it still hurts like hell, and no amount of cookies and cream ice cream is going to make you feel better.

I know many writers who obsess over passes…who try to read in-between the lines, the subtext, what did they really mean, or not mean.

In the end, it doesn’t matter.

A pass is a pass, no matter how nicely it was worded.

And as much as it hurts, you must remain professional. I repeat, YOU MUST REMAIN PROFESSIONAL.

You can’t write the agent back and say boo-hoo, they’re missing out on the next great fill in the blank.

You can’t threaten.

You can’t cajole.

You have to grin and bear it, and move on. I can’t stress that enough. Don’t be the nitwit who is castigated on social media for being a jerk.

It’s a business. Opinions differ.

Many writers who went on to become great writers were all rejected at one point.

JK Rowling.

Stephen King.

John Cleese. (Fawlty Towers was rejected. Fawlty Towers!)

What I’m trying to say is that rejection is normal. You can’t expect everyone to “like” what you do or to “get” it.

As I am fond of saying, it only takes one yes.

I don’t need ten.

Just one. (As I reach for another box of tissues with watery eyes).


Pj McIlvaine is a prolific writer/author/screenwriter/writer/journalist. She has been published in The New York Times, Newsday, and a host of other places. Her Showtime movie, My Horrible Year (with Mimi Rogers, Karen Allen and Eric Stoltz) was nominated for a Daytime Emmy. Find out more about Ms. McIlvaine HERE. This article first in her most magical blog.