Just say no, for the love of god, say no

We writers have a habit of bowing to authority, which seems a little strange given our jobs and how we avoid regular employment. But if we pitch an idea to a producer, we feel as if we are then waiting for word on high. We do that thing of wondering whether we can dare chase them, whether we can contact many producers at the same time or will we offend them by going to several.

The trouble is that we end up convincing producers and they treat us like that. They’ll get back to us or they won’t, they’ll deign to answer or they won’t. This is changing, this is dying out and I’ve been fortunate with the producers I’ve got but let us and them all remember that this is a job. We both hope that it will also be art, but it’s a job.

I just had a thing where a sudden change meant I needed to find a different producer and I did. But time was tight and I told him straight, if you don’t fancy it, just tell me and I’ll find someone else.

I’ve yet to hear back from him. And there’s little point now as the deadline is gone. What annoys me is that the idea was good and yet it might as well be forgotten forever: there’s a very specific time that this type of thing can be pitched and when that comes around again, even I will think my idea is stale.

We dread rejections but we cope with them. I think some producers dread rejecting us, but for the love og god, get over it and just tell us no. Everybody wants a yes, nobody wants a no, but we can’t do a damn thing without one or the other.

Ideas have their time

I’m working toward various BBC Radio proposals – you get to submit them via producers in what’s called the offers round at certain times of the year – and I’ve done this a lot. The proposals. A lot. I mean, a lot. Quite often an idea will go very far through the process before it becomes clear it isn’t going to fly.

That’s not for any bad reason, it would often enough be that the BBC released notes on what they specifically didn’t want this time around and an idea or two of mine might be exactly one of those. Even then, the usual reason BBC Radio doesn’t want a certain type of idea is that they’ve just done too many of them. But like anything else you do a lot of, you keep doing a lot of them because they work. So sooner or later, they’ll be asking for exactly that type again.


Usually when it’s been suggested that I bump an idea back to next time, whenever next time is, I’ve mentally regarded that as a rejection. I’m not being pessimistic or self-immolating about it, I think it’s factual. Because ideas go stale.

You have a finite time in which the idea is viable and exciting to you. After that, you’re at least struggling to get back the passion or you’re not even struggling, you’re just pretending.

Plus, I think that even the producer who says – and means – to bring it back next time will often not use it then for much the same reason. They’ve got their plate full of new ideas, one from last time will just seem stale.

There are exceptions. I’m involved in one right now. We’ll see how it goes but I’m into it with a passion.

But. Presume that this isn’t going to happen to you, so that you can the better enjoy it when it does. If you have an idea you want to write, write it while you still want to.

Or to put it another way, get on with it.