Fear and Loathing in my Brain

I shouldn't feel this way. All doom and gloom and can't and won't. But I do. This photo recently taken in New York's meatpacking district reflects my angst. It also shows that my black Levi's are way too short for my 5'6" frame leg length. (I actually think they were stuck on my boots. The pants should have been tucked into the boots.) Fashion faux pas aside, what pray tell is causing me all this trepidation?

Come on, guess?

No. It's not the fact that I haven't posted in a couple of weeks. Sorry about that, I apologize.

No. It's not the impending Thanksgiving holiday and the incoming brother, and the outgoing finances from impending holiday spending and a studio/garage construction project over budget.

No. It's not even the rejection I just received on a picture book project from the publisher I've worked with for over sixteen years - and the fact that the editor I've worked with all those years has not personally contacted me in ten months. I'm over that.

Okay, I'll tell you.

But first here is another photo to show you how I feel.

Mummified. Or perhaps petrified. (I think you would feel petrified if you slept on a bed made of stone.)

What is causing all this is the fact that I just finished a draft of my first novel. It's sitting there in hard copy form, all 282 pages of it so that I can give it a read through and find all the typos, grammatical errors, missing transitions, and what have you. I had to print it because I can't edit on screen. Can't find typos to save my life or my vision. I've been working on this story in parts over the past year or more, but threads of it go back longer.

At first, when I finished it, I was elated. I thought I was so clever and creative. But now, only hours after I hit the save button for the last time, not so much. That stupid radio station that Anne Lamott talks about in her book, "Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life"- "KFKD" has been playing in my head. It's been telling me, "you suck. This sucks. NO one is going to like it, care about it, want to read it, want to publish it, etc... don't quit your day job." But my day job is writing and illustrating.

True, I made myself cry a few times while I was writing it, but maybe I was pre-menstrual or something. Maybe the outlandish narrator I dreamed up is completely far fetched. I won't say who he is, but I will say he exists in the imaginations of anyone who has ever read Mother Goose. Was I nuts to think that would work?

Yeah, I know I need to give it a rest. Both the complaining and the draft. I need to be objective enough to read it through before I go apply for a job as holiday help at Fred Meyer. And I know I'm not the only writer who has ever gone through this. We are all our own worst enemies sometimes. The only remedy seems to be a couple of glasses of wine, or a publishing contract.

I know, I know. Shut up. I should be thrilled that I did this. It's no easy task to write a novel. I marvel every time I read one I truly love. How much blood, sweat, and psychiatrist bills did it take that human miracle of a being to put that together? How many nights did they wake up and realize that they had a better direction for their character? How many times did their story change right in front of their eyes and fingertips as they were typing it? How many people get to weave bits and pieces of their lives, their thoughts and their concepts into something others may someday connect to?

The truth is, I really don't know if what I wrote is good, is worthy... but I have to believe in it. I have to take it to the next step. I never realized that writing was such an act of bravery, but it is. It really is.

To all of you who hang your literary laundry out to dry - I stand with you in solidarity. And now I'm going to take my underwear off the flag pole and go work on some picture books.

By the way, if you have any good ideas on how to deal with this mental gymnastics stuff, post a comment. It will save me on my shrink bills.
With love,


  1. I remember your feeling not-so-different from this when you first penned what became "The Night I Followed the Dog." Ask yourself if your peers judged it well then - did they? Did not their critiques drive you to "shoe box" that wonderful story? I urged you not to listen to them then and urge you to not listen to your own demons now. Even without reading your text, I can guess that it is well done. You should know by now that what is well done doesn't always sell and what often sells is not well done. No matter what fate this text I say, "Remember 1517 McClendon," and take heart my troubled friend!

  2. What you do is awesome, chin up and face the music. It will be good and will be published. There, how's that for positive thinking!!! Richard

  3. Dear Kim- you are so right, my friend. I had forgotten all about that. Long live 1517 McLendon!

    Dear Richard- I love your thinking. Can we switch brains?

  4. It's so refreshing to know one is not alone on the journey. Others are in solidarity with you too, Nina. For what it's worth, I am rooting for you.

  5. Dear Nina,
    It is so amazing to see a crack in your reserve. Amazing. because you are forever the strong and persistent one. No time to give up the courage now, my love! Even though by all accounts these first novel jitters are quite normal. WE BELIEVE IN YOU. Full steam ahead. Damn the torpedos. By God, go get 'em baby! With much love... and Faith IN YOU, Yvonne

  6. Dear Kjersten and Yvonne-
    I love you my strong women friends! And yes, there are cracks in my reserve. I'm just good at hiding them with layers of good humor. It's how I survive.

  7. It's refreshing to hear you write this, Nina. You have built an amazing writing career that's the envy of many current and aspiring authors. It's good to hear that you have moments of insecurity too.

    I believe that with every book, the work doesn't get easier, it gets harder. Just know that these blue meanie times do pass. They come back and they pass. It's normal. Irritating, but normal.

    You are so right. Every act of writing takes courage. You have great courage and are an inspiration to so many of us. Keep going! Write on, my friend!


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