The Unbearable Impatience of Incompleteness

Do you ever find yourself in a place where you feel like nothing will ever get done?

Do you ever wonder why you start so many things and abandon them hoping that the next thing will actually work its way to total success?

Do you ever wish that some genie would wave her magic wand and finish everything for you?

I have those thoughts. Usually at 2am, up and wondering if my studio will ever be done and if I will ever work in it. Wondering if I will ever sell another book, and why do I have so many ideas, so many partial texts/sketches/dummies. Wishing someone would just finish them. Make them look perfect. Make them sell bazillions of copies. Win awards. Take me on a whirlwind tour of warm sunny places where people love to come to author/illustrator events and buy multiple copies for all of their relatives and relatives still not born yet.


I can actually hear my college professor Roger DeMuth laughing at me right now. He loved to tell me, (in a painfully slow, steady cadence) "Nina.  Patience.  Is.  A.  Virtue." 

And I would reply," noit'snotIcan'twaittogetstartedrightnowIwanttobepublishedandseemyworkinstoresandlibrariesandschoolsallovertheworldandwinawardsandtraveltoexoticplacesandbuildthestudioofmydreamsandhaveahappyfamilyandahappylifeandlivehappilyeverafter."

Okay, maybe I didn't say all that in college, but I did think it. And truth be told, if you put the spaces in between the words, all of those things did happen, although not perfectly and definitely not quickly.

It's true that all good things take time. It's also true that all good things require patience. I've been a student of patience all of my life.

I now find myself at a strange crossroads of impatience, though. On the physical level, I have a studio that just keeps taking longer and longer to get done. It seems that every month there is another month to go before we can get that all important certificate of occupancy. Of course it's going to be gorgeous, amazing, and beyond my dreams. But do you remember that song, "No One is To Blame" by Howard Jones? One of the lines is: "You can build a mansion but you just can't live in it." Right now it feels like I'm never going to get there.

On the mental/emotional level I've been so ready to get out of the hole that I've been in creatively. I went through some very rough years dealing with intense family issues of health, and then issues of family members and addiction. It put all of my work on a huge metaphoric back burner. But now I'm ready to get going. I have a YA novel that came out of all of that torment. It's called "Jacked." I'll write about it soon. For now, though, I have to do a final revision so it can make its' way out to editors.

I also have a stack of picture book that I want to work on. I had to pick ONE to start with, and I picked this one:

It's not my typical humorous picture book. It's different. It also required doing a full dummy, which I just finished. I also have to present two sketches and one painting in order to sell it. That is what I wish the genie would do while I was sleeping... well, I won't be sleeping. I'll be revising my YA novel. You see I have a split personality: I'm an author. I'm an illustrator. What that does is this: when I'm illustrating I want to be writing. When I'm writing I want to be illustrating. Not always, though. 

Sometimes I just want things to be done. And there is a lot to do. I want to make things happen fast, but then I realize that is just unrealistic. My totem animal is the turtle for many reasons. One of them is that slowly and steadily I do eventually get there. The sweater that is still undone ten years plus after I started it will someday be worn. (even it it's sleeveless) The sketches and painting will be done. (hopefully by the deadline) I will then have the time for the revisions on the novel. And then...

Somehow I have to figure out when I can go pack up my dad and his things and move him in with us.

It's never over. It's never done.
We just have to learn to love being incompletely complete.
How do you deal with the unbearable impatience of incompleteness?
I am your student. 
Enlighten me, please.

With Love,


Poetry in Motion: flying home from Atlanta

I just returned home from visiting schools in Roswell, Georgia. I spoke in Cogburn Woods, Roswell North and Mountain Park elementary schools. The students, teachers and parents that I met were terrific. Here is a special shout-out to Media Specialists Martha Powell and Jody Brooks, who made my days run so smoothly. I wish I had photos to show you, but this was a working trip and there was very little time for fun. I stayed with an old friend, artist Rae Broyles, and drew pictures with her kids, Britta* (third grade) and Kristof (second grade) one day after school. Kristof made the drawing above for me.

*Britta just asked me to add this.

I used to live in Atlanta from 1984 until January of 1998, so it was wild to drive around and see what had changed (more big buildings, much more traffic) and what was still the same. (my old house is still the same paint job I did- and my sassafras porch swing is still there.) I ate at an old favorite restaurant, Canoe- my friends Rae and Matt pointed out the waterline inside the restaurant where the Chattahoochee River flooded, turning the dining room into a lagoon. If you go, eat this: Slow Roasted Carolina Rabbit with Swiss Chard – Bacon Ravioli, Sweet Potato Hash and Candied Garlic Sauce  It was amazing.

The time in Atlanta was over too quickly. Rae handed me off to my friend Yvonne in the Target parking lot, and Yvonne and I grabbed a late lunch before she took me to Hartsfield airport. We ate blue plate specials in Star Provisions near the Waterworks. Full of meatloaf, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes and collard greens I headed through airport security and into the "transportation zone" which really translates into "The Twilight Zone."

What is it about flying that turns people into zombies? It is really fascinating to me how some of the worst character traits seem to magnify themselves in airplanes.

I won't go into detail about my flight home here. But what I will do is post the poem that I wrote on the plane. I think it is self-explanatory.

 (©Nina Laden 2011)

Flying through the air
Turbulence in the chair
Coming from a child
Kicking my seat.
My ears, they are plugged
By earphones tightly snugged
Playing the blues
To mask the shrieks.
The parents don’t seem to care
That there is anyone there
Who paid to take this flight.
Torture for five hours
I wish I had magic powers
To make the time quickly pass.
Yet in my bubble I fret
And try to forget
That others are flying first class.
So I’m stuck in this tube
No empty seats to move
With a pressurized cabin
Too many people gabbing
A seatmate who is quite obese.
They charge you for bags
You come home with jet lag
Is it too much to ask for peace?
Sure I could have driven
No kids would be kicking
But it would take a week.
Now someone’s passing gas
This, too, shall pass
Like the turbulence at
Thirty thousand feet.
There’s something about this altitude
That puts me in a very bad mood
Landing and baggage claim
Is the only relief.

Okay, what do you think? And what do you do to cope with flying?
With Love,


A New Year's Card for You

Sometimes I feel like I am always behind. Yet most of the time I'm just trying to do too many things at once. I am also cursed by the "you have to make everything yourself" mantra. That was a bigger curse before computers because it involved a lot of cutting, pasting, printing- sometimes by hand, stamping... and then wondering if it was even worth the effort.

At least now I can use my scanner and a couple of Adobe products and then voila: instant creativity that I can display in cyberspace. This, by the way, is not replacing all of the cards I just printed, and still have to fold and write on, then stick in envelopes and mail. I still believe in old-fashioned mail. Every day I hope that there is something in my mailbox besides catalogs, bills and magazines that I have no time to read anymore.

There are those of you who will receive those cards. There may be folks I forgot. You may get the card in more than one way, which is also a by-product of us being too social these days. I'm using Facebook and my blog to wish everyone a happy new year. I guess the only thing I'm not doing is Twittering. I don't Twitter. I won't Twitter. Actually my New Year's resolutions- which I did not write down, are to get back to basics. Basics being: drawing, painting and writing. Yes, technology will creep in there no doubt. But... I'm going to focus on the solid stuff. I hope you have a solid year. Thank you for stopping by. Please visit often, and say "hey" when you can.