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,


  1. I remember hearing Sogyal Rinpoche speak once and he said something to this effect: nothing is complete, nothing is perfect, until the day we close our eyes and take our last breath.

    I think the trick is in coming to accept perfection in all of its imperfect forms. One could argue that your studio is complete and perfect just the way it is now, right this very minute--because this very minute is the only thing that is real. The studio, finished as you imagine it in your head is nothing more than a hallucination. Your studio, as it sits right now, is your studio--perfect in its incompleteness.

    Yeah, right, easy for me to say, huh?

  2. Ha ha Dave! Too bad I can't find any space in the studio to work- and there is saw dust on everything, too...

    But I'm going to hang on to my hallucination until I get the certificate of occupancy ;)


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