The problem is, my mind is broken.

Published March 24, 1996 3:03PM (EST)

It is still Lent in my neighborhood, and one would hope
that a nice Christian girl like my tiny princess self would
wake up with a sense of awe and gratitude, but alas I am
still waking up with self-loathing and madness, because the
revisions of my new novel are due in less than a month.

The problem with the new novel, which is a sequel to
another novel I wrote called "Rosie," is that it does not
seem to have a plot yet, even though this is the third
revision, and all the characters talk like Janeane Garofalo,
which is why I am waking up every morning with the certain
belief that the sun is burning out and we are all being
ground down by slime.

I get that old familiar feeling that the well has
finally gone dry and I am finally going to get the phone
call that I've been waiting for all my life, the one that
says that the jig is up and I'm going to have to go work for
the phone company.

My mind is broken. That is how I would define my
problem. A few days ago I took my boy to school wearing
bedroom slippers -- I was wearing the slippers, not Sam --
and the teacher took me aside and said that I was the
special parent this year; every year they have one and I'm
it right now. So I said to Sam, "I know someone is picking
you up after school for a playdate but I can't remember
who," which caused both Sam and the teacher to roll their
eyes simultaneously.

And Sam said, "Oh God, Mom, it's Jacob -- write that
down; it's important to me," and normally I don't like being
patronized by someone weighing less than 50 pounds but I
decided to make an exception in this case.

I knew what I needed was a shot in the arm. All writers
need that, because all writers become exhausted and pathetic
and doglike and bitter, at least in my experience. So I sent
the novel to my agent, even though I hadn't finished the
revisions. And then I waited for the biopsy results.

A few mornings later, the light on my message machine
was blinking when I woke up, and it was my agent. Having an
agent, even one who lives three time zones later in the
heart of the publishing world, call that early is like
having Jesus call, or anyway Jesus' manager.

And the message says, "Ooooh, Annie, I just....all I
can say is WOW. This is the most amazing book I think I've
ever read. I'm so blown away. We've got to line up the film
rights immediately; we have to nail all that down..." and by
this time my mind is reeling and already I'm casting the
movie, wondering who should play me, Sharon Stone or Janeane
Garofalo, and then he says, "...and I'm on page 10."

I scramble to the manuscript and open it to page 11 and
realize that yes, that's where it all begins to fall apart,
and I know by this time my agent is working with the legal
department at Random House, figuring out how they can get
their advance back without him losing his commission.
Immediately I lose all faith in the book and in myself, and
I begin to look a little bit like John DuPont around the
eyes, and I start lighting candles to St. Dymphna, who is
the patron saint of nervous cases. But it doesn't take.

The miracle of it all is that I went back to work
anyway. I went downstairs and began once again chipping away
at all the marble that wasn't part of the statue, just
fixing and burnishing and trying to make it better, all the
while trying to remember that I wrote it down in the first
place because it was important to me.

I try to remember only a few things -- to live out
loud, as someone said, and to write even when I don't want
to and, most important of all, to put my shoes on when I go
to school.

By Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott is the New York Times bestselling author of "Help, Thanks, Wow"; "Small Victories"; "Stitches"; "Some Assembly Required"; "Grace (Eventually)"; "Plan B"; "Traveling Mercies"; "Bird by Bird"; "Operating Instructions" and "Hallelujah Anyway," out April 4. She is also the author of several novels, including "Imperfect Birds" and "Rosie." A past recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and an inductee to the California Hall of Fame, she lives in Northern California.

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