Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Take a good look at this pie. This is what procrastination looks like. My friend Susan Messer and I planned to bake our annual pie in honor of the muse back in July. Wasting no time, Susan produced her usual superb pie and an equally superb blog post about the process. I promised to do the same, and of course, I meant it! I even planned to do it right this time--just like Susan does--with organic locally grown blueberries and a buttery home made crust. This particular promise/delusion and its inevitable failure has been repeated so many times that it's become part of the tradition.

It was mid-August before I found myself staring guiltily at the chemically laced blueberries at Stop and Shop, and I didn't actually bake the pie until a week later, when around 1 a.m., I looked at the slightly shriveled berries and realized it was now or never. Now, sigh, it's September--okay, late September, and I'm completing the process. (A photograph of the pie posted on Facebook, however, did bring Diana Guerrero and her amazing writing group, and Karen DeGroot Carter on board.)

the judges at work
(The judges decided it was still good.)

So yes, I admit it. My name is Patry and I am a procrastinator. Big time. In my defense, let me say two things:

1. I was born this way.

2. I'm beginning to think it works for me. See, while I'm putting off what I should do, I'm sometimes dreaming, percolating, or just allowing the muse to do her mysterious subconscious work.

Or maybe that's just an excuse. I don't know. These days most writers tend to name their muse Hard Work. The airy fairy in her gossamer gown who provides inspiration when she will has been kicked to the curb and replaced by the goddess of self-discipline by most productive writers. I admire them more than I can say. But as hard as I try, I'm not one of them.

Sure, I can put on my work boots, pack my lunch and write every day. Same place. Same time. I can set page quotas, word quotas and time quotas, and yeah, I can produce. But if the airy fairy hasn't spoken, if the story isn't ready to tell itself through me, or whatever the process is, then one morning, I wake up and realize, I've run a hundred mile marathon--in the wrong direction. Sometimes that's good. It gives you something to work with, as the conventional wisdom goes. But other times, it's just a long way back, there's a whole lot of mud on my shoes, and I'm exhausted.

Meanwhile, as I've put off making pies and writing about them and countless other things, a group of characters have been whispering to me, and then speaking loudly and finally shouting: This way! This way! Sometimes I think they are the muse, these mysterious "people" who appear from nowhere and demand to be heard, demand to be felt. Other times, it seems that time itself is the muse, and that the procrastination and endless daydreaming I've been fighting all my life just might serve a productive purpose.

So yes, I believe that hard work may be the muse's best friend, but at least for me, it's not the thing itself. For that reason, I will continue to bake my imperfect, belated pies, and sing the praises of capricious fairies everywhere.


Patry Francis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jessie said...

I feel the same way with painting. It is sometimes terrifying, to be honest. Right now I am sitting here with a stomach ache because I've spent the past 2 weeks trying to accomplish office work, ect...instead of doing what I should be doing (Painting!). Not that the other stuff doesn't need to be done, too...but.

Damn...the creative life requires an awful lot of TRUST!!! :)-

Loved this post, Patry. I get it. I understand. And, yes, procrastination IS important...even if most days (for me) it feels more like anxiety. :)-

robin andrea said...

That pie does look yummy! Whenever a delicious pie comes out of the oven, it's at just the right time.

Patry Francis said...

Jessie: Glad to hear that a painter relates! And yes, it's all about trust, trust, trust. We have to do our part, but
I honestly believe there are times when you can't push it.

Robin: You say it all. As always.

Roberta said...

You make procrastination look delicious!

Patry Francis said...

Roberta: Ha! Nothing more delicious than daydreaming ...Pie and chocolate is optional.

marja-leena said...

Oh, procrastination is my second name! I can find many other things to do 'first" or do nothing at all before I realize another day has gone by and I didn't get to my art. But you make it look so delicious, thanks Patry, great to see you here!

Patry Francis said...

Marja-leena! Great to see you here. Writing novels is fun and my characters are great company, but I've missed my blog friends.

Anonymous said...

It's good to have you back , with your unique way of looking at the ordinary aspects of life and thus changing my perspective. You are a treasure who has been gone from this place for too long. I've missed you! Thanks for your delightfully different way of seeing the world.

Ancient Reader

Patry Francis said...

Thank, you, dear Ancient Reader. I've missed your voice, too. It's the sense of connection that always draws me back here.

colleen said...

"I can write without the muse but it's like using a hose on my garden when it really needs a downpour of rain." me

I'm glad you finally made your pie! I made two this year with my own blueberries! I'm not trying to make you feel bad. I'm like you but I think we need a new word for procrastinate.

I love when writing is ripe and falls in our hands of the vine. If we pick it too soon, we have to let it wait around till it's ready anyways.

I wanted to be a pie contest judge at the county fair just so I could eat pie but I didn't know who to ask.

Susan Messer said...

Oh, Patry. So excited to see this post and this pie. Part of the problem seems to be that the word "procrastinate" has somehow taken on negative baggage. Maybe we need to re-think the word.

Also, for me, the ideas of trust and faith are involved here somewhere--trusting that the things I want to happen will happen, but on their own schedules perhaps. So then we come to patience. And the idea that we all go about things in our own ways.

And on the subject of muses, I like your open-ended exploration of what they might actually be . . . something far more mysterious that we've been taught. Also, on the subject of muses, just got back from New Orleans this afternoon, where we stayed at a B&B run by a woman who is on the Crew of Muses--one of the Mardi Gras crews, and when we arrived, she was sitting in her living room, gluing sparkles onto stilettos that the Muses then throw from the floats during Mardi Gras. Also, while there, I finally learned about some of those impenetrable and impossible-to-pronounce street names (Terpsichore and Melpomene, for example). My godson told me. "Oh," he said casually, "those are the names of the muses."

Patry Francis said...

Colleen: I love your response. Reminds me of one of your wonderful Thursday 13s. You just need nine more!

Susan: Yes, we are who we are. Something about this six year tradition has proved that beyond a reasonable doubt. Each year, you do it your way, "the right way," and each year I vow to follow. Then don't. While writing this post, it occurred to me that I could no more change my pie making process than I could change my eye color. Well, maybe it's not quite THAT fixed, but it's close. Interesting, isn't it?

As for the muses, just today, I was talking to my agent (who I believe knows all things) and I asked her where the characters we were both weeping over came from. Of course, she couldn't answer. In many ways, it's a subect as mysterious as the muse itself. As mysterious as those wonderful, unpronounceable street names in New Orleans.

*On another note, I love the direction your blog is taking. Can't wait to return for a more in depth read.

*And oh yes, thank you for keeping our tradition alive. Without you, the blueberries would have withered long ago. x

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Patry,
A friend once told me that procrastination is often the most useful form of thought. Glad to see you back. Kia kaha!

Sustenance Scout said...

Thanks for the link love, Patry! Reading this post and gazing at that photo of someone who was pictured on this blog as a bambino just a short while ago (I swear it was just yesterday) is pretty much as fun and yummy as eating a slice of pie. Cheers from Denver, kiddo, K.

Laura J. Wellner (author pseudonym Laura J. W. Ryan) said...

Your pies always look so yummy every year you post 'em!

Procrastination is such a strange creature of habit, and I think worrying over it is more dangerous than ignoring it, no one can force creativity, it comes and goes, ebbs and flows... goodness knows I've slowed down some lately, and I'm not about to get my knickers in a twist fussing about it, I'm going with the flow of the whims, writing, painting, drawing, photography... or sitting on my butt not doing a dang thing (or reading someone else's cool book, like Susan's!) I've accomplished so much these last few years, I deserve some leisure and quiet time! We all do.

I hope the muse treats you well!

(My Fred sez "Hi" and we both hope you and yours are well!)

Patry Francis said...

Ruahines: There's definitely something to be said for slowing down and thinking before you act, or just slowing down and thinking.

K: Thanks for visiting. My little pie judge does look pretty big in that photo, but he's just two and very much still our baby.

Laura: I've always been amazed by everything you do and do WELL. Glad to hear that you and Fred are hanging out and enjoying life, but I suspect neither of you will stay away from your art for too long.

rdl said...

Yes pie!! yes fairies!! i still like to think of you (us) as the best little time wasters in the world. nothin like bart's chocolate cake or blueberry pie. mmmm.

Patry Francis said...

R: Ah, Bart's chocolate cake. I made one of those for Jake's b-day. (It was as fabulous as ever.) Of course, I was thinking of you. x

i beati said...

gosh that looks appetizing and antioxidantly pleasing

Annie said...

I agree, If I go to paint or work with porcelain and my heart is not in it, it is usually wasted time. Dreaming is a big part of art and we must have time to do it! xoxo

Patry Francis said...

Sandy: Love those antioxidants especially when served with whipped cream!

Annie: Whatever the medium, the process is a lot the same: Ruminate. Process. Create. There are no shortcuts.

Sky said...

glad to see those those blueberry pies are still happening. miss seeing your posts here even though i am not around much reading and haven't written in months. winter will bring me back. hoping that we will soon reap the benefits of all your writing days...looking forward to another good read from patry!

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

I am SO like that. I really have to push myself ;)
Whatever works though....This is what I meant about the time thing.......So many paintings, so little time.