I Made A Pie Instead

The Poet’s Occasional Alternative


I was going to write a poem

I made a pie instead      it took

about the same amount of time

of course the pie was a final

draft      a poem would have had some

distance to go      days and weeks and

much crumpled paper


the pie already had a talking

tumbling audience among small

trucks and a fire engine on

the kitchen floor


everybody will like this pie

it will have apples and cranberries

dried apricots in it      many friends

will say      why in the world did you

make only one


this does not happen with poems


because of unreportable

sadnesses I decided to

settle this morning for a re-

sponsive eatership      I do not

want to wait a week      a year      a

generation for the right

consumer to come along.

 ~ By Grace Paley from Begin Again. Copyright Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2000. 


The writing process can be so hard. I question my writing All. The. Time.

Is this sentence any good? Why does this read so poorly? Should I cut out this section? Does this flow well? Is this interesting to read? Does my writing tell a story? What is my point here? Will I ever achieve satisfaction with any writing?

And so it goes.

Sometimes I’m happy with my words. Sometimes it takes me longer to write one sentence than it does to read an entire book. (Sadly, I do speak from experience. Stress-reading is real. Or perhaps, more accurately, procrastination is to blame here.) Sometimes I have sentences that I can’t wait to write down. They flow out of my mind like water from a stream. Those times are very rare. Most often it is a slow drip from a faucet that occasionally runs dry.

I’ve always loved what Samuel Coleridge said about prose versus poetry:

“Prose, – words in their best order; poetry, – the best words in their best order.”

But that puts an immense pressure on the writer, on the poet. The best words? In whose definition? What tips the balance in favor of this word over another? How does one tell the difference?

There are many things I’d like to fix about my writing:

  1. Clarity
  2. Brevity
  3. Simplicity
  4. Creativity
  5. Variety

I read the work of other writers and feel self-doubt creep in like a cloud. I’ll never write as well as they do. I’ll never be able to write something that beautiful, perceptive, or clever.

Self-doubt is a dangerous black-hole. It sucks you in and renders you immobile. It strips your confidence. It drains your creativity. It causes the mind to wrap itself up in circles, thoroughly suffocating the process of creating anything.

Self-doubt says: This has been said before, and said better than you could ever write it.

Self-doubt goes: You aren’t going anywhere. You won’t achieve anything.

Self-doubt asks: Why are you even trying?

My mind faces self-doubt every-day. I believe that everyone faces self-doubt.  It is an unavoidable and essential part of human existence. But there are other essentials to human existence: learning to create and embrace self-worth, and encouraging others to do the same.


This, too, is a difficult process. But it is necessary and significant in abolishing self-doubt.

So instead of letting self-doubt rule the day, I asked myself these questions instead:

What do you like about your writing and why do you like it? What do you feel proud of? What makes you feel accomplished?

I hope that you ponder these questions this week whenever you feel yourself teetering at the edge of self-doubt. Creating anything requires a leap of faith, a curious questioning of the world we live in, and the tenacity to continuously strive for something almost unattainable.

Dr. Paul Kalanithi, in his beautiful book When Breath Becomes Air, stated that “Perfection is an asymptote we continuously strive for.”

We won’t reach it. And that’s okay. It is in the process that we learn the most.

And sometimes, you just need to make a pie.

image (10).jpg

My Favourite Pie Recipes of the Season

Joanne Chang’s Very Pumpkiny Pie

Joanne Chang’s Apple Pie

Food 52’s Sweet Potato Pie

Yossy Arefi’s Peach and Blueberry Pie 

And this beautiful pie with a crumble



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