Mar 14 2011

Purple Protrusion

Melissa Crytzer Fry

What is that, you wonder? I wondered the same thing upon my discovery. I’ve seen my share of potato “eyeballs,” but never one sprouting purple furry, white-polka dotted protrusions. Usually they’re rather boring, a dingy parsnip white, or a Jolly Rancher apple green – or if you’re lucky, they may feature a halo of magenta-pink. (And to be fair, they’re called “eyes,” but by my young northwestern Pennsylvania standards, they became eye-balls when I was a kid. And, well, I refuse to grow up).

This wonder of wonders was found in, of all places, my kitchen. Click to enlarge.

I realize I may be revealing too much about myself by admitting that this thing was – is – sitting on my kitchen countertop. But give me a break. Living 45 miles from the closest produce means I just can’t get around to eating my veggies quickly enough or buying new ones before they start a second cycle of, um … rebirth.

Plus, can you blame me for keeping this wondrous specimen around? I find it fascinating and reminiscent of ant mandibles, or close-up spider parts. Or something like that. Aren’t zoomed-in insect parts always furry like this … and a bit creepy, but ultra-spellbinding?

Bird's eye view - photo No. 2. Click to enlarge.

What do you see when you look at these photos? A flower? Vibrant colors? Velvety fabric? Or just some crazy writer who spends way too much time analyzing her produce?

For Writers: My kitchen ‘revelation’ got me to thinking about resting (since my potato pal had plenty of rest time on my countertop) … about taking your time and letting things simmer. It also got me to thinking about my WIP (work in progress) and how long it took to germinate the ideas that are fast becoming a novel. Over a period of four months, I fused together various thoughts that had surfaced in bits and pieces over the course of a few years. Never once did there seem to be a common thread that tied any of those random thoughts and what ifs to one another. But in time, a path emerged, and many of those seemingly diverging thoughts did tie in. In my case, the simmer time offered great rewards (and new ideas for future novels continue to percolate in the back of my mind, simmering as I work on the current WIP).

As writers, I think we’re an impatient bunch. My husband will tell you that patience is not one of my strong suits, but as I continue to mature as a writer, I’ve come to learn the power of taking pause. When you rest, and let your WIP rest, ideas sprout up. Organically. It’s almost as if, when you’ve taken the pressure off of yourself, you’ve given the creative mind license to do just that … be creative.

I know many of us – freelancer writers, book-contracted novelists – are on deadline, making pause and reflection difficult. But even a few days away from a difficult scene, magazine article or short story can bring much-needed clarity. Sometimes a few hours will do the trick. Sometimes that distance, that rest, that natural growing period, results in things you might never have imagined …. And sometimes – as in my case – those things might just be sitting right on your kitchen countertop.

What are your experiences with stepping back and watching things grow at their own leisure? Not only with your writing, but in life as well?

P.S. Did you miss my amateur photo contest that ended March 15? Take a peek at ALL of the fantastic entries!

22 Responses to “Purple Protrusion”

  • Julia Says:

    That is amazing! Beautiful! And I love your cooking/writing analogy, something I think about a lot too. Like you, I am a pretty impatient person; I like to think that writing and cooking both help me slow down and appreciate the journey. Thanks for another thoughtful post!


  • Erika Marks Says:

    Melissa, such a fun post for a sluggish Monday morning! I am intrigued now and suspect my two little ones (and my scientist hubby) will gladly support a potato experiment–who knew such beauty sprouted from a potato?

    I too am an impatient person–and it does seem so many of us writers are, which I think in itself is such a curious contradiction, since the process of writing can take so long and requires such patience–between the actual learning of our craft to waiting to hear back from agents/editors/etc.

    I think it helps greatly to be engaged in the natural world–planting and nurturing a garden has definitely helped me be (more) patient–even bird watching and learning to see the beauty in every day moments and creatures.


    Melissa Reply:

    Do let me know how the potato experiments go! It is a contradiction, isn’t it, that writers are an impatient lot, when we so NEED to exercise the skill of patience. So thrilled to hear that you, too, find the natural world-writing connection.


  • Amanda Hoving Says:

    I’ve had great success with stepping away from projects, and coming back to find that (some) things have worked themselves out. This is not always the case, of course, but being patient with our writing and life…a lot of good can happen within those pauses.

    Interesting post (and great pics)!


  • Hallie Sawyer Says:

    At first, it looked like a budding flower! Aren’t I the optimist? C’mon Spring!

    I understand the stepping back and resting a bit. I have done that with my WIP, maybe a little too long, but it does give one perspective. I roll the scenes around in my head a little more and I began to see a new path. A new direction the plot might go that could work better. Or I realize that I must have been drunk when I wrote that one scene. Or deprived of coffee.:)

    Great post! Who knew a potato could inspire?!



    Melissa Reply:

    Yes… who knew a potato would be of such interest? I held back a few others, which are not as showy … mainly the Jolly Rancher Apple-Green I mentioned in the post. Thanks for your support and comments!


  • Sophia Richardson Says:

    I totally saw a flower until I read your words. I let the idea for my WIP percolate for a few months and then in the weeks before I began writing (only last week), the ideas came together and I made an outline on and off. I hope this is more successful than my pantsed novel last year, I definitely dove in too quickly there. I’m with you in the impatient zone.
    – Sophia.


  • V.V. Denman Says:

    Now I can see where Alan Menken and Howard Ashman got their inspiration for Little Shop of Horrors. Too cool!

    I like your term “percolating.” That perfectly describes what I have to do with my writing. Though sometimes it doesn’t work out well, especially if it’s “forced percolation.” It just has to happen on its own. 🙂


  • Jolina Petersheim Says:

    “The power of taking pause.” What a wonderful phrase, Melissa. There’ve been a lot of things (stressful things) going on in my extended family, and I have wanted to pack up a knapsack and sail down the Mississippi, leaving it all behind. I think, though, the power of taking pause doesn’t mean we have to stop life from taking place, we just have to know what place we take in life, and continue to forge it. Easier said than done while writing and with family, but in the end — if we find patience — we will have something beautiful to show for it, just like that flowery spud.

    Thanks for this reminder!


    Melissa Reply:

    You have put it in such beautiful terms: “If we find patience — we will have something beautiful to show for it.” I love it. Thank you for the perspective, Jolina.


  • Leah Says:

    Wow, that is so cool. I’ve never seen such a thing on a potato so I don’t blame you one bit for keeping it and photographing it. Makes you wonder what will appear from something we think has gone bad.


  • Shari Lopatin Says:

    Ahhh! Those purple protrusions kinda freaked me out a bit. LOL! I guess I’m the realist, but they do make for some fascinating photos.

    I love, love, love the parallel you draw to writing and allowing ideas to develop at their own speed, in their own time. Being that you and I started as journalists, I have no doubt that patience is one of your weak points. It’s probably my weakest link, altogether. However, even doing something as simple as writing a blog post two weeks in advance–then re-visiting it a few days later, and a few days after that–allows my creativity and my mind to tweak and perfect to such an extreme, that I do not “wish I’d done that” after publication.

    As creatives, we need to learn to let our deadlines go, to flow like water and change as the ground changes. Otherwise, as creatives, we will not reach our full potential. Profound post!



  • Sharon Bially Says:

    Oh, what a WONDERFUL post! And those purple profusions! Do you really live 45 minutes from the nearest grocery store? Can I book your house for my next vacation?

    But seriously, I totally agree with the need to step back and take pause. Just like people, story ideas need time to mature. I’m always dismayed when I hear a writer is “on deadline” to get a new book out for his/her publisher. And just between you, me and this blog, I’m often so sorely disappointed by the ones that were rushed out — and can feel how rushed they are, how much less deep and complete than they could be.

    One of the writers I admire most is Aruhndati Roy, Booker Prize winner of her debut novel The God of Small Things. She won that award more than ten years ago, and hasn’t published another since. When people ask her about this, she says, “I’ll write another book when I have another book to write.”


    Melissa Reply:

    Yes, I do live that far from a decent grocery store. So… c’mon out for your next needed getaway! It really IS relaxing here.

    You make a very good point about novels that are churned out, rather than given the time to marinate. I am definitely going to have to read Roy’s award-winning novel. Thanks for the suggestion (and I love her response). And thank you for the continued support, Sharon.


  • Linda Anselmi Says:

    Wow. I’ve had potatoes sprout eyes before. But never like these. It does give new meaning to the phrase “what beautiful eyes you have.”

    I agree, giving ideas time to bud gets better results.


  • Rachna Chhabria Says:

    Its beautiful, Melissa.

    Completely agree with you, that when we let our thoughts and ideas simmer, all kind of creative thoughts harvest on it. My editor use to say “let it marinate in its own juices. You will be surprised at the ideas that emerge.”


  • Rebecca Rasmussen Says:

    Oh yes, I see spring too. I would have kept it as well — it’s marvelous, just like you 🙂


  • Tracy Mangold Says:

    Lovely! Reminds me of these waxy flowers that bloomed from one of my grandma’s plants. So beautiful. So happy.


  • Melissa Says:

    Thank you, everyone, for your thoughtful responses – and letting me know that I am not alone in the impatient zone. Absolutely love your comment, Leah: “Makes you wonder what will appear from something we think has gone bad.” How often do we consider the glass half empty rather than half full? Or write “bad” people out of our lives?

    And, Shari … yes, the journalistic, fast-paced training & background doesn’t help in the patience department.


  • Suzie Ivy Says:

    Okay, this is the time for me to say something profound and eloquent to match your beautiful words, writing, and photos. Sorry I just can’t do it. All I can think about are the growths that have appeared in my kitchen and refrigerator over the years. I could never take a picture. The health department would come in a shut me down.


  • Downith Says:

    Isn’t it amazing how beautiful nature can be.. even when it’s bad?


    Melissa Reply:

    Yes. Absolutely! So, so true.


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