How We Spend Our Days: Kim Wright

Annie Dillard wrote, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” On the first of each month, Catching Days hosts a guest writer in the series, “How We Spend Our Days.” Today, please welcome writer Kim Wright:

Saturday morning. Like a lot of writers, I’m pretty ritualistic. I write in the morning, and one of my quirks is that I like to do the first draft stuff in public places. There’s something about the kind of white-noise buzz of other people coming and going that soothes me and helps me get in the right head space to write. My favorite place is Café Carolina, especially on weekends when they have these airy, yeasty Belgian waffles. 

After putting in a couple of hours at the computer my dog Otis and I go for a walk at a park near my house. I guess my mind continues to ramble while we do because a lot of times any snarls I’ve hit earlier in the morning seem to untangle themselves while we follow our familiar path around the lake. Otis is a rescue dog who was given that name when the local humane group literally found him sitting on a dock, a la Otis Redding, who sang that classic song “Sittin’ On the Dock of the Bay.” He’s an old soul, nearly Yoda-like in his calm, and I can’t imagine what I ever did without him.

A couple more hours at the desk and then this next part I’m almost ashamed to admit. Every single day of my life – excluding Sundays – I go to my ballroom studio to dance. I took up ballroom dancing two years ago and to call it an obsession is just too anemic of a word. My instructor, Max, is from Siberia and we compete in waltz, tango, foxtrot, and quickstep – you know, all the old dances from the MGM musicals. I’ve always loved those old black and white movies and ballroom is as close as I’m likely to get to recapturing the glamour and romance of that era. Not to mention that it’s pretty hard for a woman of my generation and my temperament to learn how to follow the man’s lead. Note the drop-dead-serious tango face! 

Afternoons is also when I take care of the business side of writing – interviews, publicity, working with editors, etc. I like doing the creative stuff in the morning and the more nitpicky things in the afternoon.

There’s a shelf in my home office where I keep the foreign editions of Love in Mid Air. I worked on my novel for eight years and one of the fantasies I privately nursed during all that time was the idea of foreign editions. My parents had an import business, and I traveled to Europe on buying trips with them when I was a teenager. I used to go into the bookstores and wander around looking at all the titles, wondering who the writers were, imagining what it would be like to have your work read in Rotterdam and Pisa and Istanbul. So now I display my foreign editions and they – horrible pun alert – mean the world to me.

On this particular Saturday after writing, dancing, and walking, I went with some friends to see the premiere of a movie called Redneck Roots. It was funny and light and a guy in my writing group was one of the producers. We watched the film and then there was an after party with barbecue, biscuits, and bluegrass. A rainstorm came up and we all fled inside to finish eating. I think my friends and I look like a slightly tipsy Mount Rushmore.

Everyone kids me because I’m such a nerd. By 8 pm on a Saturday night I’m back home in my jammies writing this with a House rerun in the background and Otis snoozing at my feet. 

AND THOSE SAME 3 QUESTIONS…

1. What is the best book you’ve read in the last few months and how did you choose it?

  • When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson. I love what she does with voice, and the opening twelve pages of this book are just stunning. I was looking for a literary mystery and the owner of a small indie bookstore recommended Atkinson.

2.Would you give us one little piece of writing advice?

  • Read everything you write out loud. It’s very hard to catch mistakes in your own writing, whether it’s something minor like a tendency to repeat certain words or major problems like plot holes you could drive a truck through. Reading aloud slows you down and helps you come to the work fresh. It also is a good test of whether or not your writing has a conversational, natural quality. If a sentence is awkward to read out loud, it often means you’ve lost the rhythms of human speech and that sentence would be equally awkward to read silently.

3. What is your strangest reading or writing habit?

  • I don’t really know how unusual this is, but I write my books completely out of sequence. In Love in Mid Air, the first scene I wrote ultimately became the next-to-last chapter in the book, and in the mystery I’m working on now I’m starting with the revelation of the murder. It drives the people in my writing group crazy!

By Kim Wright:

Love in Mid Air

16 thoughts on “How We Spend Our Days: Kim Wright

  1. Fantastic blog, painting a picture of not only a writer, but a well-rounded woman with many friends and interests. I envy her work ethic!

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    • The author makes it sound easy, but the ability to bring characters to life as she does is FAR from easy. I really found myself caring about the people in her novel , Love in Mid Air, and wondering what happened after the book ended ! Interesting blog, as well.

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  2. I agree with Wright’s statement that there’s “something about the kind of white-noise buzz of other people coming and going that soothes me and helps me get in the right head space to write.” I yearned for quiet when my children were young. Now that they are grown, I often find myself in a quiet space and miss the background noise.

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  3. Thanks for checking in, everyone, and for the kind comments. Darrelyn, I always seek out a little bit of background distraction when I’m working. If it’s too quiet I get antsy. It’s almost like how you buy a nice, expensive, pristine leather notebook as a journal and then are afraid to write in it! Casualness and a spirit of “Let’s just try this and see if it works” helps me create.

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  4. It is inspirational to read about someone living out the writing fantasies of my youth. She is doing it! And in style. Ballroom heels and all. Her routines are paying off. Great article, great lady…

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  5. what a wonderful life you have Kim !! you are just about as interesting as your “MOM” and i loved reading your blog !!

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  6. Thanks, everyone. Speaking of dance I was in a showcase with my teacher Max tonight. We did a Lois Lane-Superman themed quickstep built around the song “Kryptonite.” Marvelous fun – and my daughter Leigh knocked it out of the park. She dances with Max too and their number was “Defying Gravity” from Wicked.

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  7. Pingback: Love in Mid Air

  8. Nice to have another glimpse into the writing life, including dancing and writing out of sequence! I usually write in sequence but often skip around as I revise. I agree that reading out loud a WIP is very helpful, especially for dialogue.

    Beautiful ocean photos below – the sea calls to me too.

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  9. Thanks, guys. I have a lot of interest in other writers and their process. Does anyone else have any certain writing rituals they use to get them “in the mood”? Do most of you work off an outline or loose plan or are their others who write out of sequence?

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