Today’s post by Kim Wright | @Kim_Wright_W
Kim Wright is the author of LOVE IN MID AIR and THE UNEXPECTED WALTZ (a She Reads summer selection and now available in paperback). Her next book is THE CANTERBURY SISTERS, which will be released by Simon and Schuster in May.
I first realized I was a frustrated creative when I started hosting ridiculously over-themed birthday parties for my kids. Cowboys, astronauts, ballerinas, secret agents, dinosaurs – you name it, I baked a cake in the shape of it. The craziness peaked at my son’s fourth birthday pirate party, when I soaked five hundred pennies in vinegar to make them shiny and then tossed them in the sandbox so the kids could dig for “buried treasure.” We were still finding them when Jordan went off to college.
Needless to say, about 99.99% of my efforts were lost on the kids. Even more needless to say, it didn’t matter because I wasn’t really doing it for the kids. I was a frustrated creative. But our society considers art worthwhile only if 1) it’s for the sake of someone else, like children, church or a charity 2) you’re very good, darn near expert, at your chosen craft or 3) you make money at it.
Eventually I became a novelist whose friends were almost exclusively other writers, and I might’ve forgotten those dark years of being a frustrated creative if I hadn’t been asked to lead a workshop on “Finding Your Passion.” We took turns meeting in the participant’s homes, which were all huge and gorgeous, complete with pictures on the mantle of skiing in Moritz, diving in St. Croix and shopping in Paris. But these women also decorated, redecorated, went on collecting binges which were promptly followed by decluttering purges, and served snacks so elaborate they were like banquets. Their seemingly enviable lives couldn’t protect them from creative frustration.
Here’s the deal. No matter what their age or stage of life, women need to be creative for its own sake. To learn that creativity is more about the verb than the noun, more about the process than the product. In the beginning you might 1) feel selfish for taking the time 2) be very bad, darn near appalling, at your chosen craft and 3) spending money rather than making it. But creativity still matters. It still counts. Without it, even the fullest of lives still feel like something’s missing.
As my writing career daily seems less like a miracle and more like a job, I know I have to keep coming up with ways to knock myself out of my comfortable box. Each week I go on what Julia Cameron, author of The Artist Way, calls “Artist Dates.” Like going to fabric stores and buying any cloth that calls my name, even if I don’t know what to do with it, or trying a new restaurant every month, sometimes parting my hair on the “wrong” side and making up new lyrics to existing songs. If anybody asks me why I say “I’m on an artist date with my frustrated creative.”
Silly? Yep. But not nearly as silly as soaking five hundred pennies in vinegar and burying them in a sandbox.
* * *
“Kim Wright’s charming novel, The Unexpected Waltz, chronicles one woman’s second chance at happiness and an opportunity to find her authentic self. The writing is pitch perfect—this is a winner!” (Elin Hilderbrand, New York Times bestselling author of The Matchmaker)
From the author of the “sharply written and emotionally accessible” (Kirkus Reviews) debut Love in Mid Air comes this moving novel about a middle-aged woman who regains her balance in life. Kelly Wilder becomes recently widowed from a much older, wealthy man with whom she spent her married life doing charity work, building a lovely home, and, as she says, “pretending to be a whole lot more conservative and stupid and nicer than I really am.”
Now, with too much time and money on her hands, Kelly has absolutely no idea what happens next. So on a whim she signs up for a ballroom dancing class, and slowly, step by high-heeled step, begins to rebuild her life with the help of friends old and new: Nik, a young Russian dance teacher who sees the artistic potential she left behind; Carolina, a woman in hospice, anxious to experience a whole lifetime in a few months; and Elyse, Kelly’s girlhood best friend who knows all of her past secrets—including the truth about the man who long ago broke Kelly’s heart.
In the vein of Jennifer Weiner’s novels, The Unexpected Waltz is a deeply felt story about moving on after loss and finding a new walk—or dance—of life through the power of second chances.