THE WOODSHOP with Naomi Kimbell. "I keep all four drafts of my novel piled on top of each other and measure it with a ruler each week to prove to myself I’m making progress." 


The Woodshop slips into the workspaces and habits of writers of all stripes and styles. Joan Didion spent the night in the same room as her work when it was almost finished. Don DeLillo kept a picture of Borges close by. Stephen King advises us to “put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn't in the middle of the room. Life isn't a support system for art. It's the other way around.”

When, where, and how, do you work?

This glimpse into the writer’s life comes courtesy of writer and videopoet Naomi Kimbell

Where do you work?

I write at an oak desk I inherited from my father. It’s an old, administrative monster from the Anaconda Company, surplused when they closed the smelter and purchased and given to him by my maternal grandmother. She never liked my father, but she liked to make a show of her generosity. It’s about as big as a small car.


What do you keep on your desk?

I keep my favorite novels on my desk sandwiched between vintage, puppy-shaped bookends. I keep books on writing filled with rules against semicolons, adverbs, and 50-cent words. There’s a pottery cup my mother made filled with slag from the slag pile in Anaconda—the novel I’m writing has a lot of slag in it—and a handful of pens and pencils in a ceramic hippo. There’s a picture of my dead dog with bows in her hair. A shallow basket that holds marbles, polished stones, and an unopened fortune cookie. A vase of dried tansy. Stacks of poetry. A red NOAA weather radio that doubles as a flashlight. And lists. I keep lists on notecards of things I’m supposed to remember to write. I also keep all four drafts of my novel piled on top of each other and measure it with a ruler each week to prove to myself I’m making progress. 

What’s your view like?

I have a small window with a view of a grapevine that covers our fence. It’s pretty, but the grapes are too sour to eat straight off the vine. Above it, there’s a sliver of sky, and next to it, there’s a red rose putting on an autumn bloom.


What do you eat/drink while you work?

I drink coffee while I work. I drink as much coffee as possible.

Do you have any superstitions about your work?

I have to write every day at 5:00 AM, although on Saturdays and Sundays I sometimes sleep a little later. It isn’t so much a superstition, but a habit that was really hard to develop. It comes from necessity. I have to write before I go to work or I won’t write at all. If I skip a day, I’m afraid I’ll do it again and get used to it and stop writing. Maybe that’s superstitious. If I don’t get up and write, my day is wrong. The world is wrong, more wrong than usual. 

Share a recent line/sentence written in this space.

Rebecca has trained herself to wake before dawn so she can hike to the lake-with-no-bottom just as the sun comes up and wait for the migrating birds.

About Naomi Kimbell:

Naomi Kimbell is a writer and videopoet from Missoula, MT. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of Montana, and her work has appeared in The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Crazyhorse, The Iowa Review, and other journals and anthologies. She reviews independent literature for the Atticus Review and teaches online creative writing workshops for WOW! Women on Writing. She is currently working on a novel.

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