Living historically

Lucy helping me research last year
One of my favorite ways to “get into” a historical story I'm writing is to live, in as much as is possible or practical, like my character would have. I like to wear a skirt or a dress “inspired” by the fabric or style of something my characters might have worn. I like to eat what they would have eaten—occasionally I try to prepare it as they might have. Eating food from your own garden always tastes best—wearing a scarf that you knit is always more satisfying than wearing a store-bought one. I like to sit in a cold house on an autumn day and cuddle up with my family around the fireplace. I prefer sweeping to vacuuming, partially because it connects me with women of every past generation and thus seems less like drudgery keeping me from writing.
Sometimes I find myself wishing that I could actually live in a past time period...then I remember that without the technology that gave me glasses, I'd be debilitated. Without twenty-first century advances in medicine, I would be crippled—or have died—from a simple curvature of my spine. Without tylenol, the fever that my toddler had yesterday would have been cause for serious alarm.
I'm always glad to be reminded of these things, to remember to accept the time I am in with all its goods and all its failings, because I am here for a reason.
But there is still something about going to a country fair and watching everyone between the ages of ten and twenty-five walking around with their heads bent down over their texting apparatus that makes me long to show them how much fun contra dancing is. Or playing in an old-time band. Or singing around a fire. Or reading a book aloud. I realized, while I watched these teenagers so obsessed with their cell phones that they didn't even look up at the excitement around them, that this is one of the reasons writing is important to me. Because I hope, with all the advances that modern technology has brought us, that we won't forget how to be human and just have fun with each other. And maybe a story I write will inspire someone to want to live, just a little bit, like one of my characters lived, and to remember.


  1. This post makes me feel nostalgic! for those past days when life was a little simpler, and that's even just in my generation! Technology has grown by leaps and bounds since I was a kid. It's really amazing, but it's unfortunate too in some ways. I feel sad when I see people, not just kids but plenty of adults too, so enamored with their cell phones. They miss out on a lot. It's ironic how disconnected being connected makes us.

  2. That is so awesome that you go to such lengths. love a dedicated writer! Thanks for stopping by my blog :)

  3. Wow, great post! Very inspiring.

    Nice blog you have.

    You've got a new follower.

  4. Great post ... I feel like you could be my little sister from the sentiments you share. I too, prefer sweeping, wearing home-made clothes, and cooking. But I love the benefits of modern science as well. I might not be here either given the numerous parasitic diseases I've had growing up as a child.

    In one of the psalms David speaks about being here at the perfect time to do the will of God. I wish I could remember it exactly because it is so poetic and beautiful.

  5. You make me want to write historical fiction! Wonderful post!

  6. I would love to do this. What a fun way to get inside your character's head! :D

  7. I wish kids weren't so obsessed with the technology. They are missing out on the important stuff.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and for your support during the time with my sister. I really appreciate it .

  8. This reminds me of Williamsburg, VA and This is the Place Monument in Salt Lake City, UT - both places where people are paid to act like they live during that time period for the benefit of the tourists. I love places like that. :)

  9. All through my teenage years I believed I'd been born in the wrong century! :) But now that I'm an adult, I'm very thankful for my modern conveniences! (But not cell phones and texting. I stay away from that stuff right now because my computer is enough of a distraction without adding more!) And yes, modern medicine is amazing. I know if I lived back then, I wouldn't have known any different, but still. Life was much harder. Have you ever watched any of those BBC shows where modern families agree to live like people from a certain time period? I can't remember when these shows aired--it was at least five years ago. They had them from all different time periods-- Victorian, Edwardian, Puritan.... It was fascinating! I'd love to watch those again after reading your post! The participants were so sure they'd have no problem living in those time periods, but after a couple weeks they were miserable. Details like no shampoo absolutely crippled them! LOL!


  10. I am so impressed that you do your best to live as your character or characters did. How fun and interesting. And you make such great points here. We've lost a lot as we have modernized, although we've gained a bit, too, with medicines and such. This is a great reminder to take the best from the past and incorporate them into the now.


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