|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.