My husband and I study history, specifically the late Victorian era of the 1880s and ’90s. Our methods are quite different from those of academics. Everything in our daily life is connected to our period of study, from the technologies we use to the ways we interact with the world.
Earlier in the week, The Big Story that caught my eye was on The Awl about what freelance writers are paid, but then these pseudo-Victorians rolled into Vox and everything went out the window, mostly because 1) VICTORIANS! and 2) I write fiction and very short essays, not longreads based on hours of research and reporting, as almost every writer quoted in that piece. So it was like a quick glance into a place that didn’t hold much interest for me.
Anyway! The pseudo-Victorians are way more interesting because wow they fueled fascinating discussions on my timeline all day from all the historians and academics RISING FROM THE DEEP to provide their take on this complete nonsense.
I’m not a person to harp on about the importance of historical accuracy; we should think of historical accuracy as a thousand facets of the same stone. There’s no way to create one all-encompassing narrative of one life, let alone one narrative out of the lives of millions of people across decades, across a country and an empire. What I find more depressing are people who take their privileged arts-and-crafts 21st century “””organic””” approach to recreating life in the 19th century. The author of the piece takes the path of reconstructive nostalgia, where people of the past and their “simpler” technology are more virtuous than we parasitic Twitter addicts who don’t bake their own bread with homegrown sourdough cultures.
Like, I just washed and dried two loads of laundry in 80 minutes without leaving my apartment building!!! After a full day of work where I didn’t inhale poison chemicals or brutally die due to safety hazards!! I’ll keep glancing into the past through novels, primary sources, essays, whatever else I can get my hands on, but trading Wendy’s for debtors’ prison and the worst pies in London? Hard pass.
(I’d include colonialism, but I don’t think colonialism is the far-off fantasy we’d like it to be.)
Yo, speaking of history and the rich tapestry of space-time that we wrap ourselves in every day of our lives.
And on other days, I didn’t write a single word. Yes, it’s true. Why? Sometimes, it’s because I was busy being alive. Other times, it’s because the story I was working on simply wasn’t ready to be written yet.
Just one more weapon in my arsenal of patience for myself and my self-loathing. I had a writing project I meant to draft over Labor Day weekend, but instead I outlined it, submitted work to a lot of places, and spent three days seeing friends and enjoying hot dogs and central air conditioning. That’s okay.