Like 9/11, 2001, January 6, 2021 will be one of those dates Americans will remember for the rest of our lives.
Where were you when the Twin Towers came down? How did you find out that the U.S. Congress was under attack?
These are the kind of historical markers that define generations.
Why am I talking about contemporary history?
Because your task as a writer is to write about your characters’ lives, whether in fiction or non-fiction, with as much detail, emotion and granular accuracy as you can recount your own recent lived experience.
I can just hear some of you thinking, “But I don’t remember what I had for breakfast this morning! How can I remember what happened when I was a child, much less imagine what might have been important to a woman in Poland in 1875?”
I have three responses for you.
1. Writers have to pay close attention to daily life, even to those little details like what you had for breakfast this morning. That’s why most serious writers are also dedicated journal-keepers.
2. If you are writing about characters in a time and place that’s unfamiliar to you, in memoir or in fiction, you may very well have to do some good old-fashioned research!
3. You can’t expect to get it all right on a first try. Did Leonardo da Vinci paint the Mona Lisa without doing some sketches first? Of course not! You have to be prepared to take the time to sketch your way into the lived experience of your characters, exploring different aspects of their time and place.
Friends, I am convinced that the best antidote to the heaviness of this particular time in history is to tap into the endless creativity that each one of us carries inside us like an unquenchable light.
At this difficult moment in history, it’s important to tend your inner fire, and shine your beacon strongly out into the world!