15K in May: writing in the Tang Dynasty

I compared the life of my 7th Century Tang scholar to my life in the 21st Century today. It led me to ponder on the effort of being a writer in that era, how hard to become proficient in calligraphy, how expensive the basic implements and how time-consuming the process. As modern writers, aren’t our lives incomparably easier?

Ruth Livingstone - writing

Work gets in the way of writing

This week, I had a couple of busy days due to work commitments. Friday was set aside as a writing day, but I am afraid it just went by in a blur. I didn’t do any serious writing. I did, however, do hours and hours of research for my next story assignment.

Writing about the Tang Dynasty

My latest Birkbeck writing task is another exercise in genre fiction. Our assignment is to construct a 1,000 word excerpt from a historical novel and post it up on our Birkbeck intranet site.

The first big decision I had to make was to choose a place and era to set my excerpt in. I felt horribly out of my depth. I did science subjects at school, not history. What if I got some historical details incorrect? Or the wrong geographical details? So, somewhat tongue in cheek, I decided to choose a place and time that should both be unfamiliar to my fellow students and – I hoped – would be equally unfamiliar to my tutors as well.

China. Tang Dynasty. The Imperial Palace. Circa 690.

My main resource was that fountain of all wisdom – Wikipedia. I spent most of yesterday researching the Tang Dynasty and I found it so incredibly fascinating, I could hardly bring myself to stop. I was particularly interested in the life of the one and only female Chinese Emperor – the ruthless, clever, controversial Wu Zetian

Four Treasures of the Study (from Wikipedia)

Writing in the Tang Dynasty

My main character is a scribe – a young man who has recently passed the Imperial Examination and has entered the Chinese Civil Service. So, I needed to understand how he would write. What implements would he use?

This led me to discover The Four Treasures of the Study: the brush, the paper, the ink stick and the inkstone. It also led me to ponder on the effort you had to invest in being a writer in those times, how hard you must have studied to become proficient in calligraphy, how expensive the basic implements must have been – brushes, inks, paper – and how time-consuming the whole process was.

I compared the life of my 7th Century Tang scholar to my life in the 21st Century today. As modern writers, aren’t our lives incomparably easier? 

So – no excuses! 15K words in May? Easy. Here I come.

15K in May – progress so far:

ideas for fundraisers

  1. Crime fiction (Birkbeck assignment) = 999 words, after editing.
  2. Ruthless Scribbling blog post = 664 words
  3. Ruth’s Coastal Walk blog posts = 4,377 words
  4. Historic fiction (Birkbeck assignment) = 515 words, before editing.

Total = 6,555 words

Writing progress thermometer

And do you like the handy progress thermometer? Thank you to Ileandra Young for this one on the Fundraiser Insight site.

Author: Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.

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