Tasha Alexander, NY Times Best-Selling Author, tells us how writing became a natural expression of reading for her and how relevant this is during the pandemic we are all coping with.
I came to writing the way many of us do: as a reader. My earliest memory is of sitting next to my mother on a couch in our living room. She was reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods out loud to me when all of a sudden something magical happened. I was ahead of her on the page. Reading didn’t require an adult! I was stunned and delighted, and from that moment on, never without a book.
Writing is a natural extension of reading. Like reading, it can transport us to different times and places. But unlike reading, it allows you to ensure the story ends exactly the way you want it to. When I was nine, I started keeping a journal in a small hardcover notebook with lined paper. Soon I had a second notebook, this one for a slew of short stories I tried—and mainly failed—to write.
Writing: the Undisputed Force of Self-expression
Tasha's home library
I filled notebook after notebook, never daring to think anything I wrote would ever get published. But that didn’t matter. Writing, whether a journal, fiction, essays, or any other form, is a magnificent way to corral thoughts. We’re now living in the midst of a pandemic that has changed countless things about our world, including the sense of stability most of us had long taken for granted. There’s something soothing about turning to the pages of a journal in times like these. Partly, it’s the tactile experience: the comforting scent of a leather cover, the feel of silky pages, the smooth flow of ink, the actual feel of the words when you brush a finger over them. Dependably satisfying. Plus, given said pandemic, it’s lovely to have, tucked away at home, a friend of sorts who will let you pour out everything you’re thinking—good, bad, and ugly—without judgment. Being able to write down observations, fears, hopes, and frustrations are more important than ever given how much our social lives are disrupted at present.
The Benefits of Handwriting
Someday, of course, the world will get more back to normal, and then our journals will offer us a window back into these tough days. As a writer of historical fiction, I often rely on diaries and letters to explore the benefits of handwriting and gain insight into what people’s lives were like during turbulent—as well as ordinary—times. From frothy accounts of the Season in high-society Victorian London to the often grim records of pioneers on the Oregon Trail, diaries give us an unvarnished glimpse into the past. Today, much of our correspondence and records are kept electronically, and I wonder if that will leave historians of the future with a more limited view of what real people were thinking and feeling.
To me, paper matters. The first thing I do when I start work on a new book is to get a notebook whose pages can stand up to good ink without bleeding (I’ve been using Epica’s Modello collection for years). I love the feeling when I first open it, before I’ve done anything except think about the story I’m going to write. Soon it will be filled with character names, research notes, and plot ideas, but on that first day it is opportunity and possibility in tangible form.
Finding the Best Journal
A personalized journal feels the same way. Do you want to start a new volume each year? Whenever you reach a new stage in your life? Do you want lined paper? Or blank, so you can sketch as well as write? Do you want a line of matching spines on your shelf, or a riot of colors? What kind of ink will you use? What color? Red when you’re angry, blue when you’re calm? Different colors for each day of the week? There are endless options, all of which you can control.
A modicum of control. What a wonderful thing in uncertain times.
It has been our privilege to have Tasha Alexander as a customer of Epica for many years and we are so happy to bring her inspiring story to our readers. Her most recent novel takes place in Florence, the home of most our artisans in Italy! How cool is that, eh.
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