A while ago I visited the exhibition ‘Making your mark’ at the British Library (on until the 27th of August, go see it if you can!), which is all about the incredible invention of writing. The exhibition is beautiful and traces the history of writing from the evolution of writing systems, through materials, uses, to modern ways of writing. I’d never thought of writing as an invention before, just something that is as human as talking or breathing – a bit of a silly idea in hindsight.
There are some beautiful manuscripts and items in this exhibition, but strangely the one piece that I haven’t been able to forget was a permit allowing a woman to sell sex for one day only in a specific town (in ancient Rome I think). I’m not a historian so I can’t put this piece in its proper context, but it left me with a lot of questions. Why just one day, why this time, did she choose this herself, was she forced, what was she like, was this common? Infinite possibilities, especially if you have an overactive imagination. But that’s the magic of objects like this, for a brief moment you feel connected to real people who lived real lives centuries ago, rather than unknown blobs in an abstract past.
Museums are a great way to find writing inspiration for that very reason, because I quite often forget that reality tends to trump fiction. Of course, I should be editing my current project instead of looking for inspiration for new pieces, but hey, who’s perfect? x