for writers and readers….


MMEMORY, according to the philosopher Suzanne Langer, should not be thought of as a noun – a storehouse or recording machine – but as a verb,  an activity that makes patterns out of consciousness. And those patterns aren’t always reliable.

So, what do you when you want to write about your own experiences and you can’t be sure that what you remember is true?
Even if events occurred just as you remember them they are likely to be incomplete. Other people who experienced the same thing would have different stories to tell…

You can keep faith with your readers by using phrases like:

Perhaps I thought at the time…
Perhaps my father felt…
It could be…
There may have been…
It is possible that…
I imagine that…
I can picture…

And there’s nothing wrong with starting a sentence with the words: I don’t remember…
Your reader will trust you because you make a clear distinction between what you know to be true and what is conjecture.

The label of Charley Straight's recording of F...

The label of Charley Straight’s recording of Forgetful Blues for Paramount, made in 1923. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


6 comments on “M is for MEMORY AND MEMOIR: HOW TO FORGET

  1. simonedavy
    April 15, 2013

    Or you can do as Penelope Lively does in Making It Up, writing stories about what life would have been like if you’d made different choices, taken different paths…..

    • bridget whelan
      April 16, 2013

      What an interesting idea, what a very interesting idea….I feel a creative writing exercise coming on, students watch out!

  2. creativityorcrazy
    April 15, 2013

    I like this and especially the part it’s ok to say, “I don’t remember”. I’d much rather be honest with readers or have an author be honest with me, than making something up. Real life is not typically remembered verbatim I think, as we have better things to do like living life.

    • bridget whelan
      April 16, 2013

      I am intrigued by the concept of authenticity in biography and autobiography. I know my truth will be different to other people’s but does it matter if I consciously depart from what happened? Like you, I think it does but I know not everyone agrees and I am aware that two major memoir writing competitions go out of their way to to tell authors that there is nothing wrong with making it up…

  3. chicaderock
    April 15, 2013

    Milan Kundera wrote a stunning little novel about this, called Ignorance.:-)

  4. bridget whelan
    April 16, 2013

    Thank you. Will read it and the Penelope Lively book Simone mentioned – love getting recommendations

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This entry was posted on April 15, 2013 by in A-Z Challenge 2013 and tagged , .


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