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Writing Alchemy

catnav-alchemy-activePost #81 – Memoir and Fiction, Writing Alchemy – Matilda Butler

Tell It Like It Is. Or Is It?

Memoir is truth. We often argue that memoir is more than factual truth. It is emotional truth.

Does this sound familiar? I know I’ve certainly taught this concept in all of my classes.

But where does that leave us when family members remember the facts of events differently than you do. Who is right? What is the truth? I’m not talking about what an event meant to you. I’m not talking about the difference between your emotional truth and your sibling’s emotional truth. I’m not even talking about facts influenced by emotional states. I’m talking about the actual facts of the situation.

Below are three videos I’d like you to view. Each one is short so this won’t take you long. The first video is a test of your selective attention. Think of this as what you focused on during your 16th birthday and what your sibling focused on. You and your sibling remember it differently. Of course, it was the same party.

You’ll be given instructions at the beginning of the video. Be sure to follow them.

Video #1: SELECTIVE ATTENTION

The second video builds on what you learned in the first one. The instructions are the same. Be sure to follow them exactly.

Video #2: MONKEY BUSINESS

The third video explains what the experiment was about and how the results help us understand more.

Video #3: RESEARCHER’S EXPLANATION OF WHY LOOKING ISN’T THE SAME AS SEEING

If you use our book Writing Alchemy: How to Write Fast and Deep, you’re aware that we include findings from the social sciences to help you dig more deeply into your stories and write in a more effective way.

The research shown in the videos above, while not in our book, is an example of insights we can gain through science to better understand our life stories.

What Insights Did You Learn that Will Help With Your Writing?

Make a list of ways that your writing can improve with your new insights about facts. Do you understand how selective focus can cause you to mis-remember a scene? Do you see that your focus or time in life may mean that you completely missed important facts? What else?

All of this helps open us to our vulnerabilities as we write. I clearly remember several situations I’ve written about that I absolutely knew were correct. Later, I found evidence that I was wrong. Not just a little wrong, but completely wrong. It’s wise to be humble when we write.



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