Writing Reshapes Memory

It’s a well-known fact that writing about your memories often reshapes them. The root memory acquires an overlay of the writing experience. This overlay quickly melts into the mix, creating a new blended memory without clear boundaries between the original event, and the new construction.

I had a cogent reminder of this phenomenon this morning as I searched through some archive folders for an old document. I found a story of an exotic evening my husband and I spent with friends in Los Angeles more than a dozen years ago. Several years had passed before I began the account (which still isn’t finished — that happens too). Today I have a fuzzy memory of embellishing it somewhat, but for the life of me, I couldn’t tell anyone where the actual happenings leave off and embellishment kicks in. Fortunately, in this case it really doesn’t matter, and the story is true to the spirit of the evening.

For such frivolous occasions, I chant a favorite mantra: “Why let a few facts get in the way of a good story?” Such moments are meant for pleasure and entertainment more than accuracy in the overall scheme of things.

The evening was such fun, and the story begged for exotic imagery to do justice to the farcically flamboyant surroundings. I share it with you for the joy of doing so, and for the possibility that you may get some ideas for audacious imagery of your own.

My senses swam as the tuxedoed maitre-d’ escorted us to our table. The smell of sizzling steak, browning onions, and countless other savory dishes wafted from the kitchen. My stomach growled in eager anticipation. My eyes moved up from the art deco floor tiles to the walls of the hallway leading to the dining room. I hoped that on our way out, we could look more closely at the autographed photographs of movie stars. Older black and white pictures advanced into full-color as we approached the dining room.

A couple heading toward us stopped to look at the pictures. My eyes flashed past the woman to Nigel and Paul. Their eyes popped from their sockets as they frankly stared. If this babe scratched her nose, her panties would peak from the hem of the red lamé Band-Aid that passed for a dress. If she was wearing any, that is. It was clear that the boobs trying to spill out the top were unrestricted by lingerie. I recognized the green-eyed monster rooting around in the corner of my mind. I realized how much I’d like to wear a dress like that. Or, more to the point, to have the curves she had to fill out that dress.

Shannon fell back to my side. “It’s okay to stare. This is Hollywood. It’s expected,” she murmured.

Has writing about an experience ever distorted it for you? Has it made one more clear? That can happen too. What exotic experience have you had that lends itself to flamboyant imagery? Try a bit of audacious writing, if only to throw away. It’s lots of fun!

Write on,

Sharon Lippincott, aka Ritergal

1 comment :

Walks Across said...

I had the experience of spending time with my mom before she passed and reliving a childhood experience. By the time we were through I felt that either she had'nt been there or I hadn't as our memories had stored completely different information. Same event, different versions. Allows me to rethink past hurts and give them a new context or at least to step away from "judgement". I'm actually thinking of doing some writing with my son (35 yrs old) to see where it takes us, both from a "my version" perspective and to bridge the generation gap. He writes poetry and Punk style song lyrics and I'm a retired school teacher-could be fun and eye opening.