"If your memory serves you well..." The quote comes from one of the most iconic opening lines in modern music, Bob Dylan’s “This Wheel’s On Fire”. Musicians kept and keep recalling it. Canadian singer Serena Ryder titled (a very good) album with that line, and the experimental jazzers Material, led by Bill Laswell at the time just shortened it to “Memory Serves”, giving it more space for thought. Either way you look at it, memory can serve you well, or it can’t, the question for the writers is — does it have to?
It depends. Even if you are writing memoirs. But what about the facts, some might say. The facts? The accurate facts are for historians, academics and reporters of events, journalists, and yes, they are writers too (let us leave politicians and business PR people out of it this time around), but even their accounts of facts and events can be modified and they too have their slant on these. Whether they should or shouldn’t. Maybe the mind serves the writers well, the question is, so what?
We can use our notebooks, note-taking software, audio and video recording material, and even then, after an event or a moment in our lives has passed by, we modify them in our mind, we give some persons or elements in those a certain designation, move them forward or backward. Our mind often plays tricks on us. Or maybe we play tricks on our mind.
Writers, particularly of fiction, and it doesn’t matter whether it involves some form of science or not, always present a personal interpretation of events, true or false. And yes, we can debate what is true or false and come up with an infinite number of answers, but key fact remains that writers’ recollections and memories are their own, even when they are recounting real-life events.
So yes, as a writer you can and should ask yourself whether your memory serves you well, but there is a more pertinent question you always have to have in mind — does your point of view serve you well?
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