Scientists say they have created a false memory in a mouse, providing detailed clues to how such memories may form in human brains.
This is fascinating.
As a writer of memoir and autobiographical fiction, I’ve noticed something strange. I’m pretty darn sure I have "new memories" of my life which I’ve created in the writing process.
There is a rewiring of the brain. This makes it hard to recognize which part of the story comes from the original memory and which part is fiction.
It can affect my life in some really cool ways I never suspected. It helps me distance myself from my story so that I feel much better about the past and less responsible for it. I have shed much shame and embarrassment over the past in this way.
Also, as a coach as well as a student of writing, I hear many stories about contradictory memories.
Family and friends argue about what really happened. Oddly, even writing partners can absorb an experience they read about in the other’s piece, and begin to think of it as their own memory. It’s a sort of unplanned hypnosis.
My guess is that, much of the time, when writers have had these experiences, they don’t know it. They are no longer aware of what part of the story their brain has adopted.
One thing I try to do, to seperate out the original memory (which even then, is often obscured by gray areas and fiction) from the fictionalized version, is to write the story first, including only what I actually remember. Then I add another layer, making stuff up.
In the end, though, memory and imagination are intertwined. They work in mystery, and affect us deeply. There is great delight in letting our minds do whatever creative thing they need to do, while we enjoy the inventive journey.
Also posted at www.christikrug.net.
See on www.nytimes.com