“That’s Not How I Remember It.” Creative Nonfiction and the Art of Dealing with Doubters

We all have them in our lives: The doubters who want to debunk our version of what we write. The ones who say things like, “That’s not how I remember it,” and “Your memory is wrong.”

As a creative nonfiction writer I know I’m not alone, but it feels quite lonely when, after reading one of my essays, someone accuses me of lying or having a ‘false memory.’ It’s even more hurtful when those people are family.

One family member resorts to publicly shaming me in Facebook posts and “correcting my memory.” Another, my birthmother, has “cut me off” from any further stories about her or my birth family. “The past is the past,” she’s said. “You don’t need to know about my childhood, you should only be concerned about what happened after you were born.” The strange thing is that I’ve never shared my writing with her. At that particular time, I don’t think I’d even published anything yet. Now, we mostly talk about the weather and the kids, which strikes me as unfortunate. She’d told me she would be my open book.

Does this happen to you? It makes me wonder why writing seems so dangerous to the doubters. Is it that they fear they will be exposed? Wronged? Harmed? I do not set out to write untruths, nor do I set out to wound. Isn’t that the first rule of essay writing, just as “Primum nil nocere” is the first rule of bioethics: First, do no harm. Why does my version of the truth feel dangerous to some people? Read more at The Review Review


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