Writing brings form to experience. It provides an order to life and, in the process, writing alters memory.
In Sunday’s New York Times Book Review section, writer Dani Shapiro states that readers “often think that writing a memoir must be cathartic. But, if anything, I found that it embeds the story more deeply in the writer. The story becomes frozen, in a way, by crafting of it. Memory is mutable and the relationship between the writer and the story at the particular moment the story is written becomes the story.”
Writer Annie Dillard has made a similar point: “After you’ve written, you can no longer remember anything but the writing. My memories — those elusive patches of color and feeling — are gone; they’ve been replaced by the work.”
Rabbi David Wolpe wrote a blurb for my book, Motherland, stating that “How we remember determines who we are.” I would add that what we write determines what we remember…and who we are.