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How do you tell the truth?

Solving Poblems of Telling the Truth in Your Memoir

Telling the truth is not easy

How much of what happened do you have to tell in order to tell the truth? At what point does withholding the truth become a lie? For instance, in all her famous diaries, as Anais Nin celebrated the freedoms of her life as an artist, she never once mentioned that she was bankrolled by a husband. True, she could not mention his name or details of his life because he had refused her legal permission to do so in print. But wouldn’t the truth have been better served if she had mentioned the working husband who paid her bills and made her artistic life free of financial constraints possible? In that sense, her diaries have always seemed to me to contain a fundamental lie and avoided telling the truth. Nin clearly wanted her readers to believe that she lived independently as a woman and a writer. The fact of her husband’s support makes it evident that the self-sufficient persona she projected was wishful thinking.How much truth to tell is always a subjective decision that can be made only in the context of the writer’s life and family. The following are considerations to keep in mind as you decide how to solve telling the truth.

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2 Responses to Solving Poblems of Telling the Truth in Your Memoir

  1. wondering04 June 9, 2014 at 5:15 PM #

    Revenge and lies are never the best way to tell one’s story. One thing I’ve noticed is that my narrative changes over time. The memoir (rough draft) I wrote 25 years ago was raw pain, not well developed. As I grew and changed over time, the raw pain transformed. I saw lessons in the past and new ways of looking at the old situation. I suspect any author writing a memoir years later might come do different conclusions with the same details.

    Best example is that, before I was 16, I believed God was absent from my life. I saw Him as the great abandonner, the one who did not answer prayers, did not stop the abuse. Now, I see that He was there, just not the way I expected Him to be there. He was in the “nots.” What did not happen. I did not get pregnant by my father, did not go insane, did not get killed, etc. So God was there, but it took years of healing to be at a point where I could receive and share that truth.

    Thanks for your post.
    Heather

  2. Denis Ledoux June 11, 2014 at 4:57 PM #

    Dear wondering04,

    Thanks for your comment.
    I agree with you that our perception of our lives changes over time. Perhaps that is as good a reason as any to write several memoirs—serial memoirs of our lives.

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