Confabulations: The Stories We tell Ourselves


Was it just a dream or did that really happen?

I just finished reading Brene Brown's book, Dare to Lead. Dog-eared pages outweigh those that had little interest to me. And yet, the last five pages made more sense than any of the others. Why?


Brown discusses the Shitty First Draft, a term from Anne Lamott's brilliant book on writing, Bird by Bird. The SFD is something that every writer knows because we all have written them.


Lamott says:

"The only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts. The first draft is the child's draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later."


The beauty of letting myself "splay out on the page" in such a fashion is that everything I hold in my head becomes transformed on the page. My childhood friend, who is still my best friend says that I will be her memory when we are old because I seem to remember everything. Well, I hate to tell her, but honestly, its what has been in my mind that I put on the page that becomes my memory.


Recently, in one of my discussions with some other writers, one of them talked about a story she was in the throes of, based on a true story, that had morphed into a fictitious piece. Then she was talking to a family member about the true story and found herself blurring the lines between reality and what she'd put on the page.


Do we get so immersed in the story that we sometime tell ourselves that it's the reality?


Enter the word: confabulation. Brown defines the word this way: A confabulation is a lie told honestly. To confabulate is to replace missing information with something false that we believe to be true.


When you sit at the page and begin to write from the idea of something you can't let go of, everything comes out, the judgement, the reactions, the blaming and shaming. Vomit on the page, don't try to stop, put every piece of what you see in your head onto the page. Putting it down on paper allows for the opportunity to ask the questions: does this make sense? Does this look right? First drafts allow for all thoughts to get out on the page.


The truly good writer will write that SFD and then do what Brown suggests to get at the truth of what it is the author is saying, to ask these questions:

1. What more do I need to learn and understand about the situation?

What do I know objectively?

What assumptions am I making?

2. What more do I need to learn and understand about the other people in the story?

What additional information do I need?

What questions or clarifications might help?


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