Rearranging the story of your life

I was reading an article about Vladimir Nabokov’s last novel in Wired, and this passage caught my attention about how he wrote his novels:

“…the unusual manuscript, written on 138 numbered index cards now yellowed with age. Nabokov routinely composed on such cards, shuffling and reshuffling the deck as he wrote.”

It just made me think about our own memories and the concept of sequence. In this case, it’s an author that knows a certain number of things happened in a story, but not sure of the order. How significant is that order to the story? Can one event preceding another radically change the course of a story? Of course it can. At the very least it can drastically change motivations and explanations.

So I started thinking about my own memories and how I might remember all (or most, at least) of the things that happened around any particular memory/event/story – but do we really always remember the exact sequence of events? How does this affect our own memories and stories? Are we really reshuffling the cards of our lives anytime we look back and try to recall events from the past? Is this ever a coping mechanism – slightly rearranging the sequence of events in our lives to make them make more sense to us?

Have you ever gone back to proof of how an event really occured (i.e. journal entry) and found it surprisingly different from how you thought you remembered it?

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