Earlier today, Kellie Jackson directed me to this powerful photo essay on the stolen generations of Australia. The accompanying essay talks about ‘disremembering’ – the untold histories, the silenced voices, the highly selective nature of looking at colonial history.
It made us think about the I Remember exercises that are probably my favourite writing experiments – there’s no better way of establishing an easy voice in writing. I Remember can be a charming nostalgic trip, or a journey back into sad moments, but it tends to directly access lived experiences that bring a whole time and place to life.
I Don’t Remember, on the other hand, invites a degree of irony, or asks us to be more critical about received wisdoms. Don’t-Remembering is, of course, a means of remembering too, and it’s one that might require a little more work, a look aslant – recovering, revisiting, restoring the truth, whether it’s dealing with family secrets or fake news or the brushed-over abuses of history. I Don’t Remember confronts lies, and makes us bear witness. It digs deep, and gets to the core.
For this writing experiment: Set a timer for fifteen minutes and write an I Don’t Remember … Start every line/sentence/paragraph with I Don’t Remember, and see what comes next. Once you come to a halt start the next I Don’t Remember, and continue until the timer rings.