William Maxwell was a great writer and, for many years, an editor at The New Yorker. It’s easy to see writing as an act of imagination, but memory, itself, is an act of imagination. Here is a passage from his book, So Long, See You Tomorrow.
I seem to remember that I went to the new house one winter day and saw snow descending through the attic to the upstairs bedrooms. It could also be that I never did any such thing, for I am fairly certain that in a snapshot album I have lost track of there was a picture of a house taken in the circumstances I have just described, and it is possible that I am remembering that rather than an actual experience.
What we, or at any rate what I refer to confidently as memory — meaning a moment, a scene, a fact that has been subjected to a fixative and thereby rescued from oblivion _ is really a form of storytelling that goes on continually in the mind and often changes with the telling. Too many conflicting emotional interests are involved for life ever to be wholly acceptable, and possibly it is the work of the storyteller to rearrange things so that they conform to this end. In any case, in talking about the past we lie with every breath we draw.
Did he just say what I think he said? He’s giving us permission to not only not tell the truth, but to change that truth to fit the story we are telling.