My Mind is Not My Own

~ By Caryn Caldwell

I think I’m losing my mind. Even at the best of times my inner narrator provides an occasional play-by-play of my existence, but my current level of running commentary is reserved for the times when I’m almost exclusively absorbed in my writing, as I am now.

The source of this narratus intrusionous? I spend hours recounting the lives of my characters, and then I can’t seem to find the switch to turn off the narration. This means that I can’t do anything without a witness in my own brain observing all and synthesizing it into giant globs of first-draft text. Believe me, there’s nothing that will point out how mundane your life can be like having a blow-by-blow account of petting your cat or going to the bathroom. To illustrate, let me provide an especially riveting example from last night:

Caryn pulled open the fridge door and scanned the shelves, searching for a snack. Nothing. The pantry? Still nothing. Perhaps the freezer would come through. Of course, last night the freezer yielded a half-empty bag of dehydrated peas and a frozen pizza, but there was always hope…

This commentary is disturbing for several reasons. First of all, I’m referring to myself in the third person. That in itself is a clue that I need to fire my narrator and get a new one. Nothing against third person — I use it in my writing all the time — but when it comes to my own thoughts, I should at least be the lead character in my own life. Which makes me wonder: if I’m not the one doing the narrating, who is? I’d like to say it’s a gorgeous muse with flowing hair and a benevolent smile, filling sheets of parchment with golden words. Her quill pen yields a graceful cursive, and every line is poetry. The truth is more likely a cranky woman named Dolores residing in a shadowed corner of my brain. She has a gravely voice, a smoker’s cough and the language of a longshoreman. In-between attempts to brush away the dust in the air, she bangs away on the keys of a typewriter that is at least as crotchety as she is.

Second of all, I hyperbolize, even when I’m the only audience for my self-narrations. Sure, the quest for dinner didn’t stop with the freezer, but we certainly have more than a frozen pizza and an old bag of peas in there. That doesn’t make for good copy, however, so Dolores reworked the truth to add a little tension.

And, finally, it’s boring, despite the venture into hyperbole. Which is what I rediscover about my life whenever my inner narrator kicks in: There’s not a lot of drama, and when any does come along the hag in the attic actually shuts up so I can focus. That’s why I write. I get to give my characters exciting lives full of adventure and mayhem. Not that I’m complaining, really. That excitement often includes betrayal, war, pestilence, murder, and mass amounts of family turmoil, none of which I want in my own life. What I do want is for the voice to go away when I turn off the computer so I can have a little peace.

Caryn Caldwell writes YA novels with a chick lit feel. She’s been crafting stories since childhood (when she regularly rescued her Barbies from all types of imagined peril), through her teen years (when she wrote depressing poetry for fun), and into adulthood (when she discovered that writing books was a lot more enjoyable than housework). She has been an English teacher, librarian, and white water rafting guide, and is currently a stay-at-home mom for a toddler who is kind enough to nap every afternoon so she can write. She lives in the southwestern U.S. with her husband, daughter, and two cats. Her books are represented by Erzsi Deak of Hen&Ink Literary Studio. You can visit her website/blog at

13 thoughts on “My Mind is Not My Own”

  1. LOL! Well, I’m not holding my breath, Rae Ann. At least it’s great entertainment sometimes. And I know what you mean about taking on your characters’ voices. I do the same thing!

  2. Hi Caryn! Good luck on getting the voice to go away when you leave your computer. Let me know if that happens. 🙂 I don’t think I’ve ever narrated my activities, but when I approach the end of a revision, I do feel like I sound like a book character, full of metaphors and such in my conversations. Seriously, I think you are only supposed to worry when the voice stops talking. Thanks for a fun post.

  3. I do remember that, Liz! I have a feeling Twitter had an impact on that one. And I’m glad you liked the dehydrated peas bit. Thank goodness it was an exaggeration, though sometimes it feels more like the truth.

  4. This reminds me of the long ago days when FB posts were written in third person! Do you remember those shady days, oh, a year or so gone? I LOVE this post and find your dehydrated peas poetic. As are you! Rock on with your bad self (and keep us posted with new narrations, esp if the freezer provides a unique surprise at some point)!!

  5. That’s true, Angela! The day I go muttering through the aisle of the grocery store, and start ranting aloud to no one if I can’t find my brands, is the day I truly need to worry!

  6. Caryn, I do this too! And I’ll admit it’s pretty obnoxious. Except I write my YA novels in the first person present, so when I describe my mundane doings (n my head), it all has a sense of urgency: “Even as I drove to school pick up, I knew I was late. Again. But I couldn’t get another speeding ticket. Last time was humiliating enough.” And so on.

  7. Oh, I loved this! I think it’s fantastic that you’re so engrossed in your writing that it spills over into your own life. And Dolores reworking the truth? Cracked me up! You know this could be a good thing… your own life could get a lot more exciting. At least in your mind. 😀

  8. Ha! Caryn, enjoyed your post, and hope Delores leaves you alone, but not always, because the thought of her describing your life to you with her gravelly, smoky voice makes me laugh!

  9. Thanks so much for hosting me! I had a fabulous time writing for the Chick Lit Writers blog – it was almost as fun as actually reading the blog, which is saying a lot! 🙂

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