How to Tell

We all do it. No, not poops. I mean, yes, we do, but that’s not what I was going to talk about.

I mean, we all narrate our existence to ourselves.

It might be retrospective, speculative or projective, emotional or reactive, or simply an assertion that we’re present (the most basic form of “I think, therefore I am”).

“I should have gotten the chicken instead of the fish.”

“Should I do the laundry before or after I order the pizza? Is the delivery guy going to care if I have to answer the door in my PJs?”

“Ugh, it’s too early to be awake. Could I get back to sleep if I called in sick to work, or would it just be easier to go in?”

“I’m bored.”

Something else we all do: we edit our narration.

“Okay, once I finish the dishes, I can kick back and watch TV. No, I’d better check my email and pay the credit card bill first. So that’s dishes, bill, email, and then TV.”

But there’s something we don’t all do.

I was musing about internal narrations yesterday (see “I’m bored” above) and I realized that I was copyediting my narration.

That’s right: I was changing punctuation and digressing to decide whether certain words should be capitalized.

Worse yet, at the same time I was also doing a style edit.

“Is it funnier if I send out for pizza or Chinese food?”

“Is chicken versus fish too cliched, or should I go with it because it’s a cliché?”

Maybe I’m wrong about this. Maybe everyone style edits their thoughts.

But I suspect that it’s a limited few of us.

Mind you, I’m not talking about editing an imaginary conversation– “Just wait until I see that louse! I’m going to give him a few choice words!” (because of course you want to have the perfect zinger ready when the louse in question walks in)–but all those other bits of narrative running through your head.

I submit that if you spend five minutes arguing with yourself over whether the internal rhyme in “It’s too far to go by car” is distracting and you should just think “It’s too far to drive” while you’re planning your vacation, you’re either already a writer or you should be.

4 thoughts on “How to Tell

  1. And your problem with that is?

    [Gee, should I have put an ellipsis after is? Should I have done so and left a space after “is”]

    Like

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