One of my biggest weaknesses in writing is the accuracy of tense. I’ll find myself writing transcendently where in just a few sentences I can put people in a time machine to the past, present, and future. If Bill is my main character, I can tell of Bill having been there, while being here, hoping to go there, all in one sentence. It’s sloppy. It means I am not taking the time to ask questions to set myself up for accurate timing. To achieve proper tense in writing, the author must understand what the goal of that tense is.
It is important in writing because it matters in the context of storytelling, but what about in real life? What questions are we asking that box, someone, into a time frame of their life?
I am 32, so I am just now hitting the age of “What do you do?” or “What are you doing for work?” I am living in the present tense of question-asking. With that, comes expectations. People assume I’m where I am supposed to be. At what age do the questions people ask about your life change tense?
When I was a teenager or in my early 20’s people would ask me: “What are you going to do?” or “Where are you going to go?”
When you hit your 30’s, 40’s and 50’s it is: “What are you doing now?” or “Where are you?”
When you hit your 60’s and on into your 70’s, 80’s and 90’s it is: “What did you do?” or “Where have you been?”
Future. Present. Past. I’ve learned society groups our life into thirds, and it is this rule of thirds that scares us from continuing to dream because we have anxiety over the ability to answer these questions when we hit the ages. What if in my 30’s I am still asking myself where I am going to go?
What can I go explore?
What am I going to do?
May I encourage you today to be aware of tenses when you are speaking to people, including yourself, regardless of age. Humans should never be stagnant, we all should be growing, learning and pursuing. It is these boxes that force us to assume people who are older don’t want the same experience, spontaneity or community that comes with youth. Why is there an age barrier that stops us from asking someone in their 60’s, what they are going to do or what they are currently working on?