From Past Tense to Future Tense to Present Perfect
One of the first decisions a writer makes when writing a novel is to decide if he or she wants to write in the present tense or past tense. Either choice works, and it’s purely a matter of preference. The biggest mistake is going back and forth between tenses—not knowing when the action is taking place, which often confuses the reader.
What does this have to do with you and me? Well, not coincidentally, it’s the same challenge that we face as we get older. We must choose when we want our story (the one we’re writing every day) to take place—in the past, the present or the future.
As children, we live mostly in the present—hopefully innocent, carefree and concerned only with bringing joy into our lives. In our twenties, thirties and forties, a lot more attention is spent living in the future, planning and preparing for what we want out of life. The older we get, the more we tend to spend our time in the past—talking and thinking about the life we lived. It’s like we suddenly have only history and no future.
But, as the U-curve of happiness demonstrates, we often get less tense as we age and become more content. If we can recognize this truth and cultivate it, we will have come to a place in our lives where we can finally be where we want to be—here, now, in the present moment—beyond tense (and pretense). It is in this place where our story is best told, and will always be most authentic and alive.
From what place will you live your story?