The tension surrounding tense…

The thing I obsess about the most in my writing is whether or not I’m consistent with my tenses. I tend to jump around a lot, and it really bothers me. It bothers me in the same way “proper” spelling and punctuation bothers some people.

For the last few months it’s been crippling my ability to finish any new Z&TG stories. I keep going back and reading the old ones, changing between past and present tense. I can’t decide which serves the master timeline of the stories better. Should it be “memories of the life we shared”, or “reporting on the life we share”? There are pros and cons to both.

I have finite memories of Zeke. Eventually, I’ll run out of them, and that will be the end of the stories. The last one, logically, will be the day we had to…

That’s not a bad thing. I like the Faulty Towers approach in which I write only a small number of Z&TG stories and then end them before they start getting stale or predictable. I call this “The British TV Model” because the Brits are good at doing small batches of wonderful things, whereas Americans tend to run stuff into the ground for as long as it’s profitable.

The BBC version of “The Office” ran two series for a total of 12 episodes. The NBC version ran nine seasons for a total of 201 episodes. Both were well written and well cast and funny throughout their runs. However, Ricky Gervais was able to do The Office, Derek, Extras, The Ricky Gervais Show, An Idiot Abroad, and Life’s Too Short in the same amount of years as the American version of The Office*1which he produced was on the air. I like the idea of making Z&TG as good as possible for 12-15 stories and then shutting it down*2except for maybe an annual Christmas story ala The Vinyl Cafe

On the other hand, I also appreciate the Calvin and Hobbes approach in which a large volume of great things is built over a long period of time. The way this gets done is by me transposing stories from the adventures Alice and I have. My concern is that they become generic “dog and human” stories, and Alice gets lost in the mix. She’s too special for that to happen, and in fact I’ve already sketched out some children’s stories about “Alice Pancakes and Soupbeard the Giant”.

Anyway, choosing and being consistent with either past or present tense is a problem for me. I’ve no idea why I’m so OCD about it, but I am. I just need to settle on something and go with it, accepting that both past and present tense have notable pros and cons that I’ll have to work with.

I wrote this blog post*3in present tense instead of writing a Zeke and Tall Guy story.

The Elements of Style…

I’ve been re-reading “The Elements of Style”. It’s amazing how well it holds up since Professor Strunk authored the first edition 100 years ago. I believe the reason is because it’s simple and straightforward whereas most books about writing are convoluted and entirely too long*4with the notable exception of Stephen King’s brilliant “On Writing”.

My primary takeaway from the book is that a writer needs to establish a style that is readable and understandable and, most importantly, consistent. Maybe I’m too arrogant about my own ability, but I find that sticking with established rules is a good approach for people who aren’t good writers. Memorable writers have a unique voice in much the same way that Eddie Van Halen has a unique voice on the guitar and Jackson Pollock had a unique painter’s voice.

I like artists who learn the rules, reject them, and substitute their own stylistic flourishes. That’s what makes it art. Traditional grammar and spelling rules are for business writers. Style is for creative writers. A business letter must not stand out for it’s creative originality. It must toe the line and have the correct haircut, just like business people. That’s likely why I hate business so much; its primary goal is to condition 99% of the people to fit in and not make any ripples lest the company end up being less profitable.

Ironically, if an artist wants to be profitable he needs to stand out. If Freddie Mercury had tried to sound like a normal rock singer and write normal rock songs, we’d all have been deprived of his genius. Freddie broke all the rules, then put them back together in a way that highlighted his unique gift and made his talent undeniable.

I’d rather be EVH or Freddie or Jackson than a run-of-the-mill grammar Nazi. Rule followers are boring.

Uncle Aye’s cannabis primer – part 3…

Let’s stop comparing alcohol and cannabis. The only thing they have in common is that they are both legal intoxicants. If weed was like booze, we’d call it booze. But we don’t because it isn’t.

  1. There’s no hangover with cannabis. You consume it, have a laugh*5hopefully, then get on with whatever you need to do without feeling the need to barf or eat an entire bottle of Tylenol.
  2. Co-ordination and speech are largely unaffected when using cannabis, especially when a person only has a couple of hits.
  3. ┬áIt’s impossible to become physically addicted to cannabis. Psychological addiction? Sure. In that regard it’s like video games or sex or music or food; people develop a mental dependance but if the addiction is removed from their life, they don’t have anything like tobacco withdrawal or heroin withdrawal or booze withdrawal. They get cranky because their “thing” isn’t available, but there are absolutely zero physical effects.
  4. “You’re at a sporting event and the person behind you is loud and obnoxious; are they drunk or are they stoned?” – Bill Hicks

I’m not suggesting that cannabis doesn’t come with its own set of issues. It certainly does, and they need to be acknowledged and there needs to be a plan in place to address them. However, it’s nowhere near as harmful as alcohol and tobacco. The sooner the police, politicians, and our teachers start being honest about this, the better.

Over and out…

No book club entry this time. I’ve been reading more magazine articles than books recently.

If you have a book you’d like to suggest to me, please leave the details in the comments section.

That’s all for now.


– Pancakes

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. which he produced
2. except for maybe an annual Christmas story ala The Vinyl Cafe
3. in present tense
4. with the notable exception of Stephen King’s brilliant “On Writing”
5. hopefully