“That’s one of the great things about music. You can sing a song to 85,000 people and they’ll sing it back for 85,000 different reasons.”
You can show a drawing to 85,000 and they’ll think about 85,000 different things. You can dance for 85,000 and they’ll feel 85,000 different emotions. You can cook pancakes for 85,000 people (ok this one doesn’t work as well since you can’t also do it literally. Not like, easily, anyways) and they’ll remember 85,000 different chilly mornings in 85,000 different kitchens where 85,000 people flipped pancakes for them driven by 85,000 of their own unique motivations, their own chilly-kitchen-memories.
You can recite a poem to 85,000 people and they’ll see 85,000 different scenes in their mind. You can share a story with 85,000 and they’ll have 85,000 reasons why they love it or they hate it; 85,000 different ways they connect (or don’t) with the protagonist.
Everyone’s process is different. But when I write for myself I often arrive at the page with no expectations, or only an abstract set of emotions, colors, and sounds I want to express. I decipher the (real) meaning only after—and learn this often, at least in part, from anyone I’m able to trick into reading my stuff.
When I write for work I have specific intentions; specific goals I want my writing to accomplish, driven by what my clients want to accomplish. Maybe I want my articles to teach people things; maybe I hope audiences will think deeply, laugh, or get misty-eyed at my copy. Maybe I want to make people feel a certain way about a brand, product, or idea. Or maybe there’s an action I hope they’ll make after reading a blog post or tweet.
That doesn’t mean people don’t experience this writing differently. That doesn’t mean it’s not conjuring a plethora of varied feelings and thoughts and emotions and impulses and ideas for a multitude of different people. Who come from different places and love different things. Who live totally different kinds of lives.
But so what? So we see creative stuff differently, so we experience and interpret art and ads and poems and pancakes differently based on our pasts; based on the grooves snaking through our different brains and the metaphorical blood beating through our symbolic hears—how can I, the creator of said-ads and poems and pancakes use this understanding to make something better and more resonant?
Being aware opens doors. When you think in terms of layers and symbols and double-meaning and depth—whether you’re writing your memoir or ad copy for cat food—you find ways to allow all of this into your work, find ways of cracking your skull open (figuratively!!) and letting the light shine down on that big, beautiful brain of yours in ways it never has before.
From 85,000 different angles.
—Josey Rose Duncan