Kin Lane

How To Write Something That Speaks To Readers

It is the holy grail of writing. Crafting something that speaks to readers. It is something I’ve been able to achieve from time to time, but something that is ultimately elusive when I try to intentionally make happen. I have stories on both my personal and professional blogs that I have seen framed on the wall in businesses and government agencies, and published to the home page of internal corporate network destinations. I’ve had many people come up to me at conferences to tell me that they read “something” on my website(s) that spoke to them—it reached deep inside and made a connection that they will always remember. This is definitely something I strive for regularly in my work, but something that continually slips away from if I think too hard about it when writing. Which always makes me not want to shy away from it, but take it by the horns, wrestle it to the ground force it to have a conversation with me and reveal more of its secrets.

While laying on the ground holding this spirit in a choke hold, the first secret I am able to force it to share with me is the importance of me staying close to the machine, while also not succumbing to it’s rhythms (maybe it is luring me into a trap). I have to stay aware of the gears that make all of this go round, but I cannot allow myself to be comforted and lulled by the sounds of the machine. If I find myself giving in, kneeling before the daily, weekly, and monthly grind of the machine, I must resist. Momentarily pulling my hand back from getting caught up in the gears, or changing course and making a break for the door, allowing myself to get a fresh breathe of air, clearing the smoke, soot, and echoes of the machine from my lungs—-retrieving my own voice (is it mine?). No matter what the cost might be to my bank account, personal connections, and social standing.

If I can’t write, I will never craft something that speaks to anyone. If I can’t find the peace of mind to hear the stories in my head, I will never craft something that speaks to anyone. If I lose my soul to the machine, I will never craft something that speaks to anyone. If I am miserable, I will never find the time, energy, and focus to craft words that make any sense, let alone speak to anyone. However, crafting stories in isolation will ultimately lack the context needed to speak to my audience, those who work within the machine, and are pulling the levers and knobs in service of the machine. If my words do not reach them, they will simply keep pulling the knobs and levers dutifully without question. If the cadence of my words do not echo the sucking and thrashing sounds of the digital gears that provide the background noise of their lives they will not recognize them. My words will not speak to them, and be drowned out by the machine, putting my stories far out of reach.

Before I lose my choke hold on the thing that injects meaning into my writing, it spits in my face and tells me that I do not have any passion. Leaving me with one final secret—do not lose my passion. Seek it out whenever and wherever possible. Do not let the machine harvest it like a raw material. Do not let it be depleted to dangerously low levels, from which I may never return, or at least putting me in a place where it might take me months or years to come back from. The clarity is gone. That is all I am able to wrestle from it today. I may not have another encounter like this for some time. It’s clarity may find me again at the bottom of that second bottle of wine, in the two hours of insomnia before I fall asleep—of course, I will forget to write down what I learn before falling asleep. And as always, I hope it will find me in the moments I manage to lose myself while scribbling words in my physical or digital notebook, contemplating my complicity in this mess we have all created, dutifully evangelizing and prostituting myself for the machine.