One time I went to Golden, Colorado to do the thing that people do when they go to Golden, Colorado. I toured the Coors factory.
At the time, I wasn’t much of a beer drinker. More like a beer-dabbler at best, and for me the tour was a solid education in how they do the brew. I mean, I didn’t know about hops or malt or yeast or anything. At the end of the tour they gave us little glasses and we could fill them up with free samples, fresh from the fermenting vats.
The big selling point for Coors is the water. It’s that Rocky Mountain snow melt, and I saw plenty of it in this giant pool that they have on the premises. The Coors brand loves their water. They swear by it.
I’ve started drinking Coors because I’ve started drinking beer again. I drink about one bottle a day, sometimes two – mostly as a ritual. In the era of Covid, I rely heavily on my routines. They keep me right side up in a tilting world.
I’ve grown skeptical of craft beer. I see a lot of craft beers as big on marketing and packaging, only to discover (a few sips into an expensive new take on a lager or pilsner) that it just tastes gross. Coors is predictable. It’s 5% ABV so it’s refreshing and doesn’t crash your system. And it comes in these charming little stubby brown glass bottles.
What I appreciate often in life is utility. I’m thirty-four years old and I’m tired of flash. Which, I think, makes me a pretty good marketer and journalist. Because my whole angle and approach is usually to not take an angle or approach. I believe that readers or consumers, or whomever you’re trying to tell something to – these people can tell when you’re phony.
For one thing, when I’m straying into territory that I’m unfamiliar with (this can happen when you’re commissioned by other people to write articles), I switch to passive voice sentences. Things start happening to other things mysteriously and the characters and actors become vague. The dots are unconnected. Well, that makes perfect sense, because the action is all muddled in my mind. Writing is a way of clarifying something. Rewriting is further clarification.
As Tolstoy says, “Like fire, truth consumes all the disguises that hide it.” By digging for the essence of what I’m trying to say, I burn off the chaff, leaving the skeleton of my story. Or something. I’m mixing metaphors here, but you get it.
And look, I’m not trying to be an ideological tough guy. Copywriters and marketers often gotta work with what they’re handed; quality project/product or not. They have to make their assignment sing.
I think the goal in any situation where you have to pitch something to a reader or consumer (a product, an experience) is to approach the thing and try to clarify it in your mind. What’s your experience of that thing? Can people relate? How can they relate?
These are the questions that get me headed down the right road in thinking. These are the questions that are at the heart of communication because they are questions that help to generate information that connects people to each other.
If there’s one thing I’m obsessed with, it’s non-phoniness. Or, to put it positively, I heart authenticity. I do. Which is why I identify myself as a wordsmith.
That word – wordsmith – may seem a little precious to some, but to me it makes me think of someone working in isolation on a project — pounding it into shape, and bending it into something practical and useful. Can words do that? Can paragraphs and sentences be used to help people and function in a way that makes life better, practically, for the readers of those words?
This is what I think about. Tonight, I am thinking about this and thinking about all of my favorite writers. Since Covid, I’ve amassed quite the personal library, since the public library has been shut down.
I think about all of the writers who inspire me and whose words have practically moved me and formed me into who I am.
I will think about this and drink a good, practical beer. I will remember to start the process with good water and the rest will follow.
Do you believe in the power of storytelling? So do I.
My freelance writing service, Porter Wordsmith, is your antidote to bland, canned jargon. I’m your guy to help you say the thing and say it right.