Tuesday, April 8, 2008

In praise of the specific

I once had to write a piece aimed at mothers of one-year-old children.

It was framed as a thankyou, and contained a line that went something like "...after a hundred 4 am wake-up calls.

The client came back asking us to change the line, because "babies don't always wake up at 4 am".

Much to-ing and fro-ing ensued, and I think we ended up with something like "after waking up many times in the night to see to your baby."


In the laudable desire to make sure a piece appeals to everyone, it can be easy to to become so bland you resonate with noone.

Because what resonates is truth. And truth isn't general, it's particular.

As this lovely wee number by Chris Knox demonstrates. It's not much of a video, but there's a reason it was voted New Zealand's 13th best song of all time by the Australasian songwriting community.

It's even become something of a wedding standard:

Soon I was getting pretty regular requests to play the song at weddings, something I was loath to do, being shy as hell under the aggressive persona. And also, the song was pointedly, specifically aimed at “John and Liesha’s mother” – the lyrics said as much. It was not a universal love-song. But, as with so many things, the more nakedly specific you may be, the more people all over the shop seem to be able to relate.

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