The Writing Desk | Ellie O’Neill
Thank you so much for agreeing to be a part of this quirky and esoteric feature I’ve started here and welcome to The Writing Desk. We’ll be talking to writers, copywriters, poets, designers, marketers, photographers and all sorts of creative folk.
Now, imagine I’m about to introduce you to an auditorium, filled with the smiling faces of folks fuelled by caffeine and an eagerness to learn. What would I say?
“Hello everyone, I’d like to introduce…
Ellie O’Neill, Founder of STUDY 34
Here’s the part where we’d sit down and try and look comfortable next to the microphones. Are you sitting comfortably? Then let’s begin…
Can you name the business book that’s always on your desk? (I’m talking about the one that’s covered in pencil marks, coffee stains and has turned down corners…)
That’s a hard one because I’ve got quite a few really…
One that’s very specific to the fashion industry called ‘GUIDElines II’ which was written by a group of female Danish fashion lecturers and isn’t really read much outside of that country. One of the contributing lecturers sent me a copy to look at and it’s just the most useful book. It’s full of supply chain charts and descriptions which is the sort of thing I find fascinating but I’m aware not many others do….!
The second is a MUST read for everyone – even if you don’t run a business. It’s called ‘Let my people go surfing’ by Yvon Chouinard (Founder of the outdoor brand Patagonia). It’s a totally inspiring read about our relationship with our environment and with each other.
The third is about leadership and the difference between being ‘a leader’ and ‘leading’. It called ‘Start with why’ by Simon Sinek.
What’s your all-time favourite advertising campaign?
Humm… I think the dollar shave club’s initial video is a good one.
“Everyone has a book in them…” Or so the saying goes. What do you think/know/believe is the secret to good writing?
I think it’s authenticity and I know it’s to practice every day.
And you must believe in yourself. That’s very important.
If you were just starting out, what advice would you give yourself? Which book or books would you read first?
It sounds like a cliché but to remember to always keep your values at the forefront of your mind when making any decisions – that way you can be sure that even in difficult times, you’ll do the right thing.
Books: Start with why & Let my people go surfing
Silence? Radio? Or music while you work?
What are your top three novels of all time – and why?
Okay, picking three is SO hard.
- The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – because it’s genius.
- A Thousand Splendid Suns – because it’s incredibly sad.
- Dear Lupin… Letters to a Wayward Son – because it’s hilarious.
What’s the best thing you’ve ever written? Why did it rock your world?
A letter to my Grandmother telling her to stop being so nasty to my mother! Rocked my world at the time but in hindsight not such a good decision…
What’s the last thing you bought? And yes, that packet of chewing gum counts.
A daysaver to Whitley Bay for a friend’s birthday party.
Who was your teenage crush?
Can you describe the best meal you’ve ever eaten?
Soup and salmon sandwiches after a long walk on the beach on Christmas day.
What’s your favourite tipple? Is it wine, beer – a cask-aged malt?
Gin and tonic
If I were to give you a private jet, David Attenborough as a tour guide and a month off work – all expenses paid – where would you go and what or who would you write about – and why?
I’d go to India and I’d write about food.
What’s in your pockets?
Tissues, hair ties and maybe a kirby grip right down in the corner if I’m super lucky…
Pen and ink, pencil and paper or keyboard and screen? What’s your writing style?
Pencil and paper
Do you read any blogs or magazines about writing? (And I mean read, not just subscribe to and delete/leave on desk and recycle?)
I read a lot of stuff on ‘Medium’ about writing habits. Also, I recently started buying Womankind magazine, lots of great pieces and often about writing.
Tea – or coffee? What’s your poison?
Do you have a favourite cup or mug? Can you describe it?
No a particular one but I do prefer thick mugs for normal tea and thinner, more delicate ones for hot water/ herbal teas.
What was your most adored children’s book? And character?
Anything from Roald Dahl – The Twits, The Witches are a couple of favourites. Favourite character? The BFG.
Your favourite word?
Your most loathed word? (You know, the one that makes you shudder and say “Ew!”?
Partner… I’m not sure why, but I find it totally soulless.
Where can we find you? – Browsing online or lost in the aisles of a bookstore?
Favourite song lyric of all time? And why?
Ooooh I don’t know, but I’m a massive fan of Carol King and Joni Mitchell.
Name the artist who is guaranteed to get you up on the dance floor.
Absolutely nobody, I hate the dance floor…
Do you have any strange writing rituals you’d like to share with us?
I have some rituals but I don’t think they’re particularly strange…
When I’m starting an article/ post I will literally write down anything that comes to mind on the page. Not just a phrase or idea but a name, a colour a feeling, a picture.
Then I go back and expand on these individual ideas – again, without restraint.
Then I draft and idea by simply moving these ideas/ items around on the page to see how they might fit together – putting some weaker bits to the side.
Then I try and build on it from there.
What are you working on today? What’s in the pipeline?
Putting my ‘Vision’ for STUDY 34 down on paper – a frustrating activity!
Can you describe the last photograph you took?
Yep, it was of a book my friend was given at the previously mentioned Whitley Bay birthday party. It was about mindfulness and I took a picture of the front cover to remind myself to get it.
What piece of advice really changed you as a writer?
Not to be frightened of what someone else might think… and always get someone else to proof read.
What was the last thing you wrote that had nothing to do with your job?
An RSVP to an engagement party.
What’s your favourite quote about the process of writing?
‘Easy reading is damn hard writing’
Who is your favourite Mad Man – or Woman?
Boris Johnson. He’s pretty nuts but I can’t pretend he doesn’t make me laugh…
Can you name your favourite film – and tell us why you love it?
As you’ve probably noticed by now, I find choosing favourites very difficult. I watched East is East again the other day having not watched it since it came out. That’s a pretty good one I’d say. I love Brassed Off too and The Full Monty… a theme of bleak humor seems to be emerging!
Which book or books is/are by your bed today?
No Logo – Naomi Klein
The latest issue of WomanKind
Who was or is your greatest teacher?
Who is your favourite artist?
Quentin Blake. And I love Matisse’s papercuts.
Where do you like to work best – is it at a desk, in an office or in a coffee shop?
It’s at my desk or in the evening, by the fire.
And finally, where can this caffeine-fuelled audience find you?
My website: www.study34.co.uk