“Hello, I’d like to introduce…
Alright? How’s it going? I’m Gareth Hancock. I write words and get paid for it. If you’re pushing me for a job title (which you’re not but I’ll pretend that you are), I’m a copywriter.
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…
Not sure it’s strictly a business book and I don’t think he’d call it a business book, but Dave Trott’s Predatory Thinking has been on my desk for quite a while. It’s brilliant. It’s basically a collection of short stories with a takeaway message, which means I can dip in and out whenever I like.
That book has been joined recently by (friend of The Writing Desk) Glenn Fisher’s book The Art of the Click, which is incredibly helpful for copywriters.
What’s your all-time favourite advertising campaign?
Blimey. It’s hard to pick just one. The first one that comes to mind is Dumb Ways to Die by Metro Trains in Australia.
“Dumb ways to die, so many dumb ways to die…”
We still sing that song in our house from time to time.
It’s great. It’s gets the point across in a fun way without feeling like you’re being nagged at by a teacher. The point being, there are countless dumb ways to die but messing around near train tracks is by far the dumbest.
“Everyone has a book in them…” Or so the saying goes. What do youthink/know/believe is the secret to good writing?
The secret to good writing is reading. The more you read, the better you’ll get at writing.
If you were just starting out, what advice would you give yourself? Which book or books would you read first?
I’d say, “‘ere, mate. You do know
As for a book, Copywriting Made Simple by Tom Albrighton (Also a friend of The Writing Desk). I’m reading that now and every day I wish I had it when I started out.
Silence? Radio? Or music while you work?
Mostly silence, but I am partial to a bit of white noise. Sometimes I’ll whack a soundtrack on YouTube that’s just three hours of rainfall. As a ginger I’m very fond of the rain.
If I’m doing boring admin stuff, I’ll often put a podcast on.
What are your top three novels of all time – and why?
I’ve always been more of a non-fiction reader, but three books stick out.
1984, by George Orwell. I like Orwell, he was a simple chap that wrote in a simple way. Short words, short sentences. Ideal for someone like me.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S.Thompson. HST was a maverick. Actually, he was batshit crazy. But an absolute genius. This book is barmy in the best kind of way.
The Bricks that Built the Houses, by Kate Tempest. I’m all in on anything Kate Tempest does. I love the poetic rhythm in this book. The picture she paints of South East London is brilliant.
What’s the best thing you’ve ever written? Why did it rock your world?
Er, I wrote some copy for a local authority once to promote their leisure services. That turned out alright.
And I had a client tell me a blog post I’d written was the best thing he’d ever seen. I can only assume he’d been given the miracle of sight a few minutes earlier and been sat in a dark room until my Google Doc turned up in his inbox.
I’ve got a lot of good feedback for my business cards as well. That made me happy.
What’s the last thing you bought? And yes, that packet of chewing gum counts.
I bought some sesame seed buns for 30p because they go out of date today. I got them especially for the Linda McCartney mozzarella burgers in the freezer.
I bloody love a bargain. The smile was quickly wiped off my face, though, because we had no burgers left. The last two were eaten bunless.
Who was your teenage crush?
Buffy the Vampire Slayer was right up there.
Can you describe the best meal you’ve ever eaten?
Two slices of fresh, Roberts Mega-Thick White Bread, lightly buttered and separated by an evenly distributed packet of Walkers Salt and Vinegar crisps.
Either that or cheesy chips.
What’s your favourite tipple? Is it wine, beer – a cask-aged malt?
I don’t drink alcohol so I’ll say tea. Or Pepsi-Max.
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 Tokyo and write about me and Attenborough mooching about in karaoke bars and taxiing around looking for animals in the wild for Dave to talk about.
‘Gaz and Dave’s Tokyo Tales’ I’d call it.
What’s in your pockets?
Phone, car key, 26p, some mints and a receipt for those buns I bought for no reason. Did I tell you we had no burgers left?
Oh, hang on. I’ve found a pen in my jacket pocket.
Pen and ink, pencil and paper or keyboard and screen? What’s yourwriting style?
Laptop keyboard and screen for writing. Pen and paper for taking notes, doodling and jotting down ideas.
Do you read any blogs or magazines about writing? (And I mean read, not just subscribe to and delete/leave on your
I read blogs all the time. Every day. Dave Trott’s and the Procopywriters blog are probably the two I read most often, but I’ll read anything that anybody sends my way or I see on Twitter. I’m lucky enough to be mates with quite a few copywriters, marketers and designers online that all publish quality blog posts, so there’s never a shortage of new stuff to get stuck into.
I’ve picked up writing magazines a couple of times when I’ve been killing time in Tesco or WH Smith, but they always seem a bit Writers Bureau-ish. Like they’re aimed at folks in their 50s and 60s that write Midsummer Murders fan-fiction.
Tea – or coffee? What’s your poison?
Tea. It’s a good job it isn’t poison because I’d be long gone.
I don’t mind the odd cappuccino or mocha, though.
Do you have a favourite cup or mug? Can you describe it?
I just use whatever mug is clean. The one on my desk now is a Mini-Eggs mug that came with an Easter Egg.
I feel like I should have a favourite, though. I might have to buy one.
What was your most adored children’s book? And character?
All of my favourite books as a kid were by Roald Dahl. My favourite was The Twits but they were a right pair of sods, so my favourite character was Danny in Danny the Champion of the World. What a hero.
Your favourite word?
I don’t use it often, only when someone acts rambunctious.
Your most loathed word? (You know, the one that makes you shudder and say “Ew!”?
Horrible, horrible word.
Where can we find you? – Browsing online or lost in the aisles of a bookstore?
You can’t beat a good bookstore.
Favourite song lyric of all time? And why?
The lyrics that spring to mind immediately were by Inspectah Deck of the Wu Tang Clan.
I bomb atomically, Socrates’ philosophies
And hypotheses can’t define how I
Mockeries, lyrically perform armed robbery
Flee with the lottery, possibly they spotted me.
That verse BLEW MY MIND when I was a teenager. I had to look up Socrates, philosophies and hypotheses.
Name the artist who is guaranteed to get you up on the dancefloor.
The Jackson 5.
Do you have any strange writing rituals you’d like to share with us?
Not strange, but certainly a ritual I’d like to share: I always make a cuppa before writing. Even if it’s just a tweet. No tea, no work.
What are you working on today? What’s in the pipeline?
Today I’ve been working on a guest blog for a client. I signed an NDA so that’s all I can say about that.
The pipeline is looking strong. I have a few web copy projects coming up, plenty of client blog posts and some brochure copy. It’s a busy time of year.
Can you describe the last photograph you took?
The back of my business card. Close up so people could read the text. No filter.
Someone messaged me asking if they could share it in the Facebook group they run. To which I said, “Absolutely! But can I send you a new picture of the card because the one you’ve seen has a typo and I had to order new ones?”
Then I took the picture.
What piece of advice really changed you as a writer?
I bumped into Stevie King once buying a few tins in the off-licence*. Great lad. He told me this**:
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
*Might not be true.
** He might not have told me personally, but he did say it and I’ve read as often as possible since I seen it.
What was the last thing you wrote that had nothing to do with your job?
A tweet about those cowboys on The Apprentice charging £5 for a doughnut. A FIVER FOR ONE DOUGHNUT!
They’re five for 50p in Morrisons.
What’s your favourite quote about the process of writing?
“You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” — Jodi Picoult
Who is your favourite Mad Man – or Woman?
I’ve never seen it. I should have, shouldn’t I?
That’s not a great answer, is it? Hang on, I’ll Google it…
My favourite character is Joan Holloway.
Can you name your favourite film – and tell us why you love it?
The New York locations, the costumes, the music, the cool characters — it’s wonderful. One of the films that shouldn’t ever be remade. Of course, it will be and it’ll be crap.
Which book or books is/are by your bed today?
Jon Ronson’s Lost at Sea. It’s a collection of stories that Ronson has written for newspapers and magazines over the years. Another one of those books I can dip in and out of.
I love Ronson. He’s a brilliant comic writer and storyteller.
Who was or is your greatest teacher?
The people of the internet. I’ve met so many top people through Twitter and Facebook groups and I learn something new from them everyday.
I’d have liked to have tipped my hat to a special teacher from school but they were all bloody useless.
Who is your favourite artist?
Banksy or Jean-Michel Basquiat. I’m a big fan of graffiti and street art.
Where do you like to work best –is it at a desk, in an office or in a coffee shop? And would you send us a picture of where the magichappens?
I like to work in a coffee shop but I always seem to spend more time watching people and wondering what they’re working on than actually working. At my desk is where I’m most productive.
Here’s my desk looking like a bomb site, as usual.
And finally, where can this caffeine-fuelled audience find you?
I spend most of my time on Twitter, @thatcontentshed.
I also have a website with a contact form that you can use to get hold of me. It’s called thatcontentshed.com. You’ll find other social links there too.
Or just stick the kettle on and plate up some biccies and I’ll find my way to you.