“Hello everyone, I’d like to introduce…”
Megan Douglas, also known as Megan Rose Freelance, 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…
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…)
You’re describing my notepad there. I don’t really have many business books, especially not in hard copy. I like Tom Albrighton’s new(ish) book, Copywriting Made Simple, and I’m enjoying Dave Trott’s One+One=Three at the moment. If I’m looking for ideas or to learn new stuff I tend to Google from one blog to another, picking and choosing as I go.
What’s your all-time favourite advertising campaign?
I love the Fairy Liquid campaigns from growing up – those ones with the little girl and her mum who has soft skin from washing up, and also the ones where they wash up after school dinners and stack as many plates as they can clean down long tables. It’s almost as if Fairy were being very canny (and slightly evil) in sucking you into their brand from as early an age as possible. But they also picked on the different selling points (mild on your skin, cleans more dishes than other brands) and focused on them one at a time. Simple but clever.
“Everyone has a book in them…” Or so the saying goes. What do you think/know/believe is the secret to good writing?
To start writing at the right time. The best writing just flows naturally once the ideas have had a chance to ferment for a bit in your subconscious. It’s not always possible to write that way, especially when you write for a living, but I think that’s where the best writing comes from.
If you were just starting out, what advice would you give yourself? Which book or books would you read first?
Be patient! Know what you’re worth. Make friends with other freelancers. Be yourself.
As for books, I wish Tom’s book had been around when I first started. Not really being a business-book person, I don’t have a clue where to start in answering that one!
Silence? Radio? Or music while you work?
It’s generally silence, but sometimes I go for music, either because I need to drown out the background noise, or because it suits the project. I had one job where I listened to the Harry Potter soundtrack on a loop. Sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn’t. Whatever I listen to, though, it has to just be instrumental. If there are words, they creep their way into the copy.
What are your top three novels of all time – and why?
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr, because it brings such a human side to that era and is a whole adventure around countries, all without focusing too much on the conflict. I loved the two sequels as well.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, which I first read back in the late 1990s when I was at school. We were studying another of her books, which I really didn’t get on with, so finding that I liked this was a shock! I love the way it unfolds gradually, with no real background, just the Handmaid speaking. And I think the ending is brilliant, turning the whole thing into a historical document and throwing doubt on its authenticity (Naomi Alderman’s The Power did something similar more recently). The TV version is wonderful too, but in a very different way.
And then probably Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, because it’s totally crazy, but all linked together, and it’s such a whirlwind of ideas and places and imagination. And so many different writing styles! I don’t understand it, but I really enjoyed it.
What’s the best thing you’ve ever written? Why did it rock your world?
My favourite is probably a booklet I did for a local charity, Hertfordshire Community Foundation. It was a celebration of the work they’d done over the past thirty years, and I interviewed ten local charities they’d supported, turning the interviews into case studies. It was just such a heart-warming job to work on, and it’s helped bring in more money since its publication. PLUS it’s rare that any of my copy ends up in print, so it was a bonus to get a copy through the post which I could actually hold for once!
What’s the last thing you bought? And yes, that packet of chewing gum counts.
A tin of Heinz tomato soup for my lunch. It’s that kind of a grey and chilly day today.
Who was your teenage crush?
Paul Nicholls in The Biz.
Can you describe the best meal you’ve ever eaten?
Pasta with tuna and tomato sauce followed by fruit salad, from a supermarket cafeteria in Milan. I was backpacking with a friend during a break at uni and we’d not eaten the night before. There’d been no food at our hostel and it was in a really rough area with a huge fight going on outside so as two girls on our own we were too wimpy to go anywhere. By the following lunchtime, with just a bit of bread for breakfast, we were happy for any food we could find. That pasta was the best thing ever.
What’s your favourite tipple? Is it wine, beer – a cask-aged malt?
I don’t drink, so tea. Or ginger beer! Ginger beer is great.
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?
New Zealand, mainland Europe and Scandinavia. I’m not sure they’re the best places for Mr Attenborough to find exciting wildlife, but I’d love to find out more about those countries, and he’s a fascinating person. I suspect we’d have quite a lot of fun getting lost.
What’s in your pockets?
Hairbands. Until the hairband monster (cousin of the sock monster) steals them.
Pen and ink, pencil and paper or keyboard and screen? What’s your writing style?
Multi-coloured felt tips and big paper when I’m planning. Pen and notebook sometimes when I’m drafting. Keyboard and screen for writing.
Do you read any blogs or magazines about writing? (And I mean read, not just subscribe to and delete/leave on your desk and recycle?)
Not any in particular. I always read stuff by John Espirian, Glenn Fisher, André Spiteri and Meg Hapgood if I see it online. And I skim read a load of other stuff that comes my way on social media.
Tea – or coffee? What’s your poison?
TEA! Or sometimes a decaf coffee. And then some more tea.
Do you have a favourite cup or mug? Can you describe it?
I don’t have a single favourite, but I do like a chunky mug that holds plenty and doesn’t break for the first few times it’s dropped…
What was your most adored children’s book? And character?
Maisie Middleton (in Maisie Middleton). She seemed like a whole lot of fun. I’d have liked to hang out with her.
Your favourite word?
Hmm, not sure, it changes all the time. I really like ‘cherish’ at the moment because it’s that idea of really valuing something over a long period of time, taking the utmost care over it. There’s something very special about that concept.
Your most loathed word? (You know, the one that makes you shudder and say “Ew!”?
Utilise. Unless it’s being used properly.
Where can we find you? – Browsing online or lost in the aisles of a bookstore?
Bookstore, every time.
Favourite song lyric of all time? And why?
“It only takes one tree to make a thousand matches, only takes one match to burn a thousand trees” by Stereophonics. I really like ideas around perspective and scale and this just really makes me smile. I guess you can read something profound into it if you want to, but it’s a nice fact to ponder on too.
Name the artist who is guaranteed to get you up on the dance floor.
S Club (sorry).
Do you have any strange writing rituals you’d like to share with us?
I always pick a colour and a font to write in before I start a new project. They have to suit the tone and the client. I won’t usually send them the copy in that format, but it helps me ‘get into character’.
What are you working on today? What’s in the pipeline?
Some bits for my own blog, a naming project for a project that was sent to me with the title “Top Secret Project”. A client blog and a client website. I like to do a bit of lots of things, rather than focus a whole day on one project.
Can you describe the last photograph you took?
It was of that tin of tomato soup, for a Twitter post. Maybe I should get a life.
What piece of advice really changed you as a writer?
It’s not so much a piece of advice, but encouragement from my friends that my writing was good enough to share. Getting that self-belief to write and be yourself, and not try to be everyone else, was absolutely invaluable.
What was the last thing you wrote that had nothing to do with your job?
A WhatsApp to my 11-year-old niece.
What’s your favourite quote about the process of writing?
“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” I think it was Sylvia Plath who said it, but whoever it was, they were right. Sometimes you think you can’t do something, it seems too complicated, too nebulous, too weird or too personal. But if you start, you find a way in, and if you don’t allow yourself to doubt it, the words will come.
Who is your favourite Mad Man – or Woman?
Is there a Mike? I never watched it I’m afraid.
Can you name your favourite film – and tell us why you love it?
Wimbledon – that romcom from years back with Kirsten Dunst and Paul Bettany. I think it was more to do with the idea of a Brit winning Wimbledon than the rest of the story! At the time, that was a far and distant dream…
Which book or books is/are by your bed today?
The Radleys by Matt Haig and Sourdough by Robin Sloan.
Who was or is your greatest teacher?
Mlle Lambert, my French teacher at secondary school. She was so much fun, and a great teacher. And she’d teach us about other stuff too, sometimes. She came along when some of us visited the World War One battlefields, because her family was from around there. Getting that perspective on how a family was affected was huge. And she’d teach us English grammar when she realised that’s why we couldn’t understand the French. She definitely loved teaching, and not sticking to the syllabus…
Who is your favourite artist?
At the moment I’m really liking Laura B Makes, a local artist (https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/LaurabmakesShop).I bought a couple of pieces from her last weekend, and that speaks
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 magic happens?
This really depends on what I’m doing, but in general, I write at home because that’s where the laptop and the quiet are. And I like to plan somewhere out and about, because I get more ideas and inspiration when I’m surrounded by things happening – so a coffee shop or, ideally, outside on a bench somewhere for that.
And finally, where can this caffeine-fuelled audience find you?
My website is the imaginatively named meganrosefreelance.com. If you’re looking to chat and get distracted from work, I’m most often found on Twitter, but also on Instagram and LinkedIn. And I have the obligatory Facebook page that I hardly use…