Carolyn Kirkpatrick Desk


by | The Writing Desk

The first draft doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to exist if you’re going to get anywhere...


Thank you so much for agreeing to be a part of The Writing Desk Blog.

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…

Carolyn Kirkpatrick, Senior Copywriter at Crafted

Carolyn kirkpatrick headshot image

 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…)

Less of a business book, but Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic is something I often turn to. The way that woman writes about creativity always gives me a kick up the bum to get going! I have a copy on my desk that’s heavily abused and then a hardback edition at home that’s pristine.

What’s your all-time favourite advertising campaign?

“Beans means Heinz” is imprinted on my brain forever and I hate baked beans!

But I think ClearScore’s Moose the dog is genius. The one where he asks: “what doing?” and then after his owner, Charlie, tells him he’s just checking his credit score for free, he says: “ok, I love you” and walks off. It’s funny, transparent, and I use that voice for my dogs’ voices all the time now. And I love Clear Score.

“Everyone has a book in them…” Or so the saying goes. What do you think/know/believe is the secret to good writing?

I was told the rest of that saying is: “… and for some people, that’s where it should stay.” I think about that a lot! I think the secret to good writing is to be honest. Because I write for an agency, I’m often working with clients to sell a product or service and I want customers to know and understand what they are purchasing.

If you were just starting out, what advice would you give yourself? Which book or books would you read first?

I would tell myself to just spit it out. Get some words out and then enjoy the editing later. The first draft doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to exist if you’re going to get anywhere. I’d read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott way sooner than I did too!

Silence? Radio? Or music while you work?

If I’m working in the Crafted studio, we have a SONOS that we can all add music to. It’s often a real eclectic mix, not to mention a source of frustration when somebody whacks on Baby Shark or the Countdown music for a laugh.

At home, I listen to folk music and the sweet snoring of my dogs.

What are your top three novels of all time – and why?

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte

Howards End, E.M Forster

Geek Love, Katherine Dunn

I collect editions of Jane Eyre (30 and counting) because it’s just that good. Jane is a feminist for all the ages, and who doesn’t love a secret in the attic? It’s a book I reread often, always finding something new to enjoy.

Howards End carries the epigraph “only connect…” and it’s all about social connection. The three families all have their faults and quirks, but I have a particular fondness for Leonard Bast. If you fancy a more modern version (it was published in 1910), the inimitable Zadie Smith’s On Beauty is a wonderful reimagining.

Where to begin with Geek Love? Utterly bizarre, about a family of circus folk, purposefully created to shock and amaze (the mother takes drugs throughout her pregnancy, so the children have powers and, in some cases, additional appendages!). It’s ultimately about family though, in all its messy glory.

What’s the best thing you’ve ever written? Why did it rock your world?

When I worked in magazines, I was Deputy Editor of Crafts Beautiful. I got to write the Christmas feature one year and focused on nostalgia. I wrote about my own family Christmases past and mentioned my pops (who had died the year before). Being able to see my own life in print and share it with my nanny was poignant.

Since then my work for the British Library certainly made me feel like I’d achieved that ‘next level’.

What’s the last thing you bought? And yes, that packet of chewing gum counts.

I bought myself Jane Mount’s Reader’s Journal to track my nasty little habit of buying a ridiculous amount of literature. Fresh decade, fresh reading habits! Oh, and some Lunaria annua (called honesty or annual honesty) seeds for my garden. When you dry the stalks they look so pretty.

Who was your teenage crush?

I had a real thing for Patrick Stewart… I know, I know! But his head is so shiny and full of wisdom. And he rescued a pitbull called Ginger and he LOVES her so much. I think I still have the crush… Patrick Stewart and Ginger best moments.

Can you describe the best meal you’ve ever eaten?

The McDonalds I had after climbing Ben Nevis in 2017 – does that count? We hadn’t packed enough food at all for our trek and I believed myself close to death. The salt on those fries after feeling the exhilaration of making it to the top AND back down again, I can still taste both if I close my eyes.

What’s your favourite tipple? Is it wine, beer – a cask-aged malt?

I have a sweet tooth, so Barefoot Pink Moscato wine is a real treat.

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?

Oh my! I would love to go to the deep south of America and write about country music, debutante balls and beauty pageants because they all fascinate me.

Or if I chose to avoid the jet (climate change, you know) I would take a train to Scotland and write about my family – The Kirkpatrick’s of Dumfries! Our family crest is of a bloodied dagger and the motto is: “I make sure”. There’s a story or two there surely?

What’s in your pockets?

A plastic rainbow card holder with my building pass and train card in it and some fluff.

Pen and ink, pencil and paper or keyboard and screen? What’s your writing style?

At work, it’s three screens and a keyboard. Anywhere else it’s a hardback notebook and a Staedtler Triplus Fineliner, 0.3mm in any colour.

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?)

I love the ProCopywriters blog and Copyhackers is full of golden inspiration and new ways to reach an audience. I also find Grammar Girl handy.

Tea – or coffee? What’s your poison?

Coffee is life. I am especially fond of a Starbucks and unashamedly celebrate ‘red cup day’ when they release all the Christmas drinks. Eggnog latte, you have my heart.

Do you have a favourite cup or mug? Can you describe it?

My favourite mug at work says: “I am a grammar queen”. Apt. My favourite mug at home is a huge leopard print affair. Also apt.

What was your most adored children’s book? And character?

I was a huge Enid Blyton fan (still am to be fair) and loved The Faraway Tree stories. Moonface always makes me smile.

Your favourite word?

May I have two, please? Apoplectic and absolutely. I use both an inordinate amount.

Your most loathed word? (You know, the one that makes you shudder and say “Ew!”?)

Button – I have koumpounophobia.

Where can we find you? – Browsing online or lost in the aisles of a bookstore?

Forever in a bookstore, lovingly stroking the spines or harassing the staff. I’m going to use this as a shameless chance to plug my bookstagram account @the_essex_reader. I love seeing what everyone else is reading.

Favourite song lyric of all time? And why?

“I still remember me before you. I will no longer need your rescue. I still remember me before you. I’m no fool.”

Seinabo Sey, Still, from her album Pretend*.

These words and this song have been a lifesaver. It’s about knowing who you are and not becoming altered by a relationship in a way that isn’t completely true to yourself. I came out of a significant break up this past summer and those words took on even more meaning for me. The repetition of that opening sentence, it’s like a mantra for me now. I know who I am and what I’m about. It also kind of reminds me of the Jane Eyre quote: “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”

*If you fancy a boogie to the song, may I suggest the Charming Horses remix?

Name the artist who is guaranteed to get you up on the dance floor.

Britney Spears.

Do you have any strange writing rituals you’d like to share with us?

Not exactly strange, but I cannot stand to start editing anything that has weird formatting or is all in different fonts. I like to feel like everything is where it should be (contrary to my desk set up I am in fact impeccably organised).

If I am writing a new piece I like to begin with a hot coffee and all my research on the left screen, a blank page on the right.

What are you working on today? What’s in the pipeline?

I’m writing some lovely travel blogs today. I will also be planning some content strategy for a client for the latter half of 2020 and developing a TOV guide for another.

Can you describe the last photograph you took?

I couldn’t sleep last night, so I took pictures of my pug Beyonce asleep.

Sleeping Pug

What piece of advice really changed you as a writer?

This Neil Gaiman quote got me through a dark time in my career. When I started at Crafted I was terrified. I’d never been in an agency before and I didn’t understand half the acronyms people used. I thought all my writing was a complete load of rubbish and that I was bound to be fired at any minute. Reading this took the pressure off and allowed me to just do my best every day. It’s technically about freelance work, but I reckon it works:

“You get work however you get work, but people keep working in a freelance world because their work is good, because they are easy to get along with and because they deliver the work on time. And you don’t even need all three! Two out of three is fine. People will tolerate how unpleasant you are if your work is good and you deliver it on time. People will forgive the lateness of your work if it is good and they like you. And you don’t have to be as good as everyone else if you’re on time and it’s always a pleasure to hear from you.”

What was the last thing you wrote that had nothing to do with your job?

I just wrote a poem for my wedding invites. It’s concerning the dress code, which makes me sound like a control freak but is actually just me creatively trying to encourage people to wear glitter capes and fancy hats!

What’s your favourite quote about the process of writing?

“Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.”

Franz Kafka

Who is your favourite Mad Man – or Woman?

If this means the show, I must confess I have never seen it. I’m sorry! If it’s just my favourite ‘mad’ woman then probably my mother. Fantastic lady, but clearly off her rocker in the best way.

Can you name your favourite film – and tell us why you love it?

Happy Go Lucky by Mike Leigh. Sally Hawkins plays Poppy, and she’s just wonderful. I want to be more Poppy. Nothing really happens per se, it’s not a complex plot at all. Just a little glimpse into a life. Go watch!

Which book or books is/are by your bed today?

I have just started Frankisstein by Jeanette Winterson and I am finishing up Dawn O Porter’s So Lucky. But I always have a stupidly high stack and two in my bag at all times, just in case.

Book stack

Who was or is your greatest teacher?

She never meant to, but my mother always taught me to essentially ‘crack on’ no matter what life threw at me. She did this by living life her own way, always, and by teaching me to ice skate by placing me in the middle of the rink and saying: “If you want to go home, skate your way out.”

Who is your favourite artist?

Rima Staines. I met her many years ago now in Canterbury where she was selling some prints on the pavement. She made me a custom-sized version of her The Goods and Chattel Man pencil sketch and I just think she’s amazing.

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?

carolyn kirkpatrick desk

I do love my desk in the office. I have covered it in unicorns, which startles some clients, but ultimately, I write better when I am surrounded by colour and things that make me smile. My desk buddy Tom sings in harmony with me and I’m close to the PPC ‘snack table’. If I’m in London for client meetings I usually head to the British Library to work in front of the King’s Library.

And finally, where can this caffeine-fuelled audience find you?

On Twitter @CazzKirkyP – same handle for Instagram, and through Crafted, of course.

Written By Katherine

Katherine Wildman is a copywriter for creative agencies and multinational brands – and the Creative Director of Haydn Grey.

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