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…
I’m Garth Dew. I run a video production company with the creative name of GD Video (see what I did there?) We help businesses connect with the people who matter through story driven video content.
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…)
I used to inhale business books, then I became bored of them. Let’s be honest, most could be a short blog post. I also found that the more I read them, the more I got distracted.
There are a couple that have made a positive impact though.
“Anything you Want,” by Derek Sivers, was such a refreshing take on business. It tells the story of how Derek started and grew CD Baby and eventually sold it for $20m. It made me realise that you can make your business whatever you want it to be. It doesn’t have to be dull and boring.
Derek’s other book, “Your Music and People,” is probably the best marketing book I’ve read.
I’d also say “Profit First” was important for me. It’s simple framework for managing finances has helped me keep hold of my profits and never worry about paying my taxes.
What’s your all-time favourite advertising campaign?
When I was getting into video, Asics launched a campaign called, “Better your Best.”
It was a series of short films about endurance athletes.
There was one film, in particular, that I loved, about trial runner Christian Scheister.
I remember watching it and thinking, “That is the type of video I want to be making.”
Marketing is about making people feel something, and that film did that for me.
Nearly 9 years later, I still look at it for inspiration.
“Everyone has a book in them…” Or so the saying goes. What do you think/know/believe is the secret to good writing?
My favourite writers use plain and simple language but have a style that is unique to them.
I’m thinking writers like Bukowski and Carver, and marketers like Gary Halbert and Ben Settle.
They’re direct, honest, sometimes funny and always persuasive.
If you were just starting out, what advice would you give yourself? Which book or books would you read first?
I’d say, “Before you do anything, decide what is important to you.”
I used to put myself under pressure and think I needed to grow a massive company to be successful.
Then I realised that was not what I wanted.
I now define success as when my days look how I want them to look.
That means doing work I love, having total control over my schedule and enjoying my life.
With that in mind, ‘Keep Going,” by Austin Kleon, is a great book for creatives and one I wish I’d read sooner.
Silence? Radio? Or music while you work?
If I’m editing video, I’ll be listening to the same music or interviews over and over again. Which can get annoying.
For other work, it’s either silence or instrumental music on repeat.
Some favourites are “Alone in Kyoto” by Air, and ‘ROYGBIV’ by Boards of Canada.
What are your top three novels of all time – and why?
I mainly read non-fiction.
When I was younger, however, I didn’t read anything at all.
From Bukowski, I found Raymond Carver and Henry Miller. Then I started a business and found Tim Ferriss, which put me on to Ryan Holiday, and I got into classic Stoicism. From there I found Eastern philosophy and some life changing books. Nowadays I’m reading all sorts about World War II, gardening, adventure and creativity.
None of that would have happened if I hadn’t fallen in love with reading first.
As Naval Ravikant says, “Read what you love until you love to read.”
Recently, Siddhartha, by Hermen Hesse, was a beautiful novel that I took a lot from.
What’s the best thing you’ve ever written? Why did it rock your world?
We did a lesson on writing Limericks in primary school. Mine went like this:
There was an old man from France
Who did a remarkable dance
He needed a pill, to keep him still
That funny old man from France.
I still remember it 25 years later, so it must be good.
What’s the last thing you bought? And yes, that packet of chewing gum counts.
Last night, I bought a book about growing your own vegetables. I’ve recently moved house and have garden to work with, so I’m hoping to grow some of my own food.
Who was your teenage crush?
As a spotty teenager, I loved Mike Myers films. Cassandra from Wayne’s World and Liz Hurley in Austin Powers were quite easy on the eye.
Can you describe the best meal you’ve ever eaten?
I once went on holiday to a town called Kalkan in Turkey. I didn’t know what to expect, but it turned out to be an amazing place. There was a restaurant there called Korsan, which did the best fillet steak I’ve ever eaten.
What’s your favourite tipple? Is it wine, beer – a cask-aged malt?
Sat by Lake Windermere with a freshly pulled pint of Loweswater Gold. What a drop that is.
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 recently read a book called “Endurance” about Earnest Shackleton’s Trans-Antarctic Expedition. It’s a gripping story of survival. I’d love to retrace their route from the comfort of helicopter and have Attenborough tell me all about the surrounding nature.
What’s in your pockets?
A face mask… and some fluff.
Pen and ink, pencil and paper or keyboard and screen? What’s your writing style?
Usually keyboard and screen. I like to write brainstorms down, but I have the handwriting of a 5 year old, so I can never read them back.
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 like to read Ben Settle’s newsletter about email marketing. It’s hilarious. I once subscribed to his physical newsletter too, which was a masterclass in copywriting, persuasion and marketing.
Tea – or coffee? What’s your poison?
Strong black coffee. I have recently gone full hipster and only drink it when I’ve ground my own fresh beans and brewed them using a contraption called the Aeropress (it looks like Austin Power’s penis enlarger). Best coffee I ever did have.
Do you have a favourite cup or mug? Can you describe it?
I have a trendy mug from Copenhagen with no handle. Again, very hipster, but it brings back memories of a great trip.
What was your most adored children’s book? And character?
Despite being a rugby fanatic, there was a kids football book I liked called “The Big Match.” But as I mentioned earlier, I read very little. So I wouldn’t say I adored that book. It was just the only one I read.
Your favourite word?
Your most loathed word? (You know, the one that makes you shudder and say “Ew!”?)
“Fingered” (when said by an old person in relation to picking up a cake and putting it back down).
Where can we find you? – Browsing online or lost in the aisles of a bookstore?
Lost online, browsing for books.
Favourite song lyric of all time? And why?
My favourite lyricist is David Berman, front man of Silver Jews. He had a great way with words, and I loved how he delivered them with a dry tone and the backing of lo-fi indie music. He sadly took his own life not too long ago.
Here are two lyrics that I like:
“In 1984 I was hospitalized for approaching perfection.
Slowly screwing my way across Europe, they had to make a correction.”
“I passed out on the fourteenth floor… The CPR was so erotic”
Name the artist who is guaranteed to get you up on the dance floor.
James Brown or Talking Heads.
Do you have any strange writing rituals you’d like to share with us?
If I need to get in the zone and write something, I open TextEdit on Mac and make it full screen so all you can see is plain white. I then zoom in to 200% so the text is massive. It helps me focus on writing and avoid distractions.
What are you working on today? What’s in the pipeline?
I just finished putting the final touches to my new website, with help from some woman called Katherine Wildman. I’m also planning a few videos for an eCommerce brand.
Can you describe the last photograph you took?
A shot of my 3 year old in her PJs wearing sunglasses and giving me the ‘peace’ sign. She’s growing up too fast!
What piece of advice really changed you as a writer?
There’s a blog by Scott Adams called, “The day you became a better writer.”
You can read it in 2 minutes and it helped me to improve my general writing.
Here’s a quote:
“Business writing is about clarity and persuasion. The main technique is keeping things simple. Simple writing is persuasive. A good argument in five sentences will sway more people than a brilliant argument in a hundred sentences. Don’t fight it.
Simple means getting rid of extra words. Don’t write, “He was very happy” when you can write “He was happy.” You think the word “very” adds something. It doesn’t. Prune your sentences.”
What was the last thing you wrote that had nothing to do with your job?
I summarised an Anthony De Mello lecture from Youtube into my notebook.
“How should I live?
Be me, be now, be here.”
What’s your favourite quote about the process of writing?
“I hate to write. Anybody who says they like to write is either a degenerate liar or a social leper. Let’s face it: What kind of nerd wants to sit and struggle with a blank piece of paper when he could be 60 feet underwater slaughtering innocent fish… or… romancing his honey… or… going to a movie… or… playing golf… or… reading what somebody else has struggled to write…
– Gary Halbert.
Who is your favourite Mad Man – or Woman?
If this is in relation to the TV show, I haven’t seen it.
In terms of general mad men, I think Wim Hof is nuts.
Can you name your favourite film – and tell us why you love it?
Can I pick two?
When I was a student, I watched Taxi Driver about 50 times. There’s this mild tension building throughout the film, and then it explodes. De Niro was on fire in that film. They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.
On a lighter note, Lost in Translation is such a perfect film. It has the humour of Bill Murray, the beauty of Scarlett Johannson and the madness of Tokyo. Just brilliant.
Which book or books is/are by your bed today?
I’m currently reading biographies about crazy blokes from history.
Our modern lives are so devoid of mad shit. So I like to read about times gone by when the world was a bigger place and full of mystery.
My latest one is about Richard Francis Burton. What a dude.
Who was or is your greatest teacher?
Books have given me more wisdom than any teacher ever did. The writing of Epictetus, Seneca, Krishnamurti and Kapil Gupta has had a big impact on my life.
Who is your favorite artist?
I’m going to say photographer David Alan Harvey – As much for his outlook and wisdom as his work.
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?
My best work happens when I’m up a mountain with a camera.