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…
John Espirian, relentlessly helpful technical copywriter and all-round LinkedIn nerd. I help B2B business owners build a strong online presence by creating content for their websites and LinkedIn profiles.
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…)
The Global English Style Guide by John Kohl. It’s a great resource for technical copywriters who want to express themselves clearly and simply, especially when their content needs to be translated into other languages.
What’s your all-time favourite advertising campaign?
Probably Tesco’s Every Little Helps. Turning a common phrase into an ad slogan was a great way to slide into the nation’s psyche. You don’t need big money to create brand awareness.
“Everyone has a book in them…” Or so the saying goes. What do you think/know/believe is the secret to good writing?
If we’re talking about creative writing for books, the hardest bit is to be honest in every word. It’s too easy to conform to what you think others want. Brave writers unshackle themselves and write their truth. If we’re talking about writing in business, good writing is about understanding someone else’s needs so well that they do a secret fist pump when they read the content, because they’ve found something that they know is just right for them. It’s written in their language and it makes them feel happier or smarter or less burdened. One of the best bits of feedback I’ve had since publishing my own book is that people like the “Get to the point” section of each chapter. It’s a good reminder that no one wants waffle, even in a book-length piece of content.
If you were just starting out, what advice would you give yourself? Which book or books would you read first?
Understand who you want to work with and gear everything towards serving them. Take all ethical actions possible to build trust. Be the same shape everywhere by understanding and building a brand identity. I have to recommend Mark Schaefer’s 2017 book KNOWN. It’s a masterpiece in understanding how to produce an effective personal brand that helps you become known in your industry.
Silence? Radio? Or music while you work?
Silence. I’ve tried white noise and pink noise and probably orange with green polka dot noise. But no noise works best for me.
What are your top three novels of all time – and why?
The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, Harry Potter and His Dark Materials. These are all vaguely sci-fi (my favourite genre) and each contains something related to time travel, which I find fascinating.
What’s the best thing you’ve ever written? Why did it rock your world?
While on a writing retreat, there was a challenge to write a short story in 90 minutes. I enjoyed letting myself go and bashing away at the keyboard without taking a break. It showed me that planning isn’t always necessary. I ended up writing a weird sci-fi story that I’d never thought about before that moment we were given the task. Sometimes, the creativity is there waiting to be tapped if you give yourself permission to do it.
What’s the last thing you bought? And yes, that packet of chewing gum counts.
Groceries, all of which are decidedly healthier in the past few months than they ever have been before. The pleasant side effect of lockdown for me has been losing more than 2 stone in weight, with plenty more to come.
Who was your teenage crush?
I remember having posters of Kelly Brook, Jennifer Aniston and – I’m not quite sure why – Sandra Bullock. I feel really old.
Can you describe the best meal you’ve ever eaten?
The world’s best pork fillet was served to me during a VIP trip to Newcastle United at the start of the noughties. That was far more gratifying than meeting Jermaine Jenas, the only goalscorer of the match.
What’s your favourite tipple? Is it wine, beer – a cask-aged malt?
I gave up drinking after university so I’ll have to be boring and go for a caffeinated option. Tea’s my favourite – but don’t tell that to my Espresso email subscribers.
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’m no big traveller but if I did make the effort to buckle up with Sir Dave then I’d go as far as possible, so that would be Australia. Kangaroos and koalas are gorgeous – I’d cover them.
What’s in your pockets?
Money comes and goes. Nothing else. When I was a child, it used to be Fox’s Glacier Mints. This explains a lot.
Pen and ink, pencil and paper or keyboard and screen? What’s your writing style?
Keyboard and screen all the way. I’m a technical copywriter, remember – pen and paper won’t do. I make an exception for my daily to-do list, though. Post-it notes are great for that.
Do you read any blogs or magazines about writing? (And I mean read, not just subscribe to and delete/leave on desk and recycle?)
Not really. I did start out looking at things such as Copyblogger and Problogger, but my main way of learning these days is via podcasts.
Tea – or coffee? What’s your poison?
For branding purposes, I ought to say Espresso ☕️ – but I do like a good tea.
Do you have a favourite cup or mug? Can you describe it?
A couple of Liverpool FC mugs are never far from me.
What was your most adored children’s book? And character?
I didn’t enjoy reading that much when I was young. I think the joy was sucked out of me when I was forced by a teacher to read The Hobbit at too young an age. I liked Roald Dahl – “adored” would be a step too far.
Your favourite word?
It changes too often for me to give you a meaningful answer. Right now it’s “relentless”.
I’ve always had a soft spot for “pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis”, but it’s hard to work into most sentences.
Your most loathed word? (You know, the one that makes you shudder and say “Ew!”?
Where can we find you? – Browsing online or lost in the aisles of a bookstore?
Online all the way. I think 3% of my DNA comes from LinkedIn.
Favourite song lyric of all time? And why?
“We only said goodbye with words.” – Amy Winehouse
Name the artist who is guaranteed to get you up on the dance floor.
You can’t say no to the Bee Gees.
Do you have any strange writing rituals you’d like to share with us?
Not really. My best tip is to write without a filter. No one other than you has to read your rotten first draft. Oh, and get your computer to read your text out to you before you commit it to publication.
What are you working on today? What’s in the pipeline?
A blog on driverless cars! A lot of personal marketing content is now about LinkedIn, and I’m revamping my LinkedIn course soon, so that will keep me busy. I’m also scoping out writing a second book – eek!
Can you describe the last photograph you took?
Homemade fish curry in the pan, to send to my girlfriend. Yummers (and healthier than it sounds).
What piece of advice really changed you as a writer?
Stop chasing shiny red balls.
What was the last thing you wrote that had nothing to do with your job?
The literal but boring answer: a shopping list.
What’s your favourite quote about the process of writing?
“Nobody ever complained that some piece of writing was too simple to understand.” – Ann Handley
Who is your favourite Mad Man – or Woman?
Never watched it. This question illustrates why capitalisation matters.
Can you name your favourite film – and tell us why you love it?
The Matrix. I love the concept that we’re inside another world. Also, a big shout for Source Code, starring Jake Gyllenhaal. Films that bend time are fab.
Which book or books is/are by your bed today?
Who was or is your greatest teacher?
I had a couple of maths teachers who inspired me and were full of personality. Good teachers make all the difference.
Who is your favorite artist?
I don’t have a favourite but I do love hyper-real pencil 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 magic happens?
At my desk.