John Hill office

THE WRITING DESK | JOHN HILL | FREELANCE WRITER

by | The Writing Desk

A trained audio journalist, an amateur musician, an event content creator, and he tells stories with smartphone apps and tools.

Hello,

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 Hill. He’s the head of content at education agency Pickle Jar Communications, as well as a freelance writer and creator. He can help you find the words to share what matters about your work with a wider audience, whether you’re in tech, science, education, games or research.

He’s a trained audio journalist, an amateur musician, an event content creator, and he tells stories with smartphone apps and tools.

He also gestures a lot, and you’ll probably find his hair in your carpet later.

We apologise in advance. There will be coffee and refreshments afterwards.

John Hill headshot

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…)

It’s got to be “If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look On My Face?” by the actor Alan Alda. It’s the story of how Alan has helped scientists to communicate complex subjects more clearly, using techniques he learned in acting workshops.

A huge chunk of my work involves helping dedicated, intelligent specialists to explain what they’re working on to people who may be interested, but aren’t that familiar with their field (or their jargon).

And the biggest part of that job is to find ways to get them from knowing what they know, to knowing what they need to say.

The best thing about Alan’s book is that the exercises it suggests are clear, engaging, and revealing. They’re great for breaking the ice in workshops, and also handy if you’re trying to break your own bad habits. After all, we’re all lazy communicators sometimes.

What’s your all-time favourite advertising campaign?

I’m a former journalist. I hail from a different corner of the writing world. So my favourite advertising campaign isn’t great craftsmanship or strategy. It’s just something that stuck in my head and never got dislodged.

When I was about ten years old, I was a kid in love with American Football. I used to throw the ball to myself in my back garden while commentating. And, yes, when my parents couldn’t find me a 49ers jersey for Christmas, my grandmother knitted me a “replica jumper” with the words “Super Bowl” stitched on the front.

I used to stay up late to watch the games on Channel 4, and at that time, there was a short Heineken advert that kept popping up. It’s hard to describe, so I’ll just show you…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7z2bw9Q6oQ

Anyway, it was surreal, silly and most importantly (if you were a kid desperate for the show to start again) short. And somehow the Crimson Cow thing stuck with me. It became the title of the anonymous blog I started just over ten years later, when I came back from New York City in late-September 2001 and turned my ragey writing into what eventually became something-like-journalism.

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

Rhythm.

I think most people understand the importance of rhythm when it comes to speaking, but we don’t talk about it enough when it comes to writing. But if you hate a sentence, 8 times out of 10 it’s because the rhythm sucks.

A lot of folks, when they’re writing, they’re just desperate not to miss anything out. They’re cramming in words, like commuters trying to rush the tube carriage before the doors shut.

But our brains are always aware of the rhythm of what we write. When we pause. When we use long and short words. When we break the sentence off. When we let it run.

There’s not one “right” rhythm. But if you’re willing to play with it, you can transform your writing in so many interesting ways.

The words tell the story, but the rhythm gives it life.

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

When people start off with a knack for writing, there’s a temptation to start believing you’re the “chosen one”. That you’ve got this mystical talent, like talking to animals, controlling fire, or being able to wash up without splashing water all over your t-shirt.

And the result of that is that you start “mining” yourself for your buried, inherent genius. Because you’re convinced there’s something pure and amazing in there – like a diamond – just waiting to be discovered, right?

“Influences” are cheating. “Theory” dilutes you.

And you don’t realise – until maybe you’re older, humbler and much, much, much more tired – that it’s okay to absorb, to mimic, to ask, to learn, to fall on your arse and have tiny moments that no one notices.

That all the great art you ever loved wasn’t the result of someone just digging into the pit of their stomach and pulling out fully-formed wonders.

Nirvana came out of this collective Seattle grunge scene, not just Cobain. Fear and Loathing was Thompson, as well as huge swigs of Vietnam, Nixon and American darkness.

It’s chemical reactions, between you and the world around you. Bonding, melting, and exploding in different ways. And you can’t have any of those fireworks without putting both of those elements together.

In terms of books? I grew up in a school where people had a list of “the right books to read”, and I had no time for that at all. I was once pulled up for reading Nancy Drew mysteries because my teacher thought they were “little girls’ books”. I clattered through the entire class reading list in a couple of weeks just to spite him. And I didn’t enjoy a single one as much as that next Nancy Drew book I picked up.

So what I basically took from that was…well…

Read what you damn well want.

You’re going to have to read a lot of things in your life, especially if you’re a writer. So you’re going to have a pretty miserable time if you go about forcing yourself to read stuff you hate, because someone else told you to.

Make reading a joy, not a job.

Silence? Radio? Or music while you work?

Music. Darkness. Coloured lights. Candles. Maybe even smoke machines if you’re offering.

I prepare for writing like some people prepare for bathtime. I close the door, set the mood, and try to put myself in a trance. I’ve known people that can write on trains, squidged in airplane seats, or – ugh – in offices. As much as I’d like to turn that tap on and off at will, that’s not me.

I don’t write around people. I like writing at night. I listen to Spotify rather than the radio, because I know that a bad song or some dull DJ chit-chat will wrench me into unproductive annoyance.

I’m a firm believer that you do your best writing when you feel “two-drink-drunk”.

Not necessarily literally.

I’m talking about that slightly fuzzy vibe when you’ve soaked up your atmosphere and your music. You can just feel the little electrical tingles of the emotion you’re meant to be getting across in what you’re writing, whether it’s happy, inspiring, angry, dry or jazzy…and it just splurges out of your fingers onto the keys like toothpaste.

And if you need music, lights, or – yes – a couple of bottles of Sierra Nevada Pale to get you there, then you do you.

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

I’m probably not the first person to say Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird. It’d be amazing just for the plot itself, which is a devastatingly-powerful critique of racial and social inequality.

But it’s also Harper showing a complete mastery of dialogue and rhythm. It’s not like some Aaron Sorkin show where every character is just vomiting golden sculpted oratory. It’s natural, colloquial, human. But it’s also beautifully-crafted art.

I’m also an enormous fan of Douglas Adams. As British people we bang on too much about the lie that we’re some sort of stuttering, civilized Top Hat Nation. But I was a kid that identified with him on some deep cultural level. The dead-pan, the imagination, the note-perfect humour and the unique use of language and tone. It felt like something that came from where I did, that I could be proud of.

As I got older and started living and travelling abroad, I noticed something else. Arthur Dent was this totally normal guy that got exposed to the universe, and became a curiosity BECAUSE of all the things that previously made him normal.

When I was a British guy living in the States, I felt comfortable embracing bits of being British that I didn’t back home. I learned that I’d been scared to embrace things I shared with people I’d grown up with, because they felt dreary and commonplace. And it took me going somewhere where I was an oddity to admit that I liked some of the bits of where I was from, and to stop performing so damn much.

I also grew up devouring Raymond Chandler novels. He’s my most obvious influence, not just in how I write, but in how I communicate. He had this wild knack for metaphor; for picking out this visceral technicolor image that didn’t just put you in the room. It put you in the feeling.

I still believe that the best way to bring something to life for someone is to just jam their face in some crazy metaphor. Like dunking their head in an apple-bobbing barrel full of stars.

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

Most of my favourite stuff was from my journalism days, which is a shame because there’s been a recent trend among my former papers to delete their archives, or rudely go bust.

I love stories about community, creativity and social justice. And – yeah – I’m in my work. I don’t subscribe to the Neutral Floating Journo principle, not at all. Sure, you should report fairly, and trace out how everyone affected by it feels about it. But if you’re not reporting on it to make something better, then what’s the point? That’s what journalism really is, right? Otherwise you’re just rubber-necking a car crash.

I particularly remember careering into the world’s largest arms fair in London (I still have no idea how), and writing this free-roaming article that went on waaaaaaay too long (my paper didn’t care about editing online, because they figured that – while a printed page was finite – you’d never run out of internet).

This was September 11 at the tail-end of the 2000s, and we were in this cavernous exhibition hall, full of people selling tanks, armour and assorted sharp-toothed murder-tech.

And the thing that stood out was just how…HUMDRUM…it all was. A year or two earlier, a couple of exhibitors had been caught breaking government torture rules by selling leg irons. But most of the people manning the stalls were exactly the sort of people you’d see flogging HR services, smoothies or smart-watches at your everyday exhibition.

I guess that’s as terrifying as it is surprising, because it’s all so routine and normal in there. And yet very, very much not.

Other than that, I’ve the chance to do so much as a writer, from reporting on protests and riots, to interviewing Christopher Lee about his metal album and Samuel L Jackson about his golf game. Reporting on the sport of chess-boxing, and giving local bands their first exposure in a paper. Working with amazing scientists and thinkers, and travelling to places like Bangkok, Austin and Kuala Lumpur.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BiY3VsfFdwo/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

And I think it’s important to pause for a bit when you get these opportunities, and recognise how cool they are. And how cool the people that give you them are too.

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

I bought an enormous charger-box to use with my phones and my laptop, that I spotted on Terence Eden’s blog. It’s the golden rule of reporting with smartphones – you can never stuff too many charger-boxes into your bag. Nowt worse than being tethered to a wall-plug while something cool’s happening somewhere else.

Yeah, I love waffling on about kit. If you haven’t already, follow Christian Payne (aka @Documentally) on Twitter. He’s a lovely guy, tells amazing stories, and has a fascinating newsletter. But my office desk still has water damage from all the times I’ve clicked on his posts to drool over his amazing mojo gadgets.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GuAXcZmLNmM

Who was your teenage crush?

Nicole Kidman. And – a bit later – Willow from Buffy.

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

If it’s got spice in it, count me in. I am a sucker for all things super-spicy. I once necked a ghost pepper in a car park in East London just to liven up an afternoon, and I’ll always pick the hottest thing on the menu if I can. I’m also a huge fan of Tex-Mex, and I believe that – if you’re in America, you should always make time for breakfast. They just do it right.

Two of my all-time meals might well be from the same city. The Magnolia Café in Austin, Texas, is a 24-hour diner that does some absolutely amazing huge breakfasts, from the Gingerbread Pancakes to the Migas (eggs, scrambled with garlic, tomato, butter, peppers, cheese and so on).

But if I had to pick one, it would have to be a small Airstream in the back yard of the Craft Pride bar down on Rainey Street. Craft Pride opened a month or two before I visited Austin for the first time, and I’ve gone back every time I’ve been in town. It’s got an excellent range of beers, and the VIA 313 pizza van serves a celestial Detroit deep dish with crispy crust, rich tomato, gooey cheese and whatever you fancy on top.

I get off the plane, get a taxi from the airport, grab a beer, dig into that crust, and I feel like I’m home. One day I want to play a gig there.

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

I’ve cut down on beer recently, as drinking became A Bit Of A Hobby during lockdown. I’d make a routine of ordering from new local breweries, and later cycled across the North East picking interesting growlers up from taprooms.

But if I had to choose One Last Beer before dying, I’d go with this phenomenal Peanut Butter Cream Stout I found on tap at the Lucky Envelope brewery in Ballard. It’s one of 11 craft breweries located within a one-mile radius in this Seattle suburb, and you can just wander/stagger/crawl around all of them in a day (if you feel like a slow morning the next day).

This beer had all the nuttiness and richness of peanut butter, but still had this really creamy taste which you just don’t get with other peanut butter stouts. They paired it with a raspberry sour chaser, and I don’t think I’ve been that happy in my life.

I’d also recently bought a little harmonica necklace, which made it even better. And ruined it for everyone else.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BoXwHw_BdVS/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

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?

Can I say “that brewery I just mentioned”, or is that too lame?

Hmm, it’s tempting to say America, or any of the places I’ve been, or maybe even Japan (if only for the Ghibli theme park). But – actually – I’d probably just kick back, watch some in-flight movies, and tell David and the pilot to surprise me.

I’m as guilty as anyone of doing the same things because I like them. But every time I’ve tried somewhere new, I’ve discovered a precious, distinct memory.

So if I had someone who knew the wonders of the world, I’d probably invite him to open my mind.

What’s the worst that could happen? That I’d learn something?

What’s in your pockets?

Currently, just a mobile phone with a battered screen. I’ve taken to wearing some “extremely bold and stylish” patchwork Gheri trousers since lockdown. Which are comfortable, and colourful. But the pockets aren’t really great for anything I don’t want tipping out onto the street.

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

Keyboard and screen, with endless notes scrawled on various disparate devices. I use iA Writer for note-taking, as it’s simple, clean, and you can use it to remove text-formatting such as fonts when you’re cut-and-pasting between documents and webpages.

To be honest, I’d like to be more prolific with a notebook. My friend James White (aka Signalnoise) is an outstanding 80s-inspired neon digital artist. Stacked on shelves in his house, he’s got volumes of notepads going back decades. And whenever he’s got a spare minute, he just busts open a pad and starts sketching whatever he fancies. I guess that’s how he ended up as good as he is.

In fact, he’s done some great videos browsing some of his past notebooks. Check them out. He’s probably one of the most natural and likeable presenters I’ve met, so it’ll be worth your time.

https://www.youtube.com/c/Signalnoise/videos

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 right now. I’m reading and listening to a lot of stuff about music at the moment, because I’m working on a project that’s getting me much more into composing. I’m currently fascinated by podcasts such as Song Exploder and Tape Notes, which break down what musicians did to build up their songs.

But when it comes to writing, I don’t tend to go too much down the “how-to” route. I find it can be counterproductive.

Sure, I’m interested in what other great writers are doing, and I’m always open to learning. But there’s a danger that if you spend too much of your life burrowing for other people’s recipes, you start believing that maybe there’s a magical ingredient you haven’t discovered yet. A “single secret thing” that’ll transform you into Super Wonder Mega Writer overnight.

And then you’re forever waiting until you’ve found that, rather than blundering out into the mud like every other chump that turned good.

I’m more interested in seeking out and soaking up stuff that brings a subject to life in a different or interesting way. For example, have you seen Vittles yet? It’s a Substack newsletter that brings in guest writers to tell the story of their experience with food culture. Whether that’s a region’s cuisine, or just the story of a single dish.

It does the thing that all the best food journalism does: It communicates the weight of culture, history and community behind something, while making you feel like you can explore and enjoy it too.

Tea – or coffee? What’s your poison?

I’m an absolutely enormous coffee bore. When my sister was pregnant and came up to visit, she hid a tin of Nescafe at the back of my cupboard so she could have a coffee when she needed it, rather than after I’d faffed about for ten minutes.

My standard? Yirgacheffe coffee. Filtered through an Aeropress. Topped up with boiling water. Served black. No sugar.

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

Yes. It’s manky as hell now. But it’s a mug created as part of a line of merchandise for Roman Dirge, the creator of the Lenore comics.

It’s a black mug, with a monkey on the front.

Ahem…

Sorry.

An Ultimate Sinister Villainous Scourge Death Monkey on the front.

And it’s weird and stupid. And covered in tea stains. And someone probably washed a toothbrush in it – or something far, far worse.

But it’s my weird, stupid, dumb monkey mug, damnit.

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

If you caught me on the hop, I’d probably say The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories, which is a series of sketched gothic fables by Tim Burton. It’s a book which features strange, fragile characters facing poignant and cruel fates. And it would make me sound like a romantic, dark and mysterious child with a strangely-advanced sense of the macabre.

And if I told you that, I’d be a ridiculous liar, who would be easily exposed by the fact that book didn’t come out until 1997, when I was nearly 18.

So I’d probably then have to admit it was Nancy Drew. Or a Transformers annual.

(Although… I was so obsessed with Raymond Chandler books as a kid that I used to dress up and narrate to myself in bus stops on the way home. I didn’t have a big trenchcoat or a fedora hat though, so I had to make do with a yellow rain mac and a baseball cap with a little Toronto Blue Jays logo on it).

Your favourite word?

I don’t really have an all-time word. I have passionate, all-consuming, blood-sacrificing flings with a new word every hour. Currently I’m in love with “Boglins”.

I particularly love the ones that have a really strong, punchy syllable in them, or that make a sentence fizz up like sherbet on your tongue.

That’s why I’m a big fan of making up compound swear words, like f***********n, sh**********w, and b****t.

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

This isn’t a word, but:

Exclamation marks.

I hate them. I’m suspicious of people that use them. I will eat my own teeth if I see them in packs.

They’re the forced ITV sitcom laugh-track of the written sentence. If you’re doing your job with the rest of the sentence, you don’t need them. And if you use them too much, you sound like the sugary camp counsellors from the Addams Family movie sequel.

https://youtu.be/Us3JQh-m2FM?t=76

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

I’d love to say bookshops. When my mother was studying for her degree when I was growing up, she used to take me to the University of Sussex library. And there’s something about spending a day in a maze of books. Likewise, places like the Lit and Phil and Barter Books are gorgeous.

But I’d have to say online, and I’m becoming less ashamed of that as I get older. Through Twitter or a random Google Search, I can discover a million different perspectives or nuggets of information. And that’s fun, and fascinating. And that’s how I curate my Twitter feed.

This is what I don’t understand about the current discourse about “getting out of your echo chamber”. For me, that’s not about filling your socials with comments and articles from people who are arguing hateful, closed-minded or dumb things in bad faith. That’s like drinking bleach just so you can say you’ve “tasted a range of liquids”.

Expanding your horizons is about seeking out a whole bunch of people that are genuinely curious and amazing, who will discover beautiful, hidden and unexpected things about the world, and bring them back to you.

Like I said earlier, life is too short to seek out stuff that you hate. Be a diverse reader, not a perverse reader.

Favourite song lyric of all time? And why?

There have been a few lyrics that have hit me like a truck at different times. I love the direct power of something like The Fiddle and the Drum by Joni Mitchell, the unpretentious fury of Rage Against The Machine, or the emotional turmoil of A Perfect Circle’s Judith, in which singer Maynard James Keenan questions how his mother has retained her faith in God despite her stroke.

But in terms of sheer body of work, there’s something about the writing of Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit. Scott struggled with depression for years, and his fragile, beautiful soul hangs over everything. I keep coming back to the song I Wish I was Sober, a sharp and yet human tale of how alcohol draws you in and empties you out.

But it’s this particular video from 2013 – and his short, sad, funny exchange with a small child out of shot – that always brings a lump to my throat.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ob3X77TwqEw

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

Probably Less Than Jake. Driving ska-punk, great melodies, and an absolute sense of fun.

Although I did go to one outdoor Soundgarden gig in London in which the heavens opened just as Black Hole Sun started playing, and it was the closest to spiritual peace as I’ll ever get.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_IuW2gBPqKw

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

When I write, I tap out and re-hash the rhythm of my sentences like a composer. I’ve also somehow got into the habit of writing in a haze of changing, coloured lights. I program my smart lights to what IFTTT and Philips Hue call “Party Mode”, and I’m ready to go.

This goes back to my university days, when I used to write essays late at night in a room bathed in a red lamp. One of the people in my block came back one night in an “elevated state”, thought the devil had moved into his halls of residence, and decided to live in a hedge outside for 36 hours.

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

Next month, I’m speaking at Utterly Content, a two-day content conference that’s being organized by Pickle Jar Communications (where I work as Head of Content). I’m also working on some content projects with some universities. That’s been interesting, as we’re trying to do more with what we’ve got, rather than being able to go out and shoot a lot more stuff.

Can you describe the last photograph you took?

Normally, it would be a picture of my black Labrador Scout. Essentially, if asked, I could cobble together pretty much every second of her life in a flipbook, using photos sitting in my camera roll. She’s beyond sick of it by now.

But this time, it’s a picture of three young chilli plants I’ve just put up on my office window ledge. Which I have taken so that I can look back in a week and remember how cool they looked. Before I killed them.

What piece of advice really changed you as a writer?

When you’re in a rut, try a new instrument.

When she was a puppy, Scout was scared of the guitar. So I gave up for a couple of years. Eventually, I got into it again. But I found that all the songs I was trying to write sounded dull, because I would gravitate to similar rhythms, or similar chords.

So I decided to learn the piano too. And I suddenly started coming up with different ideas. Because I was playing keys, instead of strings. Because my hands had to move in different ways. And because I wasn’t tied down to specific chords, because I didn’t know any chords. At all.

It’s the same with writing. In 2017, I moved to Massachusetts to learn audio journalism from some really interesting people, who’d worked in radio and on podcasts like Planet Money, Code Switch, This American Life and The Moth.

They taught me how to script and pace a short audio story. They taught me how to interview in a new way, and how to get what I needed. Where to use the narrator. Where to include “sound design”, music and silence.  And – most importantly – how to edit words for a totally new medium.

https://www.mixcloud.com/jpjhill/we-hunt-monsters/

One of my pieces about shark photography was played on an NPR station in the USA, which was pretty exciting. And I’ve since helped university groups and companies to put together and edit their own audio stories. I do workshops on it too, although I’ve still got so many fascinating things to learn.

Writing for a different medium like audio is an excellent way to freshen up your writing style and rhythms. It’s unexplored country, so you can’t necessarily fall back into the easy habits you use every day. And you don’t have that fear that comes with needing to look like the expert all the time, so you can be more inventive and open.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be audio. Write a play. Produce a poetry book. Finish an album. Just make sure you take yourself somewhere where you don’t know the entire journey before you’ve even begun.

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

I’ve been playing music off and on for a few years. My partner and I are in a band called Gingerlily together. We’ve played a few gigs, recorded some covers in a home-studio when we were out in Austin for my birthday last year, and also shot some videos in my mother’s fireplace to keep her spirits up when she was recovering from cancer just before lockdown.

https://www.instagram.com/tv/B-DUe8Jg1mF/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

https://www.instagram.com/tv/B-DTq53AOkX/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

I was also lucky enough to be invited to join a punk band over the summer with some talented folks, including writer and journalist Mic Wright.

But over the last month or two, a couple of friends also inspired me to think about getting some original music of my own out there. So I’m putting together an EP.

That involves finishing a lot of songs I left on the shelf when I decided I wasn’t musical enough, and finishing a lot of lyrics I stopped writing when I decided I wasn’t profound enough.

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

“I feel like writing is like a little bit of vomiting and mostly editing” – Tavi Gevinson, Rookie Magazine

Who is your favourite Mad Man – or Woman?

I watched the first episode, but I can’t remember it that well.

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

My favourite film changes, depending on how pretentious I feel. But the two films that always make me cry are Rik Mayall’s Drop Dead Fred, and Lilo and Stitch.

Which, now I come to think of it, are very similar thematically. Hmmm.

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

My bedside book is currently “Sway: Unravelling Unconscious Bias” by Dr Pragya Agarwal, which is a really interesting study of how the acknowledged and unacknowledged voices in our heads affect how we act, and how we’ve shaped the world.

Who was or is your greatest teacher?

For most of my pre-teen years, my mother was a teacher at my school. So obviously I’m going to say “my mum”. Not just for the maths lessons. Not just for the computer lessons. Not just for the time we both joined a school camping trip to the Lake District, and led a rebel splinter group back down the hill when it rained (The Rebels got hot chocolate. The Good Soldiers got soaked).

But for all the times she stood in my corner – or sent me to the corner – when I was a contrary, stubborn, self-righteous gobshite.

She taught me to always stand up to cruelty and idiocy. Especially when the idiot is yourself.

In fact, she’s still doing that now.

Thanks mum.

Who is your favourite artist?

The Sandman graphic novel series by Neil Gaiman takes pride of place in my office bookcase. And I’ve got a numbered print by Dave McKean (the artist on that series) in my kitchen. It’s angular, full of strange colours, and vaguely unsettling. Much like my cooking.

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?

I sometimes try to work on the couch with Scout, but we both end up napping. So it’s got to be my office.

I’ve lovingly crafted the room into an absolute cauldron of distractions. I’ve got weird lights, odd gatherings of plants, and a creepy wooden lamp I found in a Victorian-London-Slasher-Movie. I’ve got a piano, four synths, a couple of odd clangy and twangy things, an out-of-tune violin, a PA, two amps, and about six guitars.

There are also comics, books, light stands, about 10 microphones, and a big chair where Scout can stare at me and mewl because she wants dinner.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CAXSa4OA8Vu/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

It’s a miracle I get anything done. It’s cluttered, chaotic, discordant, and so disorganised it’s like someone made it that way for a bet.

In short, it’s perfect.

John Hill office

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

I loathe LinkedIn, so come see me on Twitter at @jpjhill, or on Instagram with the same handle. You can email me at hello@jpjhill.com, or – if you want to talk about education content strategy – I’m at john@picklejarcommunications.com

When I eventually start finishing some actual music, I’ll probably lob in a Soundcloud too.

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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Comments

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Ellen Hill

    Great interview. Honest, profound and inspiring but I would say that as I’m his mum. Well put together Katherine with some very original and illuminating questions.

    Reply
    • Katherine

      Well, that’s just lovely! Thank you for commenting. He does you proud X

      Reply

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