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…
“Keith”. I mean what sort of name is “Keith”? It’s hardly cool or inspiring is it? Who looks at a newborn baby, a miracle of mother nature and thinks “I know, let’s call him Keith, he looks like a Keith to me”?
OK so that might be a little wordy, so let’s go for “Keith Noble, Director of Forepoint Limited, a lover of creativity, ideas and people (oh, and Marmite).“
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 not a business book as such, but then again, my business is creativity, so I suppose it is. “A Smile in the Mind” Beryl McAlhone and David Stuart just all about the business of brilliant and clever uses of ideas creativity that help to connect people with information (and make them smile in the process).
What’s your all-time favourite advertising campaign?
That’s a toughie. Anything by Guinness really. They just seem to nail it every time. The current ad camapign in particular is just spot on. Also Love the old VW ads
Everyone has a book in them…” Or so the saying goes. What do you think/know/believe is the secret to good writing?
Ironically, I’m not a greater reader, or great writer for that matter. I have quite a short attention span when it comes to reading, so I have to be hooked from the off. A great headline, a great title, a great intro, the shorter the better, concise, informative and funny, something that talks to me like I’m a real human being.
If you were just starting out, what advice would you give yourself? Which book or books would you read first?
It’s going to be a long ride, enjoy every moment and don’t worry, you don’t need to know everything, no one knows everything, they’re just winging it. Which books to read first? “Biff, Chip and Kipper” start with the basics 😉 Then move swiftly on to “The Power of Ignorance” by Dave Trott (thanks, KW)
Silence? Radio? Or music while you work?
Depends on the kind of work. If it’s that really brain-squeezing-thinky-type-stuff, then silence. If it’s more process type of stuff, then Radio 6 Music or sprinkling of the mighty Dave Grohl (serious man crush).
What are your top three novels of all time – and why?
Is “Biff, Chip and Kipper” classed as a novel? I guess not. I’m not particularly well-read. Too busy ‘colouring in’, so I’ve always been drawn to books with pictures in them, but here goes anyway…
“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams
Totally surreal and random characters, humour and thinking. I think I was inspired to read it after hearing the series on the radio and then seeing it on TV too. But why wouldn’t you want to read a book with characters named Arthur Dent, Zaphod Beeblebrox (who has two heads and three arms) and Slartibartfast (“A Magrathean, and a designer of planets, who’s favourite part of the job is creating coastlines, the most notable of which are the fjords found on the coast of Norway on planet Earth, for which he won an award”).
“The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse” by Charlie Mackesy
OK, so it’s a picture book, not a novel at all, but what a book. It made me cry. It made me smile. It warmed the cockles of my heart. So, I bought lots of copies for other people, because it makes you realise there IS a good side to humanity after all, in spite of what they say in the press.
“Nike – Better is Temporary” by Sam Grawe
Again, not exactly a novel, but a proper chunky read about all the amazing innovations from Nike over the years and the lengths they’ve gone to with some of the world’s most amazing athletes to achieve amazing things. So many inspiring life lessons in there, failures as much as successes, that translate into any line of work you’re in – it also looks great and smells AMAZING (yeah, I know).
What’s the best thing you’ve ever written? Why did it rock your world?
“The end of fu@#ing nightmares” for a financial client, inFund. You know when the stars align, and an idea just works? Funding is what inFund are all about and they were here to side with ‘little guys’ who were frustrated by the big banks when they wanted to finance business growth – constantly faced with “computer says no”. Also, the fact the word ‘funding’ had a beautiful alignment with the word ‘fu@#ing’, it was just begging to be done. And so, a campaign was born, an idea that we could build upon, get the message noticed and have a barrel of laughs with along the way – “fu@#ing marvellous”.
What’s the last thing you bought? And yes, that packet of chewing gum counts.
Not just saying this, but three actual books. “London Street Signs” by Alistair Hall, it’s about, well, street signs in London. “Grid Systems in Graphic Design” by Josef Muller-Brockmann, it’s about…well you can probably guess. And finally, “The Power of Ignorance” by Dave Trott, it’s about ways to be more creative, unlearn things and just ask stupid questions, which, for the record, I am an expert in doing.
Who was your teenage crush?
Has to be Cathy Hargreaves from the very first series of Grange Hill c.1979
Can you describe the best meal you’ve ever eaten?
Yes, mouth-wateringly de-li-cious
What’s your favourite tipple? Is it wine, beer – a cask-aged malt?
Glass of Shiraz, pint of Guinness or single malt Macallan, thank you please
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 think it would have to be New Zealand. It’s like the Lake District, but on Steroids. Me and Dave would be top of those mountains contemplating life, the universe and everything.
What’s in your pockets?
Keys, little box for my Airpods
Pen and ink, pencil and paper or keyboard and screen? What’s your writing style?
Pencil and paper first, usually a list of words, ideas, thoughts, connections or maybe a doodle. I also love a mahoosive white board too, just find it cathartic just to get stuff out and down, unperfected unadulterated. Then I can type up or fine tune (if I can read my own writing that is). I have loads of notebooks, and sheets of paper with stuff written down, often about the things I shouldn’t really be thinking about, like now, I’m supposed to be doing something else, but I’m not, I’m doing this, so don’t tell anyone.
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 don’t read things about writing in particular (apart from The Writing Desk obvs), but I love a great script or song lyric or articles about random stuff, documentaries, anything really. And these are the books I have on my WFH desk as go-to grabs (See the photo)
Tea – or coffee? What’s your poison?
Coffee, black, no sugar (has to be ‘proper’ cworffee though)
Do you have a favourite cup or mug? Can you describe it?
Oh yes, I have a very sweary mug listing the most irritating misuses of grammar. Partly to make sure I don’t the same mistakes, but mainly because I hate your/you’re, there/their/they’re etc, though I still struggle with Affect/Effect, working on that one. Please bear in mind I failed my English O-Level 4 times (but got a grade ‘B’ fifth time lucky), so I’ve had to work really hard to be this poor at writing.
What was your most adored children’s book? And character?
Your favourite word?
“Mohorovicic Discontinuity” (technically two words) the name of the bit between the earth’s crust and the mantle, why do I know this? Closely followed by “Cornucopia”.
Your most loathed word? (You know, the one that makes you shudder and say “Ew!”?)
Solution, consultant, le
average, enable, empower – basically corporate spiel
Where can we find you? – Browsing online or lost in the aisles of a bookstore?
Prefer touchy-feely things, so books shop all day long – mostly sniffing them and
Favourite song lyric of all time? And why?
Oh man that’s impossible, really? So, so many amazing songwriters out there. Love ‘Will Tear Us Apart’ – Joy Division
‘Dear Friends’ – Elbow “Dear friends, you are angels and drunks you are Magi, old friends, you stuck a pin in the map I was in, you are the stars I navigate home by”
‘Time Like these’ – Foo Fighters
Name the artist who is guaranteed to get you up on the dance floor.
James Brown, Talking Heads, The Killers, Foo Fighters
Do you have any strange writing rituals you’d like to share with us?
I find it really difficult to write, it doesn’t come naturally to me. I find words quite intimidating. If you ask me to write something, I’ll go into a blind panic. But ironically, ask me to come up with a creative campaign concept, I start with words. I write lists. I look for themes and common connections or coincidences, ideas, phrases and hooks before I think of anything visual. If I have to write-write (rather than concept-write) I just have to get my ideas out and down then revisit and try to make sense of what I’ve done and get the flow and structure right. I have to do draft, after draft, after draft, then try to craft it into something that make a modicum of sense – work on the language and grammar, get rid of any unnecessary ‘fluff’ and then I give it to Katherine, so she can mark my ‘homework’.
What are you working on today? What’s in the pipeline?
I’m writing a point of view about branding and positioning, unpicking what we do, the way we do it and why we do it – how it can help B2B businesses improve how they communicate and make them better businesses. Trying to write it down is tough, because you normally just do what you do, without over analysing it, or overthinking it, it’s just a natural process and it works. But somehow, I need to figure out how to get that down on paper, explain it in a way that other people get it and not sound like one of those ‘up themselves’ agencies in the process.
Can you describe the last photograph you took?
It’s of the books on my WFH desk for this very article.
What piece of advice really changed you as a writer?
My Uncle Ken (who was an English lecturer) always told me that anyone can write, everyone can write. It just takes practice. Not everyone is going to be a published author, but we can all write.
What was the last thing you wrote that had nothing to do with your job?
A shopping list – Ham, Cucumber, Bread and Milk (anything more than three things and I forget).
What’s your favourite quote about the process of writing?
More to do with music, than writing. Eric Morecambe whilst grabbing Andre Previn (world renowned pianist) by the lapels after he’d criticised Eric for his poor piano playing…“They’re the right notes, just not necessarily in the right order”. Apply the same principles to writing.
Who is your favourite Mad Man – or Woman?
Spike Milligan, he was a mad man, and an ex-
Can you name your favourite film – and tell us why you love it?
Frank Capra’s 1946 film, “It’s a Wonderful Life” starring James Stewart. Just a brilliant, brilliant film, such a heart-warming story that still rings true today, in fact, probably more so.
Which book or books is/are by your bed today?
“The Power of Ignorance” by Dave Trott
Who was or is your greatest teacher?
Mr Ryans, my secondary school art teacher. Lovely bloke, failed graphic designer, advised me not to try and make a career in anything art-related as I’ll never do it! The phrase ‘Red rag to a bull’ springs to mind.
Who is your favorite artist?
Pablo Picasso. Why? Firstly, he was the first ‘proper’ historical artist I discovered that was alive during my lifetime, he died in 1973. The penny dropped that art wasn’t just about history, it was about making a mark in history, my history. I also loved the fact that he was such an amazingly gifted realistic artist, but what is the point in recreating real life. That’s why there are cameras. He wanted to see things differently and change things forever.
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 the moment, it’s at my WFM desk, needs must but I like being in our lovely offices with our lovely team throwing down ideas.
And finally, where can this caffeine-fuelled audience find you?