Ryan Wallman's desk space with computer, laptop, phone, and lots of papers in a file shelf

The Writing Desk | Ryan Wallman | Head of Copy at Wellmark

by | The Writing Desk

If I was just starting out as a copywriter? I'd read Drayton Bird’s Commonsense Direct and Digital Marketing, followed by...


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…

Ryan Wallman, Creative Director and Head of Copy at Wellmark, a Melbourne-based creative agency that specialises in healthcare.

Headshot of Ryan Wallman Writer

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…)

How Brands Grow by Byron Sharp.

What’s your all-time favourite advertising campaign?

This is a cliched answer, but probably the Avis ‘We Try Harder’ campaign. It’s genius.

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

I don’t pretend to know what the secret is! But in my experience, the best way to become a better writer is to read widely. Great writing has an osmotic effect, I find.

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

If you mean starting out as a copywriter, I would read Drayton Bird’s Commonsense Direct and Digital Marketing, followed by Ogilvy on Advertising. Starting with those would have saved me a lot of faffing around.

Silence? Radio? Or music while you work?

Music, for sure. When I was studying at uni, I used to listen to Slayer at full volume. So I’m definitely not one of those writers who needs silence.

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

The Human Stain by Philip Roth – because it speaks to so many human truths and vulnerabilities. Plus, the writing is so exquisite that it almost makes me angry.

Rabbit, Run by John Updike – because it captures the ennui of suburban existence perfectly.

The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson – because it’s a fascinating study of Jewish identity, but also because pretty much every sentence is a masterpiece.

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

This is going to sound like a shameless plug, but I guess it has to be my book, Delusions of Brandeur. And the reason for that is not so much the writing as the visual beauty of it, thanks to Giles Edwards and his team at Gasp. I’m really proud of the fact that we have created something that’s a genuinely complementary blend of art and copy.

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

Hmm, that would be a (very cheap) bottle of wine. Don’t judge me.

Who was your teenage crush?

Wendy James from Transvision Vamp. I was borderline obsessed with her.

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

Many years ago, I had an octopus curry in Zanzibar, which I still talk about to this day. The caveat is that I was quite drunk at the time.

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

In boringly Australian fashion, I favour an ice-cold lager.

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?

The east coast of Africa, because I have a huge soft spot for that part of the world. I did my medical student elective in Malawi then travelled through Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya and Tanzania – and I get wistful whenever I think about it. I actually wrote a journal at the time, although I shudder to think what nonsense is in there.

What’s in your pockets?

My phone and wallet. BORING!

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

A bit of a mix between computer and pen and paper. But I definitely prefer pen and paper for creative concepts.

Do you read any blogs or magazines about writing? (And I mean read, not just subscribe to and delete/leave on desk and recycle?)

I read George Tannenbaum’s blog religiously.

And although it’s not a writing magazine per se, I read the Spectator for the quality of its writing (particularly Rory Sutherland’s column, of course).

Tea – or coffee? What’s your poison?

Coffee. Don’t tell your English readers, but I basically never drink tea.

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

Yep, it’s a West Coast Eagles mug (they’re my Australian Rules football team).

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

Probably the Folk of the Faraway Tree – and Moon Face.

Your favourite word?


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

Learnings. Not that it’s a proper word, but you know what I mean.

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

The latter, for sure. I’m a Luddite in many ways.

Favourite song lyric of all time? And why?

I don’t know if it’s my favourite, but the one that affects me most is this from ‘Heave’ (by the Maccabees):

Heave another, heave another sigh
We’re the last sons
Thought our heads had locked
Heads have parted ways
So headstrong, we’re the last sons

The reason is that I remember listening to it when my Dad was dying, and it had me in bits. Still does.

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

Basement Jaxx.

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

See above (loud thrash metal).

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

Today I’m working on a proposal for a prospective client. As for what’s in the pipeline, I’ve already suggested to Giles that we do a sequel to the book.

Can you describe the last photograph you took?

Nope! I honestly can’t remember – I’m hopeless with photos.

What piece of advice really changed you as a writer?

I can’t remember who said it but it was along the lines of “Don’t try to write like someone else, because you’ll never achieve it. Be yourself.”

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

A silly pisstake of LinkedIn hustlers.

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

“You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.” (Saul Bellow)

Who is your favourite Mad Man – or Woman?

I have to say Don Draper, don’t I?

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

Chariots of Fire. I love it mostly for nostalgic reasons – I used to watch it ad nauseam as a kid. But even now, I think it’s an incredibly powerful film. And I love the soundtrack.

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

Calypso by David Sedaris.

Who was or is your greatest teacher?

A man called Heiner Schuff. He taught me psychotherapy when I was working as a junior doctor in London, and he was like a father figure to me. His insight into the human condition was extraordinary.

Who is your favorite artist?

Francis Bacon. I find his work mesmerising.

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 don’t have much choice, really! I’m full-time at my (very messy) office desk.

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Dr_Draper

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ryanwallman/

Delusions of Brandeur: https://gasp.agency/media/delusions-of-brandeur

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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