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…
Sophie ‘New Week, New Job Title’ Cross.
Over the last year she’s had her finger in so many pies that it’s possible that this will have changed by the time she walks out but she’s a freelance writer, marketer, course creator, and editor of Freelancer Magazine.
Heads up: it’s the Kickstarter Closing Party tonight: 31 March 2021, 7-8 pm
And Sophie says that you, my dear reader, can jump into the live-stream here 🥳 > https://www.twitch.tv/domcthedj
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 had Breakthrough Advertising sitting on my bookshelf for ages. I kept trying to block out a day or two to read it. Then after about two years of this failing I decided to read a chapter a week. I’ve ended up highlighting pretty much every word and I think I’ll just start again at chapter one when I’ve finished it.
What’s your all-time favourite advertising campaign?
The one I’ll always remember is ‘the best things come to those who wait’, Matt Le Blanc in the Heinz Ketchup TV ad (before we knew it was Matt Le Blanc). God, it was so cool. Sliding down the stair railings, the backhanded catch of the tiniest blob of ketchup. I was going to say this or the Guinness surfer ad and I’ve only just realised how similar those two straplines are.
“Everyone has a book in them…” Or so the saying goes. What do you think/know/believe is the secret to good writing?
Write what you like, not what you know. I think I’ve probably got a non-fiction or two in me. Writing fiction blows my tiny mind.
If you were just starting out, what advice would you give yourself? Which book or books would you read first?
I read Purple Cow by Seth Godin and then his other books when I first went freelance. They created a spark in me which every now and then catches fire. I also get Seth’s daily micro-blog. This one on picking yourself stuck with me more than any.
Silence? Radio? Or music while you work?
It has to be complete silence. Sometimes even earplugs when it’s already quiet. I’d love to have music on but it just doesn’t happen for me.
What are your top three novels of all time – and why?
I don’t even know what to say about these books. They really do leave me speechless. The way they present the complexities of humanity. They transport you to the most brutal yet beautiful places. They help you to understand that you will never understand.
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
What’s the best thing you’ve ever written? Why did it rock your world?
I won’t be winning awards anytime soon for my writing but I suppose I’m most proud of creating my own stuff over the last six-months like the courses and now Freelancer Magazine. My newsletter has gained a lot of traction recently and I’m starting to feel that I’m really finding my own voice when I’m writing my own things.
What’s the last thing you bought? And yes, that packet of chewing gum counts.
I bought some lemon and geranium deodorants online from the Natural Deodorant Co. The best deodorant.
Who was your teenage crush?
I had one bedroom wall completely covered in black and white posters from Mizz magazine. I remember Paxton was kinda a big deal.
Can you describe the best meal you’ve ever eaten?
My absolute faves involve me and my husband being sat at the bar in a tapas restaurant ordering embarrassing amounts of food and wine. There was a notable occasion in Barrafina on Frith Street before it closed. Queuing up the side of the packed restaurant with beers, peas with duck egg and after our second bottle of wine my (normally quite reserved) husband starts buying drinks for everyone else. I don’t think the new Barrafinas will ever be quite as good as that one.
What’s your favourite tipple? Is it wine, beer – a cask-aged malt?
I did a challenge with a mate to have 2020 off alcohol and I haven’t started drinking again yet (I’m waiting for the tapas bars to reopen!). I like pretty much everything… citrusy pale ales, dirty martinis with blue cheese stuffed olives, chilled glasses of Sancerre. This was the problem. I’ve probably hankered most after red wine, Guinness, and margaritas.
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’d go to Antarctica because when will you ever get to go to Antarctica? I’d write about disconnecting from the world as we know it for a while. I love nature and I cold water swim so I’d have to take a dip with a penguin too.
What’s in your pockets?
Dog treats. Always dog treats.
Pen and ink, pencil and paper, or keyboard and screen? What’s your writing style?
I spend most of my life on my Mac but I have a paper diary, daily journal and a notebook that I keep close at all times for lists and ideas.
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?)
On Fridays I actually look forward to copywriter Dave Harland’s newsletter and gem (with a little g) Higgins’ Rose Hand Files arriving in my inbox. I can’t imagine there’s anyone left on the planet that isn’t already signed up for them though.
Tea – or coffee? What’s your poison?
Coffee. I make a big pot of espresso in the morning and work my way through it throughout the day. I’d love to make a second but my nerves won’t take it.
Do you have a favourite cup or mug? Can you describe it?
I have a favourite mug for each drink. For coffee my beloved Being Freelance, Non-Employee of the Week mug is the perfect size and thickness. For peppermint tea, my giant Chessington World of Adventures mug with 3D animals which was given to me as a leaving present when I worked there.
What was your most adored children’s book? And character?
The Tiger Who Came To Tea was my most adored book. The little girl was called Sophie and I felt very connected to her. I was convinced that any day now a tiger would turn up on my doorstep.
Your favourite word?
I love hearing words in a different language that we don’t have an exact translation for in English like sobremesa which is the Spanish tradition of relaxing at the table after a heavy meal and muditā (मुदिता) which is Sanskrit for delighting in the good fortune of others.
Your most loathed word? (You know, the one that makes you shudder and say “Ew!”?)
I’m a bit of a prude at heart. I love a swear word but anything related to rude bodily functions makes me cringe.
Where can we find you? – Browsing online or lost in the aisles of a bookstore?
I’d love to say that nothing beats the smell and feel of a book and that my best days would be spent lost in the aisles of a bookstore. The truth is I can’t walk past a bookstore without going in and sometimes I’ll even head off on a long walk to a lovely bookshop like Daunt Books but I’m normally in there for about five-minutes! I think I find it all a bit overwhelming or I’m just not patient enough. I’m ashamed to say that I’m a serial audio and Kindle book buyer.
Favourite song lyric of all time? And why?
I’m a huge music fan and a bit of a romanticist when it comes to lyrics. Florence Welch writes some incredible ones but I can never get these lyrics from If I Had a Gun by Noel Gallagher out of my head…
Excuse me if I spoke too soon
My eyes have always
Followed you around the room
They get me right there every time.
Name the artist who is guaranteed to get you up on the dance floor.
Do you have any strange writing rituals you’d like to share with us?
About 2pm I usually move from my desk to my sofa and I find that move gets me in the mood to write. (And the fact that I haven’t written anything by that point so I should probably bloody well start.)
What are you working on today? What’s in the pipeline?
It’s all about the first issue of Freelancer Magazine so I’m doing lots of interviews and writing the articles, design briefs, Kickstarter copy and the video script. I’m trying to keep it fun and enjoyable and not get stressed about it.
Can you describe the last photograph you took?
I took a photo of our bathroom with its newly finished (and very blue) tiles.
What piece of advice really changed you as a writer?
To be a good writer and marketer, you’ve got to think about it from the reader’s perspective. Making it about them, thinking about what they’ll find interesting, benefits not features, ‘you’ not ‘I’. I’ve found that the more it becomes about the reader, the more you can let go of your ego and the easier it is to press publish. You become more obsessed with the process and getting better at it than it being perfect.
What was the last thing you wrote that had nothing to do with your job?
What’s your favourite quote about the process of writing?
“It’s easier to edit a bad page than a blank page.”
Who is your favourite Mad Man – or Woman?
I haven’t watched it. 😬
Can you name your favourite film – and tell us why you love it?
My favourite film is Amélie. Everything about it is pure heaven.
Which book or books is/are by your bed today?
I have an adventure book subscription (called Gather Outdoors) so I have piles of beautiful books about exploring the world around my bedroom. Next up are The Land Beyond by Leon McCarron and The Last Wilderness by Neil Ansell.
Who was or is your greatest teacher?
Dave Fysh, my business studies teacher at sixth form was pretty cool. We did a “business studies trip” to Prague and the Staropramen brewery. I couldn’t even drink the free pint at the end though because I’d discovered what absinthe was the night before. I think he consolidated my love of business and I went on to take it for a degree.
As a copywriter and freelancer, I feel like I owe a lot to Gareth Hancock (AKA That Content Shed). I’m pretty sure that he was the window for me into #ContentClubUK and the legendary writing/marketing/freelance communities on Twitter that I’m lucky enough to call myself a part of. And I think he’s done that for an awful lot of people.
Who is your favourite artist?
Does Jay-Z count? I’ve only recently started going to art galleries and exhibitions which I’ve enjoyed but the best bit is always the gift shop, right? My husband came across an artist called Charlotte Gerrard in Spitalfields Market and she painted us a marvellous picture of our dog, Rusty. She also paints brilliant, colourful canvases of Indian cows which I’m always eyeing up on her Instagram.
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 love working from home, just me and the dog, and having everything just the way I like it. We’re renting at the moment and I have the spare room as my office. In our new place, I won’t have an office but I’m designing the lounge to be dual purpose. We moved back to London from Somerset a year ago and although the dog walks are much worse, it feels like being here has fired up my brain again.
And finally, where can this caffeine-fuelled audience find you?
You can subscribe to my weekly marketing mindset newsletter 👉 https://www.thoughtfully.co.uk/marketing-blog
Get your copy of Freelancer Magazine 👉 https://www.freelancermagazine.co.uk/