Spotlight: Sarah McCartney

In this month’s profile of a 26 member we talk to Sarah McCartney about Lush, Wordstock, and becoming an accidental perfumer.

Day job: Scribe, perfumer and yoga teacher

Private passion(s): I knit socks.

What do people get wrong about you? They underestimate my fondness for maths, science and engineering.

What do you like best about belonging to 26? I like being surrounded by lovely people with brains and opinions.

You’re in charge of organising this year’s Wordstock. What can we expect on the day? I’ve tried to represent what 26 stands for, a love of words in business and in life. We’ve got outstanding speakers, events and workshops to inspire everyone who works with words: writing, speaking, designing and commissioning. I know that inspiration is a horribly overused word, but I can’t think of a better one to describe what you’ll get when you show up. That and a big hug from Sara, Elise, Ezri, John and me. Probably.

You wrote Lush’s words. What did it teach you about copywriting? It taught me that I can do writing marathons; some Christmas issues were 60,000 words long. It taught me to find ideas everywhere I look; I think I wrote 56 issues, and the copy had to be different every time. And it taught me to triple check when I used the voice recognition software: the US issue once described a face cream with “the scent of rose and uranium”. (Say it out loud.)

Tell us about the scent shop? Some of my ideas come out as words, some come out as clothing designs, 4160Tuesdays is the place for the ideas that turn up in scent form. I learned a lot about scent at Lush. Unlike 99.9% of cosmetic companies they have an in-house perfumery. I wrote a novel about a perfumer, but couldn’t buy the scents I was describing, so I decided to make them myself. The novel is sitting on an agent’s desk; the scents are already out in the world. That’s how I accidentally became a perfumer.

What’s your favourite piece of advice for good writing? Never leave the house without something to write on because some great ideas will sneak up on you while you’re not concentrating. See it as paying into the wordbank; you can make withdrawals when you’re stuck for words in future.

What advice would you offer to other 26ers looking to become freelance copywriters? I didn’t intend to be a freelance copywriter, but Lush offered me the role, so I took it. After 16 years, here goes. Be reliable. You can be brilliant, but if you disappoint people they’ll look for someone who’s good, available and on time.

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