What’s the strangest place you’ve ever ‘done it’? (Business writing, that is.)
The National Maritime Museum, writing slogans for a Scandinavian financial services brand. Were the options ship shape? I thought so. But they sank without trace.
This isn’t technically business writing, but I once ran a tone of voice development workshop for a large building society in the hospitality room of Leek Town football club. Think late 1970s time warp. It was surreal.
I have a string of places where I ‘do it’. Setting up office in strange locations changes the shape of my brain. Highly recommend – Geffrye Museum herb garden, Tate Modern members roof terrace, Royal Festival Hall – high floors looking over the river are blissfully empty during the day, various little nests deep within the Barbican Centre, buses, tubes, trains. Heathrow Terminal 5 has a very good distribution of plug sockets, but my favourite off-piste work station is window seat 7A on the upper deck of a 747 where there is zero email interruption and they pour bubbly into me until I get to the other end…
Not writing as such, but I did once try to conduct an international conference call from the Gents in the British Library. Don’t ask…
Backstage at a theatre production in a Neolithic henge on a chilly summer’s evening. Pen and paper – the old-fashioned way.
The strangest place I’ve ever written is in an office. How are you supposed to work in those places? All those people milling about, playing ping pong, asking if you’ve got any nail scissors. I’m sure it’s much easier to write on a ski lift or while piloting a speed boat.
One of the most surreal copywriting experience I’ve had was at a meeting in Frankfurt. I’d gone over to meet a lot of people at Deutsche Bank. In fact, it wasn’t even really Deutsche Bank. It was the facilities management organisation within Deutsche Bank. They organised the towels in the loos, and that sort of thing.
The main client was English, but everyone else was German. He asked me to sit in on a big meeting with everyone involved in the project. I didn’t have to interject, but he said it would be useful to be there and hear the discussion.
“You know I don’t speak German,” I reminded him.
“Don’t worry, I’ll be there, it’ll all be in English,” he said.
There was a jolly introduction, as my client got the ball rolling by introducing himself and everyone else. Then he announced that he had to be elsewhere, and left. At which point the guy actually leading the meeting said that as everyone else was German, it made sense to continue in German. Which they did. For the next two and a half hours.
I was a younger, greener writer then, or I might have spoken up. As it was, I just did the most enormous doodle in my notepad, and then went back to my soul-sapping hotel on the edge of the airport.
I’ve written Lush lyrics to showtunes on a beach in Bali. Most of the Lush Times is written on my chaise longue (a la Barbara Cartland but without the secretary) with Law & Order on in the background to stop me wandering off. Otherwise, trains, many trains.