Tell us about Blah! Blah! Blah!.
Blah! Blah! Blah! is a memoir meets business meets advice guide kind of book… it’s hard to categorise.
The idea for the book came about around ten years ago when I was working at Karmarama, an advertising agency I founded which had really strong principles in terms of how to deal with clients and staff. I was also the founding Creative Director of St Luke’s, the world’s first advertising co-operative. Both Karmarama and St Luke’s challenged a lot of the norms of advertising and got a lot of attention because of that; we used to have tourists touring our workspaces and taking pictures of us hotdesking.
It made me realise that if you try to create something new and interesting, people will take note and challenge their own way of working and thinking. Blah! Blah! Blah! is a way of cementing that realisation.
Blah! Blah! Blah! reads a lot like a memoir. After having reflected on your life and career, is there any one period that stands out for you?
There are parts of me that constantly question what I’ve done in the past and whether it was a good thing or a bad thing. If writing the book made me realise anything it was that I’d do everything exactly the same, because all of the things that I’ve ended up doing have been a result of all the things I’ve done. When I got into the arts and screen-printing lots of people asked whether I wished I had started earlier, but I don’t think I would have produced the same work that I am currently producing without those years in advertising. Everything I have learnt as an artist has been informed by my advertising career, so all the things that I’ve done, good and bad, have led to where I am now.
I’m having more fun now than I ever have before in my life (either now or when I was sixteen). I’ve got a little bit more of my shit together now and I feel quite free. When you get older you just stop caring about stuff (in a nice way) and realise that what will be will be; there’s a passage to it all which is just going to happen. The thing I’m really enjoying is trying lots of stuff. In a way the book was something that I just wanted to do and see if I could make happen. It’s one of those things that I think it’s nice to get out of your head.
How would you like Blah! Blah! Blah! to be received by its readers?
I don’t take myself very seriously at all, at all. If I could spend my whole life messing around I would happily do that, so I knew the book I produced had to reflect the stupid approach I’ve taken with my career and the way I like to do things.
There are much smarter people than me in advertising talking about how to come up with great ideas or how to make your presentations amazing but these books all feel functional and a bit boring. I wanted something that would be light and fun. The biggest challenge was capturing that, while also making sure the book offered something helpful; I wanted readers to put it down thinking ‘Wow, I actually picked up interesting things from this.’ I think books should make something happen within you that make you feel more empowered or challenge you in some way.
What does Blah! Blah! Blah! mean to you?
Although there’s probably an element of ego in writing a memoir, over the years I’ve developed a real love for mentoring younger talent and working with young people in the industry; helping them understand some of the pitfalls that I’ve encountered. I enjoy teaching people just coming into the industry how to handle and navigate around the issues that will inevitably pop up. I want the book to be a reflection of this – I would love people to read it and say ‘Good, at least he told it how it was, at least he didn’t bullshit,’ but also say ‘Right, I feel inspired enough to go off and do something interesting to me.’ It means quite a lot and I hope it works.
What was your experience of publishing the book?
I found it to be a really exciting process because there was going to be an endpoint, a physical book that sits on my bookshelf. The process had two significant parts. One was the actual writing and construction of the book – the concrete stages of the project – and the other was the emotional journey that writing this sort of book brings with it. Writing about my personal life and career brought a lot of things up for me and thinking them all through actually helped me make sense of things and understand myself a little better. So, it was a good process.
It was also really cool to see the actual process of book creation. I met some fascinating people who are real experts in a field I know nothing about. It was a good learning curve and I really enjoyed it.
What do you hope to achieve through the publication of Blah! Blah! Blah!?
I don’t really know where I want the book to go or what I want from it. It’s a very therapeutic and very satisfying moment when you send it off to be printed, and I’m excited at the thought of people reading it and liking it. Obviously, it would be great if so many people read it that it sells out and a publisher comes along and wants to print one million copies because it’s the best book in the history of time.
But, at the moment I’m enjoying thinking about what else I could write about. There are so many things, as you get older, that you could write about – whether it’s children, marriage, dating – that would apply to a whole load of other people. It feels like another door has opened down the corridor that is my life, and I’d love to write some more.