Take Five with Simon Wicks
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Take Five with Simon Wicks

Simon Wicks' Take Five guest blog for Catching Fireworks

Simon Wicks is a freelance writer, editor, journalist and (occasionally) photographer.  Over 17 years, Simon has worked as a film and arts reviewer, a newspaper journalist, a coach to young reporters, a writer/editor for an international children’s charity and a deputy head of content for a leading small-business publisher. As a freelancer, he’s written websites and feature articles, edited magazines and professional advice guides, and recently finished ghostwriting the autobiography of a very successful businessman. 

In your professional life, what is the single best thing about what you do?
I’d say it’s the sheer variety – of clients and projects. To give you an idea, in the last two weeks, I’ve assistant edited the second issue of a new trade magazine, finished editing the launch content for a small business information website and written a corporate social responsibility booklet for a pharmaceutical company. This week I’ll be writing training materials for corporate volunteers and taking portrait photos of two authors for their new book. I’m also editing a wine consultant’s travel diaries.

For someone like me who is easily distracted and in almost constant need of new things to keep me stimulated, this is far better than working for a business in a single sector where the material is all basically on the same topic. I get bored easily.

Do you have a creative hero / heroine and if so, why?
Hm. Not sure. There are plenty of people I admire, but heroes? I think the historical figure I admire the most is Charles Darwin, who had an idea that has changed us profoundly and the courage to reveal it – eventually.

In terms of creative pursuits? It’s similar really – I admire anyone who overcomes their own inhibitions and the constraints imposed by cultural norms to express themselves honestly, especially if what they say doesn’t conform to the status quo or isn’t particularly palatable to the common taste.

I like people who are brave enough to challenge lazy thinking where it exists and speak truthfully against the tide of opinion; writers, artists, musicians, journalists, commentators and philosophers who refuse to toe the line, I guess. Scientists, too.

I also admire people who refuse to be labelled and put in a box. Don’t laugh, but I really admire Bruce Dickinson, the lead singer of Iron Maiden. He’s a modern polymath: a rock star, a novelist, a broadcaster, an airline pilot (yes, really) and at one time a near Olympic standard fencer, having almost made the UK team for the 1984 Olympics. He’s a very impressive man and shows that we’re all capable of doing more with our lives than we think.

What piece of advice do you wish you had been given at the beginning of your career?
How long have I got?

Just one piece? Blimey. If I had to sum up everything I want to say here, it would probably be: “Don’t be afraid of the future.” Simple, really. It took me a very long time to work out that the best thing for me was just to do what I want to do. Somehow, it takes care of itself.

If you hit a creative block, what is your top tip for getting through it?
Do something else; ideally something completely different. Do the washing up. Go for a walk or a bike ride. Put it to one side and get on with easier, more routine work. Let it gestate and work itself out in the back of your mind.

Then come back, tear up what you’ve done so far and start again. Ignore everything anyone’s ever told you about how to solve the problem and look at the problem itself as a new thing. Then follow your instincts to solve it.

It doesn’t matter how you solve the problem, as long as you solve it. And the way you do that is as valid as anyone else’s approach. There are no rules here, just habits and conventions.

And finally, for fun, if you were a shoe, what type of shoe would you be and why?
I would be one of these: it’s a 1970s cycling shoe. I bought it (well, two of them actually) on eBay and it was still in its original box, utterly pristine.

It’s a very useful shoe indeed, because it enables me to cycle to work, meetings, evenings out with friends – wherever – without having to carry a bulky pair of shoes in my rucksack to change into at the other end.

It’s flexible, adaptable, functional and quite stylish with it. It’s been around the block, as you can see, but it’s holding up nicely. It’s also quite rare… I’m very unlikely to bump into someone else with a similar shoe.

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