1. How did you get into writing and journalism?
Like all writers, I was born one. The idea of getting paid for it was too enticing not to explore, but unfortunately, I was given some fairly bad career advice along the way. This included “don’t bother trying to get into journalism unless you’re the editor of the student paper.” Well, I had to have a job at university, which didn’t leave much time for that. So instead I went into advertising, which was still writing, but with a lot less control over the words. I enjoyed it, though, and I learnt a lot. Much of which was very useful later. Commercial awareness is a very good thing.
From there, I saw a tweet from my friend Becca Caddy asking for phone reviewers at ShinyShiny. I couldn’t believe you could get paid for that, so I did it on top of my day job for a while, then eventually they offered me the position of Editor. And that was my door into journalism.
2. When and why did you launch Gadgette?
Gadgette started back in May ’15, because I’d been in tech journalism a while and was getting pretty tired of seeing the same demographics at every publication. The same mid-twenties, middle-class white guys, giving the same perspective on the same products. I wanted to read something more inclusive and interesting. It didn’t exist, so I made it.
I ran it as a full-on business for a while, with an all-female staff writing about tech for a female audience. But running a startup wasn’t for me (it turns out I do need sleep, after all) and now Gadgette is more of a passion project that I do in my spare time.
3. What three things do you love the most about your job?
- I can’t get enough of tech, and if this wasn’t my job I’d still be going on about it, trying to get to the product launches and boring everyone stupid talking about my new gadget. So I love that I can do that as a career.I love the community around journalism.
- I always read the comments (yep, really) – sometimes they make me sigh, but there’s a lot of insight there too. Plus you can always count on someone to point out your bad maths in a post written at 7am on a Monday.
- Finally, I love online media. Writing for print has a special significance, but I’m far too impatient: I love being able to hit Publish and instantly see people reading what I wrote. The analytics are fascinating: where did the readers come from? What did they search for? Which articles did they share with their friends? What did they click and buy? I could bury myself in it for weeks. You just don’t get that with print.
4. If you could invent one technology that would help the world, what would it be and why?
What a fantastic question! I could ponder on this for years. But I’ll go with the Point Of View Gun from the Hitchhiker’s Guide movie (not the book… they added it for the film). Firstly because there’s no point trying to out-think Douglas Adams, and secondly because I think it would do us all an immense amount of good to be able to instantly understand each other. You fire the gun at someone, and they repeat your point of view to you. It might not ever exist, but there’s a technique counsellors recommend called reflecting, where you repeat what the other person says back to them in your own words. It’s also something I learnt as a Samaritans volunteer. It makes people feel really heard, and it forces you to clarify your understanding of their perspective. A gadget that did it instantly could foster world peace in a fortnight.
5. What advice would you give to aspiring writers, bloggers and journalists?
Get your words out there any way you can. Write for your own blog, write on Medium, write for other people’s sites, write stories, write tweets, write your life story. Just write, write, write – which you most likely do already – but for the love of everything, put it somewhere people can find it. Then point them at it.
Secondly, don’t imagine you know the bits that will resonate best with people. The jokes you think are genius will fall flat, and the thought you had in the shower at 2am will set the world on fire. It’s a mystery, but a fun one.
Thirdly, if you want to be a journalist, I highly recommend taking a course to teach you pitching skills. The Guardian’s Masterclass is a good one, that’s the one I started with.
Finally, remember your voice. It’s very easy to read other people’s work and start to write like them, but your own experiences, perspectives, even your favourite words are ultimately what will make your name. If you’re not allowed to write that way at work, do it at home. In secret. On toilet paper if you have to. Just keep that voice honed until it’s time to sing.
Have something else you’d like to ask Holly? Get in touch on Twitter now!