A Tumbler of Gimlet with Jonathan Stewart

Our longest-standing Wordsmith is an award-winning writer, graphic designer and social media strategist. Jonathan started his career interviewing and writing abridged biographies for business leaders, high-profile athletes and household names. He’s since managed social media accounts for educators, inventors and LGBT publications.

But which celebrities has he lured into his web of deceit? What’s his beef with Virginia Woolf? Why is his Instagram so pretentious? We trapped him with a gin and lime cocktail and forced him to answer the questions that matter. Brace yourself for some hard-hitting journalism.

Q: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A: At around 7 years old I wanted to be a tattoo artist, because I thought it would be a good way to make Cool and Dangerous friends – but now the thought of having Cool and Dangerous friends makes me feel a bit wobbly. Also, imagine the pressure of doing a permanent drawing on somebody else’s body! Hard pass.

Q: Paperback or e-Book?

A: Every time I see somebody with a Kindle I get a little pinch of jealousy – especially the new ones, which you can use one-handed (helpful on the tube, no?) But I’ve resisted the urge to get my own because I like passing books onto friends after I’ve finished them. You can’t really do that with a digital version.

Q: What was the first job you ever took?

A: I worked at the fragrance counter in Boots, and didn’t really know what I was doing, but felt very important because I had a special set of keys to open the glass cabinets. I spent a lot of endless Sunday afternoons squirting people with Calvin Klein One (it’s unisex, sir!) and pretending to know what a heart-note was.

Q: If you could invite a famous wordsmith for dinner, who would it be and what would you feed them?

A: Margaret Atwood, although I’d need somebody else to do all the talking since I’d immediately be struck silent by self-consciousness and wouldn’t be able to ask a single question. We’d eat a cake baked in the shape of a woman.

Q: What are you reading right now? Is it any good?

A: Sapiens, which I once stupidly pretended to have read whilst making small talk with the author. I’m not sure if I was very convincing – it turns out that actually reading the book is a lot more satisfying than panic-skimming the wikipedia listing in a toilet cubicle.

Q: What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?

A: Whenever I analyse tone of voice, I usually start by evaluating the flow of the syntax. If a sentence has been painful to write, it’s usually painful to read as well. I think good writing should go down smoothly – especially if it’s for digital marketing. But maybe that’s just down to bitterness because I’ve never been able to persevere with Virginia Woolf.

Q: If you had one extra hour of free time a day, how would you use it?

A: Filling the bottomless pit of my sleep debt.

Q: If you could give your younger self any advice about graphic design, what would it be?

A: Photoshop is probably the least useful of the three core Adobe programmes. Don’t be afraid of the pen tool. If in doubt, Google holds the answers. Don’t feel guilty about spending £5.50 on a flat white from that fancy coffee shop.

Q: Do you listen to podcasts? Any favourites?

A: Along with everybody else, I’ve completely fallen in love with podcasts over the last year. Top spots go to My Favourite Murder, My Dad Wrote a Porno, and Race Chaser – which all have a bunch of episodes available if you want to get stuck in. Honorable mentions for Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness, Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, and Dear Joan and Jericha.

Q: Which social media networks do you regularly engage with?

A: Instagram and Reddit are the apps that get most of my attention these days. I use the former to collect visuals that capture my mood for that day, and it’s grown into a word-free journal. Reddit is helpful when I’m ready to go down the rabbit hole with a new obsession.