As a professional copywriter, art director, editor and qualified educator (Dip.Ed.), my reputation is breathing life, meaning and buy-in into people's and business' stories, be it selling or telling.

2 July 2016


We ask the tough questions of Nicolas Di Tempora, DiTEMPORA.COMMUNICATIONS

You’ve got a free half hour during your work day. What do you do?

I go to my frequent flyer destination — the kitchen, to make “una bella tazza di caffe” ( to quote my Italian mother) and enjoy it with a piece of Aldi Organic Milk Chocolate while playing a song or two on the piano or reading the online news.

Who, or what, is your biggest inspiration?

The Dalai Lama for always lighting a candle when it’s easier to curse the darkness. He keeps me honest and patient.

Naomi Klein for her exceptional advocacy of plain sanity, and her thorough research and energetic writing skills. She also has an artistry for Art and Copy, like her book covers for NO LOGO, THE SHOCK DOCTRINE and THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING (all must-reads).

I also study Leonard Cohen’s lyrics because they speak volumes with a few, finely chosen and composed words. Leonard would understand why I can take time choosing the right word, composing the most elegant sentence and structuring the entire piece into a forward movement.

When did you know you wanted to start your own business?

When I realised I work best, give best and feel best when I’m a free-range human being. It’s that simple, but it took 15 years for the penny to drop. But the first 15 years in ad agencies was a very important learning and development period, and I was fortunate to work with the best creative minds in the business, especially during my time at Saatchis. It’s the equivalent of playing with The John Coltrane Quartet or The Beatles, after which I went off to do my solo career.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learnt this year?

I’m always learning things, but what is freshest in my mind is this one — that every time someone asks in passing, “How are you?” it’s an opportunity to lighten one’s head and heart by simply answering, “good”. I’ve always been cynical about the “how are you” routine, but now that I have this view, the hollow question has become a kind of pit stop opportunity to top up on “good”. One should never underestimate the power of a single word (or image).

What’s the best bit of feedback you’ve ever had?

I was completely blown away by this unsolicited LinkedIn endorsement that came from out of the blue by Prema Howard, a Digital Communications Specialist: “Nicolas is an exceptional teacher, capable of bringing out the genius writer in his students. He does not lecture, but rather inspires you to write with passion and excellence. I signed up for one of Nicolas’ writing courses and learned more writing skills in those two days than I have in the eight years of my writing career. I highly recommend his teaching skills and editing expertise to any writer looking to develop and refine their craft.” This was very humbling feedback for me.

What’s your proudest moment?

Without a doubt my two daughters, Sophie (musician and ESL teacher) and Lucienne (yoga teacher at the beautiful Good Vibes Yoga School). They never cease to amaze me, and I love how they’re going about writing their own original life story. Their stories are full of twists and turns and plots getting thicker.

What’s your number one way to wind down?

Music for Zen Meditation and Other Joys (1964) by jazz clarinetist Tony Scott, with Shinichi Yuize (koto) and Hōzan Yamamoto (shakuhachi). From the very first note, the beta waves quickly ease into alpha waves.

What’s your favourite film and album?

Film-wise, it’s a toss up between my favourite film-makers, Luchino Visconti’s The Leopard and Denis Villeneuve’s Incendies. Two master film-makers and two of the greatest films ever made.

Album-wise, it’s almost impossible to decide, but Marvin Gaye’s sublime What’s Goin’ On sure does bring the best of every great album into one magnificently moving masterpiece of soul and jazz and vocals and genuine heart of sadness about the world, and the album is as relevant today as it was at the turn of the 70’s.

What’s the smartest bit of marketing you’ve ever done?

This was no marketing strategy, but it was teaching what I practice — copywriting and editing. Many of my clients come from my classes at RMIT University, Centre for Adult Education or my online Copywriting in Action course. And student/client recommendations have brought many others to my little hothouse of quality content creation.

What’s the one resource you’d never be without?

Google search. But a clear and insightful mind is an absolute must. One needs to research for the data and information (many thanks to Google) and then have a disciplined and creative mind to synthesise it all into knowledge and insight. Only then can one write something great, and what’s great is content that has story, meaning and value.

What’s the most obscure business request you’ve ever had?

Someone asked me to come up with a slogan for their family tree. Not really, I just made that up, I don’t know that I’ve ever gotten an obscure request. Maybe I need to get out more, or maybe somebody out there reading this has one that I can have a go at.

What or who has the most grounding influence on you?

My wonderful companion, who is also a wonderful photographer, art director and my reality check. Then there’s the music side of my life, composing, recording with my band, Thirty Three and a Third, and Pro Tooling the recordings into a faithful finish. Music has always been my companion since my dad got me an accordion at the age of six and took me to music lessons. Perhaps being an only child, the music is my sister and brother. And it plays a big part in how I write, edit and teach writing — good writing sings, well-composed sentences have rhythm. In 2009, Duke University neurologists led by Dale Purvis scientifically proved that speech and music are biologically linked, which helps explain why writing that sings is more engaging and satisfying to read.

What’s the biggest challenge you face at work?

Being a staff of six in one body. Juggling all the parts that make the whole by myself is challenging and expanding at the same time. Interestingly, I became a much more accomplished copywriter and art director when I set up my own business and had to do the suit work too. The whole thing of talking to clients and directing project partners, translating information into a clearly directed communication brief, and then doing the writing and art direction, re-engineered me into a well-rounded communications practitioner. As a result, over the last 15 years as a soloist, both sides of my brain are calibrated into a fine balance of strategic thinking and creative imagination — the two essentials of any effective communication piece.

What’s the best thing about being a soloist? And the worst thing?

Self-determination is the best thing because you pave your own way and you can design and decorate the pathway how you like. Environment is very important to me. Perhaps the worst thing is the potential for self-destruction from the exhaustion of over-work or a domestic financial crisis (DFC) of too little work. One needs a healthy and sensible work and life balance and some perspective.

What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given?

The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the second best time is now. I heard this from Sonia Simone of She’s always good listening and an excellent copywriter too. Her writing is always instructive, informative, entertaining and persuasive — the four characteristics of great copy.

Where and when do you have your best ideas?

Strolling through nature, riding along the beach, in select cafes (my usual destination when strolling or riding), and, of course, in meditation. In fact, sometimes I am scared to meditate because I might come up with a great idea and the urge to act on it is hard to resist, thus defeating the purpose of meditation — detachment from all dualities. What I usually do when I’m on a project is bring a notepad and pen with me to the cushion so I can jot it down.

What would be your advice to aspiring soloists?

I’m no career consultant but a recurring wisdom in the marketplace is to zig when everybody else zags. You’ve got to have a point of difference, your own voice, and that in itself can be a profound discovery. Those copywriting students of mine who bring their own start-up business projects to the course go through this process and it’s beautiful to witness it when they have the “ah-ha!” moment.

What website do you visit every day?

The Age, The Guardian and Facebook. I like to start the day with the news about what’s going on. I’m the cat who checks out the entire territory before settling in a spot for the day. I need to see what’s happening out there in the world and what my community of friends, family and FB followings are putting out. It feeds my mind while I have my favourite meal of the day, breakfast.

What talent do you most wish you possessed?

To play jazz piano, and like Abdullah Ibrahim (South African pianist and composer). I only wish I could have been more disciplined and practised the piano for hours every day. But my focus was on many creative pursuits, and this obsession with Art & Copy just took hold in me, thankfully it is a very satisfying and useful form of work and I get to meet people from all walks of life, cultures and persuasions. It makes me a perpetual student. Meanwhile, my daughter, Sophie did the long hours of practice and she’s now an accomplished violinist. So I can get to live my wish through her, it’s a beautiful outcome. But if you like, you can hear my own music on SoundCloud under the name Solar Speech (all original compositions, and produced by me and my musical compadres, Catherine Acin, Steve Sculli and Tony Robertson).

What would your mum say is your greatest strength? And weakness?

Strength — making lemonade out of a lemon. Weakness — not having a real job. To this day, mum and dad could never understand what I do for a living.

What’s one thing about you few people know?

I’m a bit hesitant to answer this one, but I joined Flying Solo after reading the “finding your tribe” piece, and I’d love to be in a tribe of like-minded micro business people. So in the Flying Solo spirit I will answer — my Tibetan spiritual name translated into English\ is Steadfast Dharma King. It was given to me by my Tibetan Buddhist teacher, the late and remarkable Traleg Rinpoche. I still see him grinning when he gave it to me. And no wonder! It’s a big deal to live up to every day. But I wouldn’t have it any other way, being a metaphorical mountain climber.

What is the one regret you do not want to have in this lifetime?

Living another person’s life instead of my own.

What inspires you most about your work?

Bringing other people’s stories to life. I love my job (copywriting, art directing, editing and teaching) because people come to me with their stories and I make them come to life, in the same way a film director turns a story into a movie. And other people come to me to teach them how to do the same thing — I take the teaching side very seriously because education (professional, personal or academic) is civilisations’ greatest asset. According to Alain de Botton, professional development (aka self-help) stood as the pinnacle of learning and literature for 2000 years, going back to Epicurus, Seneca and Marcus Aurelius. So it’s a real privilege to continue the tradition and be chosen as one’s teacher. But it’s not touchy-feely, my courses demand discipline, creativity and the 3 Rs of great writing — rewrite, rewrite, rewrite (until you get it right). Having said that, it’s a lot of fun too, like a finely tuned guitar, the strings are not too tight and not too loose.

What do you wear to work?

I love well-designed clothes. So when I want to style-it-up, I’ll get into my Yves Saint Laurent pinstriped suit and Italian silk tie. I really like the white shirt, jazzy tie and vest look too. Most days I get into the rock-steady-mood of boot-cut trousers and black t-shirt or indigo blue shirts. And on the Friday-on-my-mind days, it’s the country-comfort-feel of my Mountain Designs Brass Monkey Fleece Pants, black t-shirt and Brooksfield black cardigan (conceived in Italy, born and bred in Melbourne). I like to keep my online students and clients on their toes, so I sometimes jazz up in the suit and tie, then reggae down to something more laid-back. I use the online platform in the same way as television, and as a presenter you’ve got to look the attitude as well as be the intelligence.

What do you love most about running your own business?

Working for all types of people and within time-frames that suit my seasonal temperament (I have a little black dog that comes to visit from time to time). My own business is also a creative act — creating my own work and income and an entity in my own image. If that sounds a bit God-complexy, maybe it is. If so, then everybody at Flying Solo must be a god too. And I reckon that’s good.

And now comes the plug for Nicolas Di Tempora, DiTEMPORA.COMMUNICATIONS!

What do you do? Who for? And how does it benefit them?

As a professional copywriter, art director, editor and qualified educator (Dip.Ed.), my reputation is breathing life, meaning and buy-in into people’s and business’ stories, be it selling or telling.

And where can we find out more about Nicolas Di Tempora, DiTEMPORA.COMMUNICATIONS?

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