RIP, Christina

It’s tough to blog this week without writing about my late colleague Christina Earle. So I won’t even try.

When emotions are less raw, it will be possible to look back through a happier lens. Right now, grief colours everything.  Needless to stress, it is so much worse for her family, including her husband Oli, than it is for colleagues and friends.

Aged 31, Christina died suddenly and unexpectedly last weekend.

There’s no point trying to make sense of that.

She was one of the best journalists I’ve worked with in over 20 years of writing for mainstream media. Don’t take my word for it. Here’s what the Press Gazette has to say

Working for a 7-day newspaper, Christina often needed copy in a hurry. Sometimes this was a challenge to provide, as on the day that, unbeknown to her, I was being wheeled away for surgery myself. But she was always considerate. Thank you, Christina, for persuading me to turn my mobile off on my wedding day.

She made a fine campaigning journalist for The Sun, and she achieved so much. Every problem had a solution. Well, it did when she was on the case. Colleague Lynsey Hope put this tribute together. 

It seems self-indulgent to mope when Christina was such a sunny and capable person with an infectious smile. 

But how is it possible to do anything else? Columnist Virginia Ironside pointed out that you don’t ‘work through’ grief. It works its way through you.

Grief is the occasion for acknowledging the great value of what you’ve experienced. In his book The Middle Passage, psychotherapist James Hollis explains that, because it has been experienced, it cannot be wholly lost. The experience is still there, says Hollis. It is retained in the bones and the memory, to serve and guide the life to come.

I’m hoping so, anyway.

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Keep it Short, Stupid

War and Peace, when it was a 1,225-page blockbuster rather than a toothsome TV adaptation, was a by-word for long and weighty.

FreeImages.com/Davide Farabegoli

At medical school, one lecturer seemed bent on following in Tolstoy’s footsteps. Using ten words when one would do, he habitually overran, but did he cram more in? Was his specialism more vital than others? No.

Sadly, many speakers drone on at length, oblivious of their audience and of those scheduled after them, their numerous PowerPoint slides an accessory to their crime of disrespect.

alarm clock

Most topics, even Brexit, could be covered more succinctly. Going too long is blatant laziness. “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead,” said Mark Twain. Others, including Cicero, TS Eliot, and Blaise Pascal have expressed the same sentiment.

As the cliché goes, it would be easy for journalists from The Sun newspaper to write for The Times, but not vice versa. Guido Fawkes, who has done both, agrees. 

fabric tape measure

Keeping it short leaves little scope for nuance. On the plus side, readers won’t give up in droves, as if their team is losing 6-0.

KISS. Less is [word count exceeded]

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You may like to read: 10 Tabloid Tips to Better Writing, from Writer’s Digest and my writing colleague Dan Holloway on Why Less is More When Reading or Performing Your Work in Public.