Tamsin Constable

Creativity? Get the right mood/ coffee/ notebook

I’ve been bitten by a new bug – a taste for expensive, quality, no-frills Moleskine notebooks. Not just because they’re such a pleasure to handle and write in, which they are, but because they will unleash awesome creative genius.

Or so the seductive marketing implies. Moleskines, it states, were used by ‘Artists, authors and geniuses of all variety,’ including Van Gogh, Picasso and Hemingway, and ‘the famed author, Bruce Chatwin’. (If he’s so famed, why mention the fact?)

The blurb goes on, “In 1998, a small Milanese publisher brought these books back for writers, artists, travelers and all free-thinkers around the globe.” Why, snakes alive, that’s me! Writer – yes! Artist – sort of! Traveller – used to be! (but with two ‘Ls’, because I’m here, not there). Free-thinker – of course! (Quick, here’s my credit card.)

So there you have it. Success has nothing to do with hard work and commitment. You just need the right notebook!

Enough, I’ve got deadlines. First, though, a coffee. Colombian, made just like Gabriel Garcia Marquez likes it.

Short cuts

“I did not have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one instead.”

Dr Samuel Johnson who was born 300 years ago this month (1709) disliked writing that was decorative or deliberately archaic. He was a passionate advocate of excellent writing, and this, one of my favourite quotes is often attributed to him.

It turns out, though, that neither Johnson (nor Mark Twain, to whom this quote is also often attributed) ever actually said this.

But the scientist Blaise Pascal, in a letter in 1657, did write:

“Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte.”

Translated, this is: “I have made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to make it shorter.”

The inaccurate and wrongly attributed version does sound snappier. The gist is the same. But what about the tone?

Plain English leads to great style

a senior lecturer in communication at Auckland University of Technology, praises this year’s entries.

“One of the most gratifying things is the holistic approach many writers are now taking,” she said. “They’re moving beyond simplified language and are thinking about structure and the context in which their documents will be read.”

This year’s high standards prove that many people now grasp that plain English is not just about the language you use. “It’s also about attractiveness in presentation, being engaging, and recognising you’re writing for a diverse audience.”