Saturday, February 6, 2016

The 5 EEEEE's to EZ Writing

 Dear Rough-Drafter,
Regarding your project book, How the Footnote Led to World Peace, I am delighted to hear that you found my input "insightful." (I never do get that feedback from my own Focus Group, however.  Usually it's, "Why are you wasting our time with this trash, Boss?" -- the last deferential appellation thrown in, I assume, to reassure me that they still wish to be on the payroll?)
Further advice?  More input you ask?  I dare say, you don't need much.  You make writing look soooo easy.  Your encyclopedic knowledge is so much more impressive than my dictionary knowledge.  Not only is it more informative, but it is usually a much funnier read as well. 
But since you asked for advice, let me share with you the "bones"  and a brief summary of my soon-to-be Best Seller book project: 
The 5 EEEEE's to EZ Writing
Evoke  --  Good writing is sometimes built upon the foundation of an evocative, stimulating premise which arouses an emotion, or an interest, or recalls an image, or a memory for the Reader. (i.e., How the Footnote Led to World Peace, interesting...)
Elaborate  --  Once you have hit upon a surefire evocative premise, you must then actually begin writing the book!  Elaborate upon the topic from every imaginable perspective that you can think of, (I call it writing "off the top of your head,") before turning to the dictionary or the encyclopedia. This way you can give it your own personal and fun-loving flavor.  (And people can more easily see what a free-thinking artist you are.) 
Sometimes it is slightly helpful to check out a dictionary or encyclopedia to get a broader overview on the topic.  (But if the encyclopedia's coverage is simply amazing, you must resist at all costs the temptation of copying it straight out of the book for your book...) 
Evolve --  As you write, your thoughts will undergo an evolutionary process, and change.  Don't get flustered by this.  It is during this crucial time that the material is trying to find, and refine, its "voice,"  (i.e., lots of rough drafts, unless you are a "natural born" writer like I am, in which case, only one draft is necessary.)  Write about what interests you, but always bear in mind who your audience is, ie. the Focus Group! -- and pray that your blather resonates with them... 
Eviscerate --  Once you have accumulated a sufficient amount of Drabble, then its time to run it past your Focus Group, and let them do their job.  After all, this is what you are paying them for.  (Their task is to eliminate all the useless parts of your Block-buster and render a verdict on the merits and commerciality of what is left...)
Eventuate  --  Depending upon the feed-back from the Focus Group, you may finally go ahead with the Book!

(Or, possibly not!!!)

On a side note:  What do you think of these "bones" for a potential block-buster book concept?  Could it not help but become a Best Seller?  More importantly, Would you buy a copy or two if I priced them under say, $50 a pop? )

In any case the book writing process is simply this: 
  • Start with an idea that interests you,
  • generate a catchy title,
  • expand the central theme into a paragraph,
  • then into a chapter,
  • then digress sufficiently and blather away to give the book the proper "heft,"  
  • and when you take it to the Focus Group, pray that they like it! 
        and then... Make many trips to the Bank! 

Ideally, the Focus Group will give you the "Green" light, and demand a series of sequels.  They may even go so far as insisting that you turn it into a screenplay, or  a mini-series, or some other such goldmine!!! 

Or they might respond like my bunch usually does, "Whoa!  Slow down, Mister Writer Man.  Red light.  Red light!  Why are you wasting our time with this drivel, Boss?"  ("His writing used to be sooooo much better... and he wrote about such more interesting stuff then, too!  Well, at least our paychecks keep clearing the Bank, but at this rate, who knows for how much longer..?")
Simple enough, see?  

So, write on, dear Rough-Drafter and make me proud!

 It's EZ!

-- Tips from the Bardmeister  

Sunday, January 11, 2015

No Longer the Same

As a young pregnant mom, my grandma eased into the day, still in her bathrobe.  Esther, her second daughter, was down the street at a skating party at the church.   A distress call came in reporting that Esther had been hit by a car and was on the way to the hospital.  Grandpa went directly to the hospital, but Grandma, who could not go outside in her bathrobe, stayed home to get dressed.  By the time she got to the hospital it was too late.  She never got to see her daughter alive again.  Grandma never talked to me about it, but it is reported that after that, no one ever saw her less than completely dressed when she started her day.  I believe Esther was 6 years old....

I went in halfsies on my first surfboard when I was in jr. high.  My parents disapproved, feeling that it was too dangerous, but they allowed it.  One summer day to back up her case, Mom showed me an article in the paper about a 13 year old kid who drowned while surfing at the Huntington Beach pier.  I scoffed as I began to read the account....  Wait a minute!  I know this guy.  Wayne!  He was a classmate of mine, and a really good guy.  I only half-heartedly embraced surfing thereafter, and to this day I have never ventured out into the waters at the HB pier....

Theoretically, nothing wrong with Grandma's routine, nothing wrong with the waves at the HB pier, nothing wrong with that stretch of roadway.  But for those who have experienced personal traumatic loss along the way, some things will forever be tarnished.  Most people will not understand.  Associated smells, sights, seasons, mere mentions, second-guessings can re-trigger crippling emotional grief and unleash seemingly insurmountable sorrow.

There was one who was reportedly acquainted with our sorrows and griefs.  We can turn to him to begin finding traction, or we can tough it out, bear the pain, and hope to avoid any triggers....

Trauma comes in many forms.  I have know people who have unexpectedly lost a child, lost a husband, lost a wife, lost both parents.  Lost their innocence, lost their faith, lost touch with reality, lost their will to live.  No doubt, trauma taints and distorts much of our daily experience.  We all seek understanding and rest.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Writer's Notebook: The ARRG Policy

The origins of the ARRG policy as set forth in correspondence between the Mermaid Queen and my wife, Maryly, a.k.a. Staff with Standards, in my upcoming, block-buster Book, Shirley! You Jest!:                                                                                                                              

Hi, MermQ,

I have often experienced the strange phenomena of spending quite a bit of time writing a piece I congratulate myself on as being oh-so-clever, only to find that the next day when I read it again with fresh eyes, I don't like it AT ALL.  It is humbling. It can be mortifying.  Others may try to comfort and reassure with nice words of, "Oh, no, really, it is a good piece of work," but that doesn't matter if YOU the AUTHOR don't like it anymore.

It is risky to distribute things hot off the presses of the mind. But if everyone let every communication sit for a day or two in order to reconsider its brilliance and merits, well, we'd all be sitting around twice as long waiting to hear from each other!

So let us adopt a new policy, the Author's Right to Retract because he/she now considers it Garbage policy, which we will affectionately dub the ARRG Policy (up to the individual if a pirate accent is included while announcing that he/she is invoking the policy).  It is a No Questions Asked policy.  The policy goes like this: Author announces he is invoking ARRG. Readers respond with gracious attitude of, "Say no more. It never happened."  It is then their Duty to delete all copies they have (unless it is evidence in a crime investigation, of course, but we don't expect that to happen).  Author may keep his/her copies if he/she wishes.

We do this with photographs we take.  If we see we have taken an unflattering photo or we hear that someone doesn't like how they look in a photo of ours, it's history, kaput, destroyed forever with no record kept, no questions asked, happy to accommodate (even if WE wickedly think it is funny and would like to have it--it's a matter of personal honor and respect of our photographic subjects, unless they think it is funny too, but that is rare and usually only happens with guys). We wish everyone would do this for us, too, but then there would be almost NO photos of me for the last several years, which would be perfectly fine with me.  Just last night I saw photos my niece displayed online that included some she took of me when she was visiting at Christmas, and they are absolutely DEPLORABLE!  I adore my niece, but the girl need lessons in how to take flattering photographs and to know when to destroy ones not up to snuff!  But I digress.

I hope this meets with your approval.  By tomorrow I may wish I hadn't made harsh reference to my niece's photographic judgment, but I don't want to wait till then to send this.

Staff with Standards

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Filtering for a "Best friend" ?

My mind is fleetingly hovering around the topic of “friendship” and more specifically, the dynamic of “Best friend” - ship.  (Please indulge me while I blather…)

For me, as a youth, the paramount concern when filtering for a “best” friend was simply what kind of snacks did their Mom dish out?

The most sought-after “Best” friends were those whose Mom’s couldn’t be bothered with a sit down meal, choosing just to hand out “Moon pies” or “Ding Dongs” to the kids as she showed them the door…

“Go outside to play…  OUTSIDE!!”

Now that was a Mom!  When word on the street got out that someone actually had a Mom like that, he became the most popular and sought after playmate, and his house became a veritable social Mecca!

New “Best-friend-wannabe’s” would crowd up to his house every day, jockeying to curry “best friend” favor.  (Side note:  What power and influence wise Mom’s could wield if they only knew it!)  

I thought I had such a potential best friend once, but when I gravitated over to his house one lazy, boring summer day, I was disheartened and flummoxed when I spotted him “holding court” in the midst of the hopefuls (and was not encouraged as I noted the “candidate” line wrapping around the corner.)  As I sized up the situation, I stopped, and a dread fell over me.  With a noticeable “Huff” and/or “Sigh,” I turned aside and reluctantly paddled over to my “old” Best friend’s house.

“Wanna stay for lunch?” he asked.  “My Mom’s got some celery stalks and carrots!”

(Man, I’ve got to make some new, and better, “Best” friends…)

Acquiring a Best friend according to an earlier Blog which outlined my potential best seller and Pulitzer winner, The Rules of Playis simply finding a playmate who 1. Wants to have some fun, and 2. Consents to the rules you both agree to (and isn’t always quibbling.) [“And doesn’t get you into trouble!!” so says Staff.]  Just to note:  You give a kid a much wider latitude on the Rules if his Mom has good snacks.

It’s All About the Rules of Play!  Coming to a bookstore near you!!  (Well, after it gets past the Focus Group and is actually written...)

Side note:  There is no better feeling possible to experience in youth than when a poor, deflated (and hungry) chap hears the magical music as if from heaven:

Friend:  “Hey, wait up!  WAIT UP!  Where you been?  I’ve been  waiting for you all day over at my house.”
Chris:  “I saw you holding court and I thought that you didn’t…”
Friend:  “I’m sorry!  I didn’t see you.  I slipped out the back to find you.  Do you still wanna play?” 
(As previously stated, when Rule #3 is properly employed, it saves the day and hence the Play.  Let the games continue!)  (until dark.)
Friend:  “I’m really sorry I almost missed you.  Look what my Mom sent along…”
Chris:  “Moon pies?!!”  This has been the Best day of my whole life!  Life is good and it’s fun to have fun especially with my new Best friend (and his Mom.)

Blatheringly yours,

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Misc. Thoughts

Why is it that each person naturally perceives himself as the center of the universe? 

For the most part, after all, is it not our own point of view, or life experience, that we instinctively compare all others by? It happens so effortlessly.  Most often we extend (or rescind) to others a little bit of  warmth/chill based solely on their perceived alignment (or deviation) from our own point of view.  Accept/avoid, embrace/balk, welcome/shun.  Why is that?  And has this natural, (self protective?) auto-response proven itself to be a satisfactory matrix through which to evaluate, and conduct one's social values and life? 

Is it serving us well?  

(I've pondered this topic in a previous Blog.)

For example, I could be doing 90 down the freeway, but if I get passed, I think, "I drive fine; but man, is he ever the reckless driver!" On the other hand, if I'm slowed down by someone who insists on "going the speed limit"  while driving in the "passing lane," I mutter "Sunday driver!" as I swerve around that slow poke and leave him in the dust to frustrate others.   Why is it so natural, and why does it come so easily, to attach relative value to another person's actions (or inaction's) based solely on one thing:  "How would I, or ANY OTHER NORMAL PERSON, have reacted?

We are perpetually presented with the variant, often seemingly idiotic, choices made by others.  And we make a mental note. Sometimes the mental note is accompanied by openhearted approval; other times a menacing word or gesture is the response.  

On a rare occasion we see or hear something "new," we  think "Wow! That's brilliant!  It never occurred to me to act or think that way!  I'm going to change and adopt that new insight.  From now on this is how we roll!"  (Side note:  Wasn't that the intended effect of all that political grand-standing on FB a few months back? And even now?  BTW:  Did ANYONE change their mind or vote as a result of that bombardment?)

Usually, and more frequently however, when confronted with thinking and behaviors which deviate from our own, we think:  "Stupido!  Why didn't it occur to him to think, act, or react just the way that I would have, Mr. Poop-For-Brains?..."    

Has not this happened to us all?   Depending upon the setting, and calibrated by our own personal perspective, people are relatively regarded to be either...

     Speeders                            or  Road Hogs

     Totally Rad Trendsetters    or  just Wannabes
     Adventurous Wildmen       or  Homely Couch Potatoes
     Among the In Crowd         or  Clueless
     Worthy of Admiration        or  Not worthy of Spit
     Inspiring                             or  Insipid
     Helpful                                or  Hopeless
     Mensa's                               or  Dunderheads etc.     

I'm sure a flood of relatively brilliant examples have come to your own mind already without too much effort.  (If you need prodding, just look or listen to the next person you see.)  Why do we do that?  

The interesting point to me is the relativity.  Everyone draws the line a little differently.  We observe, take notes, compare, assess, then judge from our personal perspective.  (We are, after all, the Center of the Universe!)

For example, your average mass murderer probably couldn't help himself from assessing his peers.  (Disclaimer:  This I suspect, not that I personally know any such ones.)  On the relative basis of his thoughts and/or experience alone, he might well be thinking, "Man, how does that guy do it?  He's my idol.  I wonder if he's teaching a class anywhere?  I'd take it!"  

Or rather, if his peer didn't quite measure up, he might well be thinking, "Sloppy work, Mr. Amateur-night.  He's bound to get caught.  If I ever meet him, I'd "off" him myself just do everybody a big favor.  It's guys like him that give us true 'hobbyists' a bad rap..."  

"And while I'm at it:  Hey you, Mr. Slow-Poke!  Stay outta MY lane, too!"  

I don't know where I am going with this, but that's all I have right now. So if you, dear Blog reader, were to collaborate, where might the perusal of this quandary go?  

Why are we so profoundly wired to be judgmental?   

And by this behavior are we serving ourselves well? 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Latest Book Presentation to my Focus Group

…Now, getting back to the bones of my latest blockbuster book-project topic, designed to bring global harmony and understanding.  (I think it has Pulitzer, and possibly Nobel, written all over it! ) 

Much like Einstein, who reduced the complexities of the universe into the simple formula "E=mc squared," I find myself on the cusp of reducing the complexities of ALL HUMAN SOCIAL INTERACTION into a simple, yet easily understandable model.

The material tells me it wants to be entitled--

        The 3 Rules That Govern ALL Social Life !!!         
    or,  How the Social Matrix Works -- In a Nutshell               

                     By Chris Cushingham

What are the 3 cornerstone Rules that govern all social life, you ask? I call them The Rules of Play.  Simply put, they are these... Follow closely: 

Rule #1:    It’s fun to have fun!  (Easy enough?)

Rule #2:   THERE  ARE  NO  RULES!!! 
 --except those AGREED TO by the players (and sometimes their parents or police.)  Players enjoy the free flow of the passing of time by just being together and having a bit of fun -- the joking, the kidding, the “ape”ing, the daring, the faux-mocking, the adventure, the adoration, all of which results in time “well-spent.”

            (Side note:  It has been my observation and time-tested truth that one never feels “old” or “infirm” whilst engaged in “play time-well spent.”  Is this not so?   Of course, you may feel like taking a nap after reading this crap, so I say PLAY ON, NOW!  and then take a nap.)

             “Best” friends are invariably those who easily fall into play and waste little or no time quibbling about the Rules.

Rule #3:   Should some “dis-Content” fester into “dis-Consent” over the Rules among the players, the result is typically a Suspension of Play.  

Dis-consent undoes Rule #2 and brings the "social" element among the Players to a halt. You know when this happens because someone usually walks off in a noticeable “Huff!” and takes themselves, and their ball, out of the Play.  

Play has been suspended!  In order to Resume Play, “Consent” must be restored!  (see Rule #2.)  

“Dis-consent” over the Rules can usually only be overcome with a lot of  re-defining, re-adjusting and re-agreeing to the Rules among the Players.  Also, a lot of “I’m Sorry’s!” and/or “I’ll never do that again’s!!!” are involved.  (The only legitimate time the use of never is to be employed in our vocabularies.)

So much fun to be had, so little time (and paper).   More blathering to follow... 

Anyway, these are the bones of my latest Book project which I just thought up this afternoon.  Would you buy a copy of this cutting edge block-buster?  I'd be sure to sign it!

Or, might you prefer to take your ball and go home, in which case I will never bother you again (until one of us gets bored enough and want to Resume Play according to the protocols of Rule #1, #2, and #3...)


Friday, March 1, 2013

Overlooked Perks of being a 'Book Writer'

    When you let it slip that you are in the process of “writing a Book,” or better yet, if you ask anyone if they have ever thought of writing a Book, you will be amazed at the enrichment it instantly brings to your average boring conversation.  Really!  Try it out and see if it is not Verdad!

Example:  Say, you’re at a dull party, or talking to the policeman who comes to your door responding to an unfortunate and misguided neighbor’s complaint, or better yet, try it next week after church!    I dare you to try this! 

At some point there will be a lull in the conversation, a pregnant pause if you will.  The conversation is looking for direction…  In that seminal  moment, just look the other directly in the eye, and ask:

“Have you ever thought of writing a book?”

Try it!!!  There are only 2 possible responses to this inquiry:

1.    “Why, yes I have!  May I run my ideas past you?  (Wow, I’ve been coming to this meeting for over 50 years, and finally someone who wants to talk about something interesting!)”  I guarantee that you will learn more about that person than you could have ever imagined for you will have struck to the core of their passion.  (Let someone else talk about the weather…)


           2.  “No.”

Do not be dismayed by this response!  If you just bite your tongue, the immutable laws of conversation will soon click into play, and save the day!

       Rules of Conversation 101

1.  Rule One:  When you initiate a conversation, the questions you ask will be the exact same questions that people will ask you back!

                  Example:  Asker – “What do you do for fun?”

                 Askee – “I don’t talk to people like you!”

Well, that was a bad example, but the point is this: You ask a person “Have you ever thought of writing a book?” If they answer “No” they will usually follow with “Have you?”  Good Answer!  Because then you might have 1. A slight opening to convey your passion (or other interest) and 2. You may get a gauge from this focus group (albeit unscientific) on the viability and potential buyer interest regarding your forth-coming (or not) Book project!

If they smile politely after you “launch” (nautical term) and respond with “So, how’s about this weather?” you know right then and there that you do not have to write that Book! 


(I hesitate to bring up the 3rd potential response to this question i.e., “Have you ever thought of writing a book?”

3.  “Why yes I have! 

      I have written dozens of books! 

      Have you not read (even) one??? 

      Perhaps you would you like to buy one?

      Or, several?

      I take checks or cash!”)

Ponderifically yours,


So, "Have you ever thought of writing a Book?"  
       I dare you to ask the first person you see.
       Then tell me all about it...!