Crib Notes

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Crib note: (n) a translation, list of correct answers, or other illicit aid used by students while reciting, taking exams, or the like

Perhaps two of the more frightening words in the English language are “spontaneous” and “improvisation.”

Working in the theatrical community over the years, I have discovered that certain actors, directors and even writers extol the value of being spontaneous or applaud the introduction of improvisation into the set. Let me explain that the only people who think that spontaneous thought or improvisational input is clever are those who are doing it.

Most of us realize that if we’re listening to someone and we know they are going “off the cuff” or using crib notes they’ve written on their shirt sleeve, or they’re referring to an index card palmed in their hand, it’s just goddam nerve-wracking.

You have to start rooting for them, hoping they don’t implode into meaningless babbling or nonsense.

The truth is, if you have something that you want to come off with a flair of impromptu, you should memorize it.


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Cove

Cove: (n) a small indentation or recess in the shoreline of a sea, lake, or river

 Clever will only take you so far.

This is true in any occupation, but certainly must be observed faithfully by the writer.

For you see, I am going to tell a story today about when I was sixteen. The temptation is to preface this story with an introductory sentence funny wisdom on words that begin with a C
which sounds cool, or what they might refer to as “off-the-top-of-the-head-ish.”

For instance:

  • when I young
  • back when pimples were my major problem
  • long before anybody called me Dad
  • in an era when I languished in my teens

You see what I mean?

Although at times these little scribbled affrontations are passable, they can get old very quickly, even if you’re talking about being young.

So suffice it to say, at one time in my life I decided to start a coffeehouse for the fellow-students at my high school. This was back when such an idea seemed expansive and other-worldly rather than old-timey and really out of it.

I found a small house—so tiny it was difficult to believe anybody had ever lived in it. But you could stuff about thirty-five people in, on the ground floor, if everybody agreed to inhale and exhale in unison.

It was perfect.

I covered the windows so no external lighting could come in, installed black lights and put colored bulbs around to give it a spooky effect.

We could not decide what to call the place, but one night, as we pulled up, we noticed it looked like an old fisherman’s cabin. So someone suggested we call it, “The Cove.” Actually, the suggestion was “The Fisherman’s Cove,” but as the weeks went by, the adjective was dropped, and it became known as “The Cove.”

All the students at the school jockeyed for the right to be one of the holy thirty-five to come to The Cove on a Saturday night, to sit around and eat bologna sandwiches and listen to the rock music our parents were sure would lead us to hell.

As it turned out, the rock and roll music did not take us to hell, but unfortunately, the bologna sandwiches gave us cholesterol problems.

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Coherent

Coherent: (adj) a logical theory

A common weakness in those who take pen to paper (though there actually is no pen or paper anymore), who fancy themselves to be writers is the tendency to become exasperated with the reader when he or she pulls up mentally lame–incapable of grasping a deep point or drooling over a clever turn of words.

Actually, to become a good writer, you must “de-brat” yourself. In other words, have the brat removed without losing the childlike quality of simplifying human truth to concepts which are easily grasped. Therefore, don’t put too many steps in your process.

Yesterday I saw an article that advertised “31 Things to Do to Make Your Life Better.” I, for one, am overwhelmed with the notion of Baskin Robbins having thirty-one flavors, let alone remembering them in any sequential order.

Coherence also demands that we use understandable language instead of historical wording. Some words, phrases and ideas are dead. I don’t know if they will ever be resurrected, but presently they are stinking in a tomb.

Just don’t use them. Avoid getting angry with the populace because they’re unfamiliar with your jargon.

And being coherent certainly requires the grace to adjust your thinking when someone finds the flaw in your figuring. No matter how good you may think you are when putting together a respectable thesis, there will always be something you forget.

Rather than losing your cool over being challenged, warm yourself to the idea of learning from your mistakes.

Coherent is when smart meets flexible and they have a child called wisdom.

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Chapter

Chapter: (n) a division of a book

There are two reasons for being different–and there’s a symmetry to this.

Reason one is to make sure that you’re not the same.

Reason two is noticing that something is not as effective as it once was and deciding to evolve.

When I started writing books years ago, most of them were no more than pamphlets. They were desperately in need of editing because, like most ‘scribers,’ I overwrite. But I often did not edit them, being young, immature and contending that each word had a divine right for existence.

You see, that piece of difference was nothing but different. It wasn’t helpful, and sometimes my readers got caught up in the confusion of one of my sentences, and found themselves begging for a clause to rescue them.

But one thing I did accomplish was renaming the chapter. It had a long and storied history in literature, but it was ready for retirement. So I asked myself, what are people doing when they read a book? The answer came quickly. Normally, they’re sitting.

So I changed “Chapters” to “Sittings.”

It was a small thing, but I think folks found it endearing, and some other writers have since taken up the banner.

You see, it’s not that my new name is better than the old name.

Sometimes all that matters is that it’s new–instead of being so damn old.

 

 

 

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Chap

Chap: (n) A true gentleman

Writers are insane from spending too much time in their own brain–drunk on the intoxicant of finding new words to make great phrases.

Often in writing a story line, when you’ve used “he, man, guy and fellow” so many times that you know the reader must be gagging, you go to the Thesaurus and look for other terms for the same idea.

You often land on a word like “chap.”

No one actually refers to another person as “a chap.” Even in England, you probably would not find many people pointing at others and saying, “Now, there’s a fine chap.”

But in a pinch, a writer who wants to extend his story by one more paragraph and needs a variable to describe a male figure will insert the word “chap,” hoping that the person reading his or her novel will overlook it and move along to the next verb.

It is in that moment when you know the writer has run out of words before running out of ideas.

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Browse

j-r-practix-with-border-2

Browse: (v) to survey goods for sale in a leisurely and casual way.

Several years back, when I had just released a new book, my dear daughter-in-law set me up with a booth at a book-sellers convention in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.Dictionary B

I was excited about my new writings, so I leaped at the chance to go and share with others the stories I had put together, which in this particular case, had a Christmas theme.

I had never been at a book sellers convention before. So I was a little taken aback when I was just one of several hundred tables set up in rows, where people could amble by, peer at my book cover and then at me, to determine if they had any level of interest.

Yes. They referred to it as browsing.

I quickly learned that there were three different kinds of browsers:

There were a few souls who came to the convention legitimately interested in books–even possibly to the point of purchasing one.

There were many more authors, who came by my table to try to talk to me about their book, hoping that I would abandon my foolish cause of self-promotion and become enamored with their endeavor.

And then there were the professional browsers. These were people who hung around for a while. They picked up my book. They scanned it for a few minutes. Sometimes they even giggled, connoting that they had enjoyed something.

I foolishly tried to interject my feelings to engage them in conversation.

It was at that point that I realized they were hoping I would solicit their opinion, so they could calmly set my book down, smile at me, turn on their heel and walk away.

I fell for this about ten times, until I realized it was a game.

After that, when people came up to my table, unless they were determined to get my attention, I sat very still…acting like I was recovering from a stroke.

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