Enter title here (or why i can’t write titles)

There’s an aspect of writing I’m bad at.

Not just bad. Awful.

Suck stinky raw eggs awful.

Can you guess what it is? Of course you can, because the title tells you! But that’s not always the case ’round here.

Enter Section Title Here

How many times have I labeled a poem “A poem”?

How many mind-numbing, uninspiring, nondescript blog post titles have I heaved into cyberspace?

B.J. Novak is good at titles.

I’ve barely read any of the stories in his book yet, but just looking at the table of contents, I’m immediately struck: His titles kick butt (and some of them even take names).

Confucius at Home
Wikipedia Brown and the Case of the Missing Bicycle
No One Goes to Heaven to See Dan Fogelberg

They’re intriguing. They’re fun. They inspire me to read on. They make me wonder if Confucius kept a neat and tidy home or left his dirty underwear face up on the bedroom floor for his wife to pick up.

In short, they sell the stories.

Punk says I write for myself. When speaking, I’m cognizant of my audience. When writing, it’s as if I think no one will read it. Fair enough.

Two questions.

  1. Is it wrong to write for myself? Writing is how I think, learn, process, grow. You’re welcome to look over my shoulder.

  2. If I were writing titles for myself, why wouldn’t I name them so I knew what they were? Even I don’t know what “A poem” is about unless I click on it, and I wrote it less than a week ago.

Some songs have obscure titles. Punk’s band plays a song called Oceans that has nothing to do with the sea. But maybe it’s a personal title for the dude who wrote the song. Maybe he wrote it at the beach, or while flying over that place in Alaska where two oceans meet.

My other problem is an excessive fondness for brevity. I especially love one word titles. My son would say I’m “fabulated” by them. I hear angel choirs proclaiming the birth of perfect, spunky, kick-to-the-groin titles, born to save us from the glut of wordiness plaguing the world today.

Check out these beauties from Amazon’s Best Books of the Year:

Revival

Euphoria

Updike

HECK YES. I want to read these books. But titles can be wordier and still retain their catchiness. These broaden my horizons a bit:

Savage Harvest

We Were Liars

Everything I Never Told You

They don’t knock the wind out of me, but they do blow my hair back a bit.

So I sifted through the archives. When I came to a title and didn’t know what the post was about, I renamed it.  Hopefully choosing titles that:

  • describe
  • sell
  • or at least mean something to me.

That poem that was set after a dinner party? Now titled After the dinner party.

Confucius say BAM.

>Enter witty encapsulating end paragraph here.

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