Titles are important. Like the name you choose for your child, it should match the expectation you have for what’s inside. You have the responsibility to grant the name, but it’s not yours: it’s the story’s, the child’s. You’re just the messenger.
Ray Bradbury suggested brainstorming names of stories as a means of overcoming writer’s block, in his Zen in the Art of Writing novel. His theory being, if you know the title, you know the story. Often, if I get the title I am set, I know the rest. I can back into it. But it doesn’t work the other way around. If I have content but no title, I can’t get it off the ground. It’s like I need a box for it.
This happened to my dear friend Loren as he was finishing several field recordings from last summer, and couldn’t settle on the name of the piece. We batted titles back and forth over email, as I listened to samples of the music and tried to imagine the right name.
When I look at his backlog now, I recall going into the Rough Trade record store with him in London, in 1998 – and how he was able to sell a bag of CDs he made of his own music, in return for over a hundred pounds in cash, which we used to buy beers and lunch.
If The World Could Be A Sweater And I Could Try It On Before Buying It (1998).
My kids are going to wake up soon, and so any hopes of finishing this post respectably are limited. Perhaps someone can help me assign some value to the title of this poem (which, unfortunately, I’m still stuck on, 15 years later).