Lichtenbergianism: Titles? We don’t need no steenkin’ titles.

From The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published [EGGYBP]:

A common mistake authors make is choosing a title that has a particular meaning to them but that no one else understands.


I mean to say.  Lichtenbergianism.  What could go wrong?

I will admit to having been told already that the title sucks and won’t survive an agent/editor/publisher.  I will resist while I can, of course, because the whole core of the book is how the Lichtenbergians became more productive through the use of the Nine Precepts (although of course the Precepts are ex post facto developments).

The subtitle of the book, I would hope, makes the purpose of the book clear: Lichtenbergianism: procrastination as a creative strategy.  My feeling is that the silliness of the main title becomes attractive when attached to the subtitle, i.e., the browser is distracted by the weird, incomprehensible title, then sees the subtitle and laughs, yeah, I need this book.

But I am not the expert, the authors of EGGYBP are, and they suggest a couple of strategies here.  The first is to create a “title pool” of words that could go into your title:

  • procrastinate, procrastination, procrastinating
  • create, creative, creativity
  • put off, hold off, postpone, protract
  • don’t start, tomorrow…
  • finish, finished, finishing

Then somehow you’re supposed to find that perfect title out of all those terms.  (They also suggest checking Google Adwords to see what will result in your book being found, but that involves creating an account which involves “budgets” and “payment” and all that stuff.)  Here are ten:

  1. Don’t Create, Procrastinate!
  2. Never Finish Today (what you can put off tomorrow)
  3. A [Poem]* Is Never Finished: *painting/song/novel/garden ( a riff on the Paul Valery quote)
  4. Be Creative… Some Day
  5. Be Creative… Tomorrow
  6. Hold That Thought! : a guide to creative procrastination
  7. Lord, Make Me Creative, But Not Yet (a riff on St. Augustine’s sly prayer about chastity)
  8. Tomorrow Is Better: procrastination as a creative strategy
  9. Back Burner Creativity, or Creativity on the Back Burner
  10. Moseying to the Finish Line: creativity is not a race

Okay, there are a few in there that I could tolerate were an agent to hold a book contract to my head.

Another strategy from EGGYBP is to “get lots and lots of opinions.”  I realize that anyone reading this blog has already had their brains infected by Lichtenbergianism, but try to forget that perfect title and give me your opinions in comments.  Who knows?  This could be that moment when Bugles Sang True finally became Gone With the Wind.

2 thoughts on “Lichtenbergianism: Titles? We don’t need no steenkin’ titles.

  1. 8 is very funny and stays true to your “principles.” Also, perhaps re-visit the original Lichtenberg aphorism that started it all. There’s also something connected with the story of Lichtenberg’s desire to write a novel after the fashion of Henry Fielding that seems to point to the role of “ambition” in the creative impulse and how being too grandiose often gets in the way. Might be something there.

  2. Be alerted, however, to the fact that I tend to view this entire thing as a sly performance art action. So I assume at some point you will veer away from what the publishing trade genuinely dictates and choose to be interesting. If this is not what you are ultimately up to, take my suggestions for the crooked arrows they clearly are.

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