I’m the first to admit it: I’m deplorable at titles. It’s something of a handicap for a writer, certainly for one who does a fair amount of marketing writing in order to pay the rent. Others come up with pithy and clever taglines, titles, and headlines, and when they do I find myself wondering whether I should pursue some other career—become a long-distance truck driver, perhaps, or a fortuneteller.
The title for my first Martine LeDuc mystery, Asylum, just came to me, something that rarely happens (I was pretty astonished, to tell the truth), and I’m still rather proud of it. I wanted to title the second book in that series Bijoux, but my editor at St. Martins/Minotaur overrode me and called it Deadly Jewels instead.
Just as well: Bijoux might have made the book’s abysmal sales even more so.
So I struggle with titles. A friend helped me devise The Deadliest Blessing, the title of my upcoming (watch for it in June!) novel in the Provincetown theme week mystery series. And I know that I’m spending the summer writing one that will take place during Women’s Week, and that was where I got well and truly stuck.
(You might think that one should just write the book and the title will grow organically out of that process. For many authors, that’s probably the case. But I’ve always needed the title first; I’ve always needed some place to hang—or stow—my words.)
So I took to Facebook, as many of you know, and asked Provincetown Community Space what people there might suggest for a title, a tricky affair when they don’t know exactly what the book is about. That’s okay: I have no idea yet what it’s about, either.
I was amazed by the responses; they ranged from the profound to the silly, from the faintly disgusting to the perfectly marvelous, and I loved every single one of them. Here at ptownie, we’ve often conducted polls on preferences—your favorite dish at your favorite restaurant, for example, or whether you’ve had any interesting encounters on the ferry. I’m always encouraged by the level of involvement that sort of thing brings out in people.
But this was different. This was asking people to be imaginative, to think about the community from a different angle, to be clever. It was appealing to what is still, I would argue, the thing that unites people who choose to live in an old fishing village at land’s end: creativity itself.
I especially loved that it made people think about their community a little differently than the way they’re accustomed to viewing it. People thought about what Women’s Week means, about the people it draws here, about the town’s reaction to them. They considered the natural environment and chose titles that had to do with sea, with dunes, with wind. They poked fun and thought deeply and rattled off ideas on the spur of the moment.
And they were all creative. Every one.
Everyone knows that Provincetown is good at the standard avenues for creativity. Summer and winter alike, we are the home base for many outstanding visual artists. Writers come here for a weekend, a year, a lifetime. And these streets inspired creative musical partnerships like the one that gave birth to Well-Strung.
But there’s another kind of creativity, too, creativity of thought. Minds that can make leaps between two seemingly disparate concept and bring a new idea to light. The ability to think flexibly, to see situations and people and ideas from a plethora of angles. And we do that, too.
I’m encouraged by it. I’m excited that this spring we’ll be hosting our first TEDx Talk, sharing some of those disparate ideas with each other. What we are seeing in the rest of our country, what we are mourning losing, we can rebuld—and perhaps even build back better—and it’s people who have the kind of creativity we all possess that will be at the forefront of that rebuilding.
And that’s a whole lot more creative than just being good at titles.