When I first drafted my novel Raising John, I chose that title because it fit with what I was trying to express, and it was the first title that came to mind. When I sent it out to agents, I decided that Raising John was a lame title – derivative, too simple, maybe a little smarmy. So, I thought, and thought, and thought about a new title and finally on the last day before I sent it to the first agents, I came up with The Way Through. Now, there were good-seeming reasons for that title. There is a lot in the book about the sorts of struggles for which the only way out is through. There are life passages and transitions. There wasn’t the risk of smarm that I had with the other title.
And yet, I was never really happy with The Way Through as a title. I had to explain it to people. It was referential, sort of, but the references were not clear. It didn’t make people wonder what the “through” was so they would be motivated to read the book and find out. It was dry. So, when I revised, I changed the title back. I am seeing that simple is sometimes perfect.
Because I’m all about the life lessons, I’ll expand this a bit. I think. Thinking is good – it’s the over thinking that always gets me. My gut is pretty reliable when I remember to listen to it. I have talked myself into liking people when my gut sense was to run, run, run, and it always turned out that the gut sense was correct and I should have stayed away. I don’t know why Raising John seemed like the right title, but it was what came out when I decided I needed a title, and I now see that it was a good one.
Sometimes your subconscious knows stuff that your conscious mind has not caught up to. I wrote about this. Gavin de Becker has made a career out of helping people learn to read and trust their gut instincts instead of trying to explain everything away with your conscious mind. Sometimes you have figured stuff out at the subconscious level and the rest of your brain just hasn’t caught up yet.
And sometimes there’s a more primitive part of your brain that’s figured out as much as you need to know, and it’s telling you to just act because thought will just clog up the process. I once read an article about cyclists’ road safety. They talked about peripheral vision and how because it’s more primitive it allows for faster processing and quicker reactions. For example, there’s a red Toyota Camry coming fast from your left. If you turn your head and process that information with your direct vision, you’ll see the red Toyota Camry, but by the time you have processed that it’s red, that it’s a car, that it’s a Camry, it might be on top of you. If you keep your gaze forward and let your peripheral vision do the work, it will tell you all you need to know – a large thing is hurtling towards you and you had best get out-of-the-way.
Finding a title for your book isn’t life or death, but the right title can make a difference, and sometimes your gut knows what it is before your higher brain has gotten the memo.