Okay maybe not dead people, exactly. But I do feel the occasional presence of something otherworldly, especially when I’m home alone and trying to concentrate on my writing. A shadow might drift by, or I’ll get the sudden urge to feed my dog, Koda, though his ashes stare down at me from atop the fireplace. Most people experience this from time to time, if they’re paying attention. Not weird at all.
What I do find weird is that everywhere I look I see possible book titles. Rather, I hear them in my head. Everyday things, everyday. A dreary weather forecast might turn up Breeding Gloomy Mondays or, if I’ve forgotten to take my vitamins, November Eats a Gun. Grocery shopping could send me into a half hour reflection on how to cleverly marry sadness and fruit. Breathing from the Belly of the Pomegranate followed me around for weeks until I started to flesh out a short story about a woman who writes obituaries to try and burn through her own grief.
Nothing is sacred. In a limo on the way to my mother’s burial my teenage daughter suddenly decided she wanted to be a pall bearer. In the snow. In four inch heels. I enlisted the help of my sister, in her tasteful black flats, to talk her out of it. By the time we reached the cemetery I had the bones of Ballin’ in the Limo with Lesbo Shoes.
This title affliction takes up an enormous amount of space in my head. It is the constant companion of my daydreams. It’s become such a part of me that I take no shame in blurting the titles out loud, in public, whenever the urge grabs me. This bugs my friends. I remind them that I’m a writer, that the titles are my apple a day, staving off writer’s block. They remind me to get enough rest.
I’ll admit I haven’t always seen this title addiction as a blessing. At first I thought it was distracting and nerdy and weird. But then I read The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx, a darkly comic portrayal of a strange man trying to piece together his life after his two-timing wife dies in a car crash, and knew it was a blessing. The novel’s protagonist, Quoyle, lives in headlines too. Though, if memory serves, his were generally more depressing than mine. But if Ms. Proulx found it prudent to bestow such a trait on her character then chances are she suffers as well. Maybe suffer is the wrong word. She ended up with a Pulitzer.
Oh the headlines in my head! It’s how I know I’m born to write. I wonder how many of you see headlines too. There has to be a good bunch of us out there. We really should start a club.