Lists of Note has posted the great writer Henry Miller’s list of 11 commandments, which he wrote for himself to follow. I have annotated Miller’s list (in bold, below) with my observations about how each of his commandments can be applied to various aspects of the naming process.
The Eleven Commandments
- Work on one thing at a time until finished. Keep your attention focused on the task at hand. Set aside time and space free from the distractions of the Internet, social media and telephones to concentrate on your naming project. In the words of Buckminster Fuller, “Thinking is a momentary dismissal of irrelevancies.”
- Start no more new books, add no more new material to “Black Spring.” Recognize when a project is finished, and be prepared to move on.
- Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand. As we’ve said in our Manifesto, naming should be fun and you have to set a positive tone.
- Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time! Another way to say this is to keep the project as objective as possible by staying focused on the brand positioning, not on subjective reactions to names.
- When you can’t create you can work. Don’t wait for “inspiration.” If you don’t feel as if any good, creative names are resulting from your process at any given time, don’t force it or stress out. Do some other related work to feed your fires: reading, research, making lists. Henry is right: you can’t always create, but you can always work. And don’t underestimate the value of hard work. To quote the late, great Cy Twombly: “When I work, I work very fast, but preparing to work can take any length of time.”
- Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers. Diligence and perseverance. Try to make some kind of progress every day, or at least increase your understanding of the process.
- Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it. Allow life and real world experience to inspire and inform your naming process. Don’t get stuck in abstractions and ruts. Burn your thesaurus (don’t worry, it’ll still be there for you online when you really need it.)
- Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only. See number three, above.
- Discard the Program when you feel like it—but go back to it next day. Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude. Give yourself flexibility to grow and adapt, but keep bringing the focus back to the project and the brand positioning (see number four, above). As the project progresses, it should become ever more focused.
- Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing. Don’t force all the great names in your head into the current project. Think only of the specific positioning of the current project, and make sure all names under consideration map strongly to that positioning.
- Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards. Naming comes first. After that, the rest is gravy, icing, spice, and all other food metaphors.