Jack Kerouac drew up a “List of 30 Beliefs and Techniques for Prose and Life,” which was “allegedly tacked on the wall of Allen Ginsberg’s hotel room in North Beach a year before his iconic poem ‘Howl’ was written — which is of little surprise, given Ginsberg readily admitted Kerouac’s influence and even noted in the dedication of Howl and Other Poems that he took the title from Kerouac,” notes brainpicker marginalian extraordinaire Maria Popova.
Channel Kerouac’s vision when creating names
Kerouac’s list is inspiring not just for writers, but for any kind of artist, and even for the process of brand name development. Each item in Kerouac’s original list, below, is in italics, and each is followed by my comments relating it to the art of naming.
- Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy. Keep lots of notebooks, scraps, post-its and shreds with names, ideas, concepts. You never know when and how they may lead to the development of a name.
- Submissive to everything, open, listening. Always. Very important. The world is speaking the name you are looking for, but if you aren’t listening, you’ll likely miss it.
- Try never get drunk outside yr own house. Avoid getting drunk in general, but if you do, make sure you have a notebook with you (see #1).
- Be in love with yr life. Yes. It’s the only one you’ve got. Great advice beyond naming, and something Kerouac himself ultimately failed to uphold, but in the realm of naming, you must embrace the fact that you are a namer. Own it. Love it.
- Something that you feel will find its own form. Trust your gut. Follow the glimmer of ideas, no matter how evanescent. They will lead to the “form” of names.
- Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind. Because it’s a fine line between inspiration and madness. You have to push the limits to know where the limits are. Let wisdom wash over you–don’t presume to already have it (you don’t).
- Blow as deep as you want to blow. Go deep into a name or idea and don’t let anything hold you back.
- Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind. Combine this with #1, above. Names will come from writing often, whether lists, stories, poems, blog posts, or screeds of any sort. Keep writing, keep banging your fingers into keys and moving your pen over paper. Words will appear in great, blooming clusters, words that names are made from.
- The unspeakable visions of the individual. Visions and other unnamables that nevertheless might lead to names. Just because something can’t be described (named) doesn’t mean you can’t describe (name) it. You can. Try it.
- No time for poetry but exactly what is. Poetry isn’t a magic place you have to travel to or make time for. It is all around us all the time. It is exactly what is.
- Visionary tics shivering in the chest. Exactly where great names often begin. You can almost feel them coming before they arrive, tickling your primordial amygdala limbic mind before your advanced cerebral cortex catches up and understands their value.
- In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you. Focus on the task at hand, meditate on the brand positioning that a name must map to. “Tranced fixation dreaming” the best way to describe this state combining search and receptivity (see #2) to new ideas.
- Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition. All that can come later, when you’re in editing mode. When developing names, start with no rules, then gradually introduce the most important one: that the name supports the brand positioning.
- Like Proust be an old teahead of time. Step out of the linear flow of time. A name can come from any place, or any time, and the collision of disparate eras can be powerful in developing a name.
- Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog. Turn the naming problem into a story and run through it in your mind over and over. Add other stories, and let the stories collide, like particles in an atom smasher. The birth of new names just might result.
- The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye. The best names have many layers of meaning, and you can drill deep into them and keep discovering new things.
- Write in recollection and amazement for yourself. Draw on your memory and follow what makes you most passionate, obsessed and excited. Never fake your response to art–if you don’t feel it, move on. But if something strikes you powerfully, follow it as far as it will take you.
- Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea. Immerse yourself in words to the point of drowning–the words that coalesce into a life preserver to save you just might form your new name.
- Accept loss forever. Not every idea works. Most, in fact, are “failures.” Failures diligently explored can lead to success, so the only true failures are the failures that are abandoned. So accept failure and loss, and perhaps loss of sleep, into your naming process.
- Believe in the holy contour of life. All of life is waiting for you when you are in need of a name, not just the dictionary and thesaurus. Believe in life and immerse yourself in it, following its winking clues.
- Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind. Great names are already flowing in your mind; the trick is to get them out into the light of consciousness without your editor brain and logic filters keeping them locked up out of sight. “Sketch the flow” is another way of saying, in the context of naming, “map-out the brand positioning with metaphors.”
- Dont think of words when you stop but to see picture better. Visualize the brand you are naming, and visualize how a name might be used. Try not to define the name at first with other, often limiting, words, but instead keep it pure in your vision.
- Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning. You want to create space for free range roaming in the playground of your mind, but it’s equally important to keep the process structured, to temper unbridled freedom with the constraint of process. Michelangelo said, “Art lives by constraint and dies of freedom.” Stay focused on the big picture.
- No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge. Don’t think for a moment that you are not creative enough, or not up to the task, of creating a great name – if you feel that you have “hit the wall,” it probably just means that you have the wrong filters in place.
- Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it. You are not naming for the sake of naming, and brands don’t exist in a vacuum. A name has to work in the real world, which means it should be more engaging and memorable than the names of your competition, and it should be inspiring to people.
- Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a great name can paint a thousand pictures in the minds of your audience.
- In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness. Think of every great name added to the world as making the world a better place for all of us to live, and another flash of human connection illuminating the darkness.
- Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better. Start by following your gut, uninhibited, free, flowing (see #5 and #13, above).
- You’re a Genius all the time. Kerouac and Ginsberg may have been, but we’re not. It never hurts, however, to think positive. Just don’t get carried away with it. Ultimately a name has to support the brand positioning and work in the real world, and no amount of fist-banging declarations that you or your company or product is a “genius” will change that, or convince a skeptical client. Failure to understand this leads to delusion, and bad names. True genius is humble. Be resolute, but be humble.
- Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven. What you can put on your business card or website, if you want, once your angelic visions have been realized in live names that take the world by storm. In the meantime, keep it to yourself, get inspired, and work hard.
Source: University of Pennsylvania, via Brain Pickings (now The Marginalian).
Leave a Reply