You know how it is when you have the perfect word on your tongue but you can’t. quite. get. it. out?
It happens to me when I’m writing all the time.
So, what do I do?
Well, there’s the thesaurus, of course. They can be handy if you can think of similar words, if not the right one. “Not angry, not mad, not upset … just … irritated.”
Try to sound it out. Have you done this? The word is right there, where you can practically taste it, so … you do. “Does, doesn’t, doormat, doorbell, … dormitory!”
Spell it out. You know it starts with an S or an S sound … what comes next? A? E? Some other vowel? Maybe a consonant, like a P or a T?
Settle on a similar word and hope to come back to it. When you’re writing (or even more when you’re speaking) you can’t wait forever for the right word to come along. At some point you really need to move on or you’re not going to simply lose the word you need, but your entire train of thought is going to pull out of the station and leave you stranded with nothing more than a dime in your pocket and drained batteries in your cell phone.
The most extreme option, but … you can simply drop the entire thing. If your mind’s blanking on a word because you’re really too tired to be working, or you’ve been working for hours, the best thing you can do is leave. Yes, in mid-sentence. Maybe you’ll want to scribble a brief, faulty sentence so you can find the thread you were weaving when you come back, but at times like these, sometimes your best choice is just to stop altogether and trust that your brain’s neurons will be firing better when you come back.
How about you? What do you do when you can’t quite nail down the word that you want?