Friday, October 2nd, 2009

Lost Your Train of Thought?

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.
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So, what do I do?

Trusty Thesaurus:
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.”

Sounds like…
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!”

Spelling Bee
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?

Substitutions Allowed
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.

Walk Away
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?

2 Comments on “Lost Your Train of Thought?”


  1. Yup, I do have this problem always. I can’t seem to pin on the right word. That’s why I have compiled a list of unfamiliar words which I have gathered from my book readings and looked-up its meaning in the dictionary. I have studied each words until I almost memorized them, all 1,500 words!

    I believe that when the time comes, those words will just present themselves during my creative activities. :-)


  2. [...] Lost Your Train of Thought? What can you do when your train of thought left the station without you? [...]