How to Find the Right Word


So you’re writing along and everything is going fine and then you come to the middle of a sentence and you can’t find the right word. The two or three you get are no good. At first you try to convince yourself they are, that they’re fine, and maybe once they would have been, would have been close enough, but you’re more experienced now and what satisfied once doesn’t any more. You’ve found too many words that fit into place like the last piece in a jigsaw puzzle, effortless and exact, and you can’t pretend you don’t know that you are forcing the almost right word just so you can move on. But what is the right word? Why isn’t it coming?

This used to happen to me fairly regularly. These could be dark moments. My usual course of action was to panic. The word well was dry, my personal thesaurus exhausted, and now I was suffering a writer’s worst end – to be rendered mute by a meager imagination. The specter of failure had entered the workroom disguised as an unwanted limitation with which I would just have to learn to live, like a runner with a gimpy leg. When it got this bad, my workday was done.

The problem was I was looking in the wrong place for what I wanted. When the word I want but don’t yet know isn’t coming it means I’m not seeing what I’m trying to write accurately. I’ve gotten the words I know for how I am seeing it. To find other words I must first forget about language completely and just see the thing for what it is, undescribed, unrendered, and turn it and turn it until I find the angle I desire. It’s like drawing a still life. I can’t draw a vase of flowers from all angles. I must turn the vase until I’ve found the perspective that pleases me most and then render what I see.

Inevitably, once I’ve found the right perspective I soon find the right word. Yes, it is that simple, but I often complicated it by forgetting that I have the power to see things differently. I believe I’ve seen reality, all of it, and there’s nothing more I can do, and my leg will be gimpy forever. As a writer, I cannot accept any reality that doesn’t please me, I must reject them all, turning and turning life, forgiving it, allowing it, remembering it, until I see what had been hidden from me by fear of limitation that did not exist.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual coaching and group workshops.

Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write With Confidence.
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William KenowerComment