Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Running Out of Words

My husband and I spent Saturday evening with our two-year-old granddaughter. We enjoyed playing with her and reading her books. She is fun and at age two has a wonderful imagination and a great sense of humor. I don’t always understand every word Nora says, but she is a good communicator. She has a way of making known what she needs or wants. Nora has a decent vocabulary for someone that young. There are times, however, when she wants to tell us something but can’t find the words. She turns to gibberish, her first language.

Sometimes I feel that way when I am writing. I feel as though I have used all my words for the day and can’t even begin to think of how to string together a meaningful sentence. I will search for a word in my brain, describe what I am looking for to my husband, check my thesaurus for possibilities and wind up putting in /???NW/ in my text to remind me to come back at a later date with the appropriate word. The question marks tell me I was struggling and the NW stands for "need word." The highlighting is my cry for help. Gibberish must be my first language, too.

What I have learned is this: The words will come. Eventually. If I dwell on the one missing word or phrase, I lose the continuity of my writing. I get so sidetracked I can’t move my story forward. I just need to get as close as I can to completing the sentence or paragraph and stop. Call it a day. Get some rest. Trust that the word or words I need will come to me later. Probably at midnight.

My Grandfather
My grandfather loved words. He loved to read. He loved to learn. He loved to teach. He only had an eighth grade education, but was one of the most brilliant minds I have ever known. When I would stay with my grandparents during my summer vacations, I would often find Grandpa sitting on the porch reading. His preferred morning reading was the Bible. Sometimes, however, I would find him sitting there, sipping his coffee and reading, yes reading, the dictionary.

“A fellow can find a lot of new words in the dictionary,” he would say.

He would then throw out a new word to me. If I didn’t know it, he would tell me what it meant. His paraphrase. Together we would find strange looking words and try to figure them out. Sometimes we would find a word we had used in spoken text but had never seen written before. Dictionary reading with Grandpa was more like a fun game than learning of any sort. I am pretty sure I learned a little along the way, though.

Grandpa taught me to love words. He encouraged me to love reading. He instilled in me a love for learning and largely because of him I became a teacher.

I have followed Grandpa’s lead in reading my Bible, yet have never found reading the dictionary as engaging. 

Maybe I should rethink that. For Nora’s sake. After all, Grandpa was never one to speak gibberish. Why should I?

How do you overcome roadblocks in your writing? I would love to hear about the strategies you employ when the words just aren't there. Scroll down to leave your comment.

1 comment:

  1. After I posted this, I realized I'm not even sure where I might find a dictionary in my house. I rely on the online version so much now. I wonder how online tools like dictionaries and the thesaurus will influence my grandchildren. Do they ever actually see me use the dictionary? Curious.


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