Six Ways to Instantly Find the Right Words

how to start writing

Have you ever known what you want to say, but just can’t figure out how to say it? It’s certainly worth the extra effort to get it right, because the how will make the difference in the way your what is received and acted upon.

Some people are never short of words. Personally, I have good days and bad. Yet there are definitely ways to to get yourself out of the ditch when it comes to finding the right words and getting started.

Here are my tips for producing great copy even when your brain is not cooperating.

Do You Have a Point?

Before you write, you need to know what you’re going to say. Are you struggling because you don’t have a clear idea of the point you’re trying to make?

Start in the Middle

If getting starting is your problem, you might find it easier to begin with the “meat” of your article. Come back later to craft a killer headline and introduction. Again, this works because you are focusing on your point rather than your presentation. Sometimes this helps you later find an appetizing wrapper for the main dish.

Walk it Off

Maybe you just need a break. Walk away, do something else. Rest your brain. Come back refreshed and ready to go. Some of the greatest ideas in history have been arrived at on a zen-like stroll.

Email a Friend

At times we get brain cramp because we are trying too hard. Start writing an email with what you want to say as an informal quickie to a close friend. You could even start it as “I am trying to write this article about…”

Say it Out Loud

Just like writing an email could unlock your writing circuits, imagine you have a friend sitting there asking what you are writing about. What would you say?

This even works with inanimate or uninterested objects and pets. Because you have to make sense of a problem in your own mind in order to explain it to someone else you do not even need a reply, just to articulate it. The best name for this I have heard is Rubberducking.

Dump It and Edit

In most cases it is harder to get “something” written than it is to polish, so just try to dump the basics out of your head and onto paper and work on perfecting it later.

Summary

While some people seem to be able to channel Hemingway and write perfect prose on demand, the rest of us mere mortals have to work within the limitations of our imperfect grey matter. Hopefully these simple tips will help you next time you are in a fix.

How do you cope when your brain locks up? Let me know in the comments!

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Comments

  1. I enjoy the different styles of writing that bloggers offer. I am often told that people like the way I write.

    One thing to also keep in mind that once your words are posted, someone could read them. SO be careful what you write. :-)

    Michael

  2. Bloggers, copywriters and others will find more than 6,000 entries to help them promote their products, services and ideas in the book “Words That Sell” by Richard Bayan.

    I just bought it last week from Amazon and it sits right next to my keyboard. I’ve referred to it several dozen times alrady in just one short week. It’s exellent for writing landing pages, sales pages, etc. But there’s no reson why bloggers can’t get in on the fun.

    Denise Wakeman of The Blog Squad recommended it. I did an entire teleseminar for people in my mentor program on numerous ways to use the book.

  3. Very true, but most of my ideas and my best writing happens in my head while I’m doing something else away from the computer so I work it out then and there, and then perfect it in the actual post.
    Sometimes I just write it down, and then find something else to do, like play a game or walk the dog, and then come back and be ready to pick up were I left off.
    Generally, I just take a break, grab a coffee and cookie, and then come back, but when my brain just goes on vacation, and I can’t think of my name type deals, I have to do just that.

  4. As a blogger, it is often one of my problem. Not finding the right words for the topic I want to write.

    But I think blogging increases your writing skills.

    kabalweg

  5. I agree with Leo, the best ideas and words come when I’m off doing something else, especially outside. So long as I’ve got a pen and paper to hand I can capture the main points and construct the writing later.

    The other tactic I use is not forcing it. Some bits of writing or great ideas for blog posts are just not meant to be. Just let them go rather than forcing them into existence. This goes along side an attitude of trust (in yourself, your unconscious mind, the blogosphere, the universe, whatever you believe in) that other ideas and prompts will turn up. They always do.

    By the way the rubberducking link isn’t right – I was intrigued by the concept though!

    Joanna

  6. @Michael – yes it is surprising how people have been caught out posting drafts, we forget that feedreaders sometimes keep copies of all versions so before and after can be compared. Same with Microsoft Word, our drafts can come back to haunt us ;)

    @Joan – I think I have that book somewhere but lots of my stuff is in boxes as we are preparing to move house, I will have to go digging in boxes :)

    @Leo – I am going to have to get a dog, just to get out of the house – who would have thought a dog might be a writers best friend?

    @kabalweg – Agreed, blogging is like weight training for the brain :)

  7. Having completed a draft Post, sometimes there’s a tendency to be overcome with a wave of self-satisfaction and hitting the publish button immediately. Also, I can be in such a rush to get my great piece ‘out there’, that on occasion, I have even forgotten to spell-check it!

    I find that the quality, grammar, syntax etc can usually be improved by returning to the draft after a break.

    Others have already alluded to the power of the unconscious mind and this shouldn’t be underestimated.

  8. My posts grow over time, first just notes on an idea, then research then write it. This way I can work on several posts at different stages in their life cycle when ever I have the time.

    I never publish anything the same day I wrote it. I have to wait till tommrow to edit it becuse I go blind to any posssible problems on the day I wrote it. It is easy for me because I only post twice a week due to my day job commitments. I always have several ready before my self imposed due date to avoid blocking pressure.

    ENERGY BOOMER
    energyboomer.com

  9. I read back over my archives to remind myself how fabulous I am.

  10. Some of my best work just “popped into my head”. From where, I don’t know. I wish I did, I’d go there and load up on stuff!

    Don

  11. Love this advice!

    I especially try to follow the first one, “Do you have a point”, and the third, “Walk it off”. I often fail on number one (I find my words far more interesting than most people probably do), though number three is almost always successful (two laps of the living room usually does the trick).

  12. I regularly have problems with my more complex blog posts. The second tip really resounded with me — I’m going to try that the next time I’m stuck.

    Thanks Chris!

  13. Chris,

    I just wanted to say “thanks.” This is an excellent blog that I thoroughly look forward to reading.

  14. Sometimes when I can’t find the right words, I go bloghopping. Reading what others have written often sparks ideas in my head and gets me going again. Second option…get a good strong cup of coffee. I love the smell and something about coffee sparks the writer in me…even better if I’m at a coffee shop!

    tasra

  15. These are great reminders. And thanks, Joan, for the book reco. I just bought it – how’s that for conversion!?

  16. Terrific collection of brain-boosters, Chris!

    I always tell my copywriting coaching students to “just start in the middle” of whatever the assignment is if they find themselves getting stuck. Like a car stuck in the mud, you gotta “rock” for a little way to finally move forward.

    For complex writing projects, I’m a big one, too, for letting things sit overnight for a fresh look in the am.

  17. You know sometimes the thesaurus is quite disapointing. Dump it and edit later is my default response when I get stuck.

  18. Calling a friend or business associate and talking on the phone can be a very effective way to get the ideas flowing.

    You just say something like “Hi John I was just working on a piece about ‘how to create a low key sales letter’.

    “I’m wondering what you’d like to know about the subject, get some feedback etc.”

    Talking to one real live person can help you to tap into your communication skills very effectively.

    Kindest regards,
    Andrew Cavanagh

  19. I can be such a perfectionist. Those tendencies are the biggest barrier for me to write. That is why I need to dump and edit. It is what writer Anne Lamont says about writing, “write a shitty first draft”. She has colorful language, but she is correct. That is how I have to write.

  20. The problem with the thesaurus approach is that a thesaurus alone will not make you a good writer. Rather than choosing the one right word, it’s how you string the right words together that makes all the difference.

    I am a huge fan of “walking it off”… in fact, I often write entire posts in my head that way. If only that output could go straight into the text editor. :)

  21. Some of my best ideas just pop into my head while I’m doing other things, and then when I get to the computer I can elaborate on it. Like some of the above commenters, I rarely write and publish a post on the same day, most of it is researching and learning more on the topic. Sometimes I’ll get a stroke of genius while I’m sipping my morning coffee, and then I’ll want to put down and know more about it, that’s where the masterpieces come from, I think, it comes from the coffee and the leisure of the mind at the moment.
    Coffee breaks are often very useful in my writing, my mind continues to work out all of the kinks in my thoughts while I’m taking a break with my coffee.
    Never underestimate the power of coffee.

  22. My coffee epiphanies occur while chatting with someone over a cup of java. Then I think about how we just discussed nothing and everything, typically resulting in some sort of inspiration.

  23. Some days the words come easily and freely. It’s like the post is completely done in my head and I just have to type it out. Other days, I re-write the same line 10 different ways. This is when I need to get up and go outside, or do something else around the house.

    When I’m not thinking about it so hard is when the good stuff just starts to flow.

    Relax and don’t stress about deadlines or quotas… that helps a lot. Enjoy what you’re doing.

  24. I agree with Heather, That is a secret about the mind, even ancient philosophers knew that about how to best teach their students was to mix in the middle of it, kinda like a commercial or comedy to give the brain a bit of time to digest. That’s how it happens, that extra time of relaxation really helps to get all of the kinks worked out, and leaves one ready for the long haul of blogging.

  25. People who read their words into a tape and play it back – tend to hear the gaps or strengths with a new ear. The tape adds the distance needed to get the scope:-) Great blog:-)

  26. And, as meticulous as he was with pen and yellow pad, even Hemingway rewrote his copy.

  27. I also find that playing around with the tone of voice can help me find the right words. So when I’m stuck I’ll experiment with, say, jaunty, energetic, manic, soothing etc. As soon as I hit the right tone for that article or post, I can’t write the words down quick enough.

  28. I was thinking very literalistic when I read this article’s headline so I immediately perked up at the notion of some new site that offers synonyms & antonyms. I often find that looking up a word or phrase on Thesaurus.com will jostle my brain into gear. But that site’s pop-ups really aggravate the piddle outta me!

    But, to the true topic of the post, I’ve found that I do much better composing blog posts offline (well, actually, I’ve been using Google Notebook quite a bit lately, so that’s not exactly offline, is it?) and then revisiting the entry a time or two before posting & publishing it. I do hammer out quick & dirty spontaneous posts from time to time, but not often.

    I’ve found that I get waves of blog inspiration, so I work up drafts and then let ‘em simmer for awhile. This has come in handy for getting me out of a bind when I have dry spells.

  29. i am very happy that poeple who particpate in this website i am saying thank u all of them but really i am surprising the only thing is what i can do when i want to learn many education

  30. “I am a huge fan of “walking it off”… in fact, I often write entire posts in my head that way. If only that output could go straight into the text editor. :)”

    Haha! That reminds me of a Donald Duck story I read once. Something called a ThinkOMatic® that recorded everything that you thought. The result was disastrous for Donald but I think it would be neat to try. ;)

    Unless I am writing a post that really needs to get done, I just take a break from that post and work on something else. Either that or I’ll stop, go out and practice martial arts and come back later. :)

  31. Under the third point, “Walk away, do something else”, I would add – …but remember to take a notebook and pen. When ideas come it is better that you record them.

  32. When I’m stuck, I tend to write what I’m trying to say in the very simplest of terms—maybe a sentence or two—then build on that. Great post. Thanks!

    ~Alan

  33. When I get into such a writing fix,I start reading articles/books around that topic,which gives me ideas on how would I be able to better put down my thoughts.

  34. Great article; loved many of the points.

    Another of Hemingway’s great quotes: “there’s no good writing, only good rewriting.”

    As for getting ideas and words out, the best advice I ever heard is “drop the perfectionism”, at least for the first draft.

    I also find the old school tools of outlines and their modern-day counterpart, mind maps to be helpful, as well, at times.

  35. This is a very good article with very good points.

    I’ve tried some of them and sometime they work and sometimes they don’t.

    I’ve learned that sometimes putting it off a day or so and coming back to it works. But in the mean time work on something else where the brain is flowing with all kinds of ideas.

  36. I’ve also noticed that the words flow more smoothly when I’m writing an email;
    I’m not all that concerned about getting it 100% right, just getting a message out.

    And I thought I was the only one who talked to myself while writing! 

    I religiously use the online thesaurus. Is that cheating?

    Thanks for the great post!

    Linda Socher
    B12Patch.com

  37. I was taught in a lit class once that Hemingway re-wrote sentences up to 40 times to get it right. I love editing my writing, and I know I dont spend as much time on it as it really deserves. Re-phrasing and re-writing and finding different words to use as hooks that you build your sentence around…I wish I could do this full-time. Good post to jolt you out of a rut.