So say what you’re trying to say.

June 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

Do you ever get word-stuck? Tongue-tied at the keyboard as it were? You know, those moments when you want to get the words out, but you’re tangled, you can’t start it right, it just won’t flow? Here’s an idea: say what you’re trying to say.

But you protest – “I am trying to say it.” No, I mean actually say it – out loud. I learned this from one of my best resources, my dad. Besides being the Cohen family business sage, Scrabble champion, pun-meister and Thanksgiving turkey carver, he also has often worn the hat of writing coach and editor for all his progeny. Many was the time that me and my sisters would be stuck on a school paper or later, a business brief or some such, and invariably he would invoke that simple little nugget “So… say what you’re trying to say” and it always worked.

Saying (out loud) what you’re struggling to say (in written form) somehow seems to take the pressure off. It engages another part of the brain, obstacles slide away and you’re able to just let the words flow – maybe not smoothly, maybe not in a grammatically sound way, but the raw meat of meaning will be there. From there the rest of the writing job is cleanup and polish. Saying it gets the idea out in the open – no longer hidden behind a tangle of pressure stemming from deadlines, or uncertainty, perceived importance or even vocabulary.

So next time you’re writing, or rather, not writing because you just can’t get the thought out through the pen or the computer, try another path. Get a friend and tell her to ask you what you’re trying to say. Call your own phone, ask “What am I trying to say?” and leave yourself a message so you can transcribe it later. Turn on the mic on that laptop of yours and just blurt away. The point is set aside the style and the structure, get them temporarily out of the path of the idea so you can get that idea out into the world. Birth it, or maybe burp it, just get it out rough and raw. You can then shape it. Make it better, clearer, more focused now that it is out – which by the way is something else my dad is great at, but don’t call him, I keep him busy enough as is ;)

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