Friday, March 19, 2010

Letho - what??

Writers, like your car mechanic and your plumber and your handy-dandy carpenter, have tools. We don't carry them in big tool chests, but they're all tucked away just the same.

Our tools are words. Sounds simple enough. You sit down at the computer. You play on FB for a little while. You update your blog. Then, with a twirl of your fingers that a concert pianist would envy, you set yourself to the task of assembling words into sentences, and sentences into paragraphs, and paragraphs into -- okay, okay. You just want the short version, don't you?

Non-writers in my family think I never have any trouble with my words (except when I'm regaling them with a story of my catastrophe du jour. Then they quibble over the length.) After all, I must know a lot of words. I was the nerdy little kid who entertained herself by reading the dictionary on rainy days.

What they don't know is that I FORGET a lot of words. Have you ever been writing along, really crusing into the scene, and then, bam! You need a word. Not just any word, but THAT word, that pulverizingly precise word, the one that is itching and twitching at the tip of your tongue -- er, fingers.

You can remember all sorts of synonyms, but they are like all so many discarded wannabe wedding dresses. They're just not the ONE.

Whenever I get like this, all writing comes to a screeching halt. I'll pick up dictionaries and dust off my Roget's Thesaurus. I'll remember a book that I read that used (maybe, anyway) that word, and I'll pick it up and flip through it. I'll remember how the word can be used in a lot of contexts and then I'll find OTHER books that MAYBE have the one, beautiful, shiny word in it.

I'll know it when I see it, but I can't for the life of me remember it.

At this point, I'll get panicky. Am I losing it? Is this a sign of the old brain slipping? Am I suffering from the early stages of dementia? Then if I'm really desperate (and let's face it, a writer who can't write can be pretty desperate), I'll start asking friends and family.

They hate this. After all, if I can name a dozen synonyms, why, they wonder, can't I just use one of THOSE words?

Because, because, because.

I never knew that there was an actual name for this disorder. But recently I learned that the word "lethologica" describes the state of not being able to remember the word you want.

Ah-ha. Now, it seems, I have another word that I can sort of remember the meaning of, but I can't, dagnabbit, remember the actual WORD.


Tawna Fenske said...

Oh, I'm going to have so much fun accusing my husband of having lethologica. Will make him wonder what it is . . .!


Stephanie said...

I always learn something new when I come here!
Hope the writing is going well... I have 3 weeks off work and am hoping to get a good chunk of my wip done. Take care!

out of the wordwork said...

I hate it when I don't have that exact word! Lethologica, huh? I'll have to remember that (but if you have lethologica you might forget the word lethologica...)

At the day job I have a colleague that I use instead of a thesauras and I just walk into her office and say "I need a word". She knows exactly what I mean and within a couple of minutes we'll have figured out the context of the piece and thrown out a few different phrases that kick start me. Too bad we don't have our fellow writers near by!