The power of ( )

An example of a British-style crossword puzzle.The one thing that never ceases to amaze me about a crossword puzzles is that I can sit for a long time ruminating on a particular clue and not have foggiest idea what the answer is and then the next day I’ll pick up that crossword puzzle and instantly know the answer.

I find this to be true for writing. I can sit and labor on a particular sentence and not like any words that come to mind, but then come back to it the next day and the right words just pop up. Sometimes a break is all you need. Just because you’re not consciously thinking about something doesn’t mean the clever synapses in the back of your head aren’t hard at work figuring it out for you.

That’s why I started using (   )

This is my secret for powering through when I get stumped. Instead of dwelling on the right word choice, or going online to research a point I want to make, I simple put down this mark: (  ), and decide to come back to it later. Sometimes ( ) stands for the perfect adjective that I can’t think of in the moment, and sometimes it’s a place holder for an entire scene I want to add in my novel. Sometimes I write a note to myself inside the parentheses, such as (make this less boring), or (add a quote here), but often they are just blank.

Our brains are amazing, complex (figure out a good noun), and they are capable of so much more than we realize. The next time you’re stumped, type ( ) and move on to something else. Your brain will fill in the gap when it’s good and ready.


  1. It is true of more than crosswords. Sometimes the solution to a major problem is starring us in the face and we just can not figure it out. Take a step back and the solution comes to you. And then you think that was so simple.


  2. I too like to let work sit for a while, especially if I’m stumped. I’ve used bracket signs this way before– I like how you make notes too. Great suggestion. Thanks for sharing.


  3. I love this tip! I do the same thing, only, probably because of my journalism background, I use letters like “TK” (to come later) and “FC” (fact check this later). It’s amazing what our brains can do for us when we take off the pressure!


Comments are closed.