Ideas Opinion Reactive Ideas

I don’t think in words

One of my personal frustrations is my inability to get my thoughts into words. What seems so clear in my head usually comes out as a jumbled mess to begin with and needs to be carefully crafted into something that can be communicated. It slows the process down a lot and an idea often has to spend months dwelling around in various forms, being nibbled at and moulded into shaped before it’s ready to come out.

I was thinking tonight that it would be great if I could write more… But that’s not really the problem. I write plenty, what I struggle with is the fact that I don’t think in words. My thoughts take a very different form and something that is a struggle to describe.

They are visual and sensory objects to me. They are often pieces that join together – not like a puzzle but as a truth. Complexity is there and can be felt rather than explained. There is a physicality to these thoughts, a real weight and mass. They are solid rather than ephemeral and gossamer. What I struggle with is translating these truths in to words. To encode and abstract them into language and structure them in text.

An example is probably my first memory and inclination of this problem. It was back when I was studying at university and I was trying to think of a project to develop for my major work. One of the ideas I had was to map a four dimensional space. In my mind it was (and is) as clear anything but any attempt to verbalise – even to visualise it is hopeless. I spent a long time with that one, eventually dropping out and heading out into the workforce. There was a number of factors in that decision, but my inability to express an idea scared me – how could I spend time on something that I can’t quite describe?

What tends to come out is not what I see, especially in its initial form. The best comparison is Terry Pratchett’s description of the colour of magic:

It was octarine [the eighth colour], the colour of magic. It was alive and glowing and vibrant and it was the undisputed pigment of the imagination, because wherever it appeared it was a sign that mere matter was a servant of the powers of the magical mind. It was enchantment itself. But Rincewind always thought it looked a sort of greenish-purple.

That’s what happens to my ideas when I translate them to words – they become a greenish-purple – a poor representation of my minds eye. An inferior description that does little to capture the truth and true nature of the thought.

I want to work on that this year and I’m willing to try and be more iterative in my ideas – to put them out in various forms, remould them, change them and adapt them over time. It’s slightly scary because it’s a vulnerability I don’t usually expose… but hey lets give it a go!

Featured Image: Canvas of Clouds by Tim Klapdor BY-NC

* I’m not sure why this post is one of my most read, but that fact and the glaring errors in it mean I made a couple of corrections on the 24 May 2019.


By Tim Klapdor

Passionate about good design, motivated by the power of media and enchanted by the opportunities of technology.

7 replies on “I don’t think in words”


I can’t believe this but you’ve actually just described in crytal perfect detail of the way I think as well! Except for me I enjoy writing but only when I’m alone because that’s when the magic is able to shine through… I find it extremely difficult to communicate my thoughts especially in social situations which has given me a bit of social axiety. I always knew something was different about my thoughts somehow. I never think in works and sometimes in pictures but rarely. Most people and psychologists today think it is impossible to think the way we do, but after reading that quote about the colour of magic it made me believe that we encompass some sort of magical way of thinking that has been washed out of the human mind through years of only using the left hemisphere. Please feel free to email me at:

I thought I was alone, happy to hear this. I reckon that thinking without words is actually liberating; in a way that you don’t have to fit into reductions of defined ideas. We don’t create a composition out of words, we are just outside the circle, we first think and after that use the words if expression is desired. Of course thinking in an undefined boundless space comes with it’s downsides, it becomes much harder to pick the right word to explain the thing in your mind. You have to decide if it’s worth to liberate yourself but be less able to express yourself, and find a balance.

Relatable. For me when I use words t9 describe something I try to do so very simply because I always feel the essential idea is just like that, simple and pure. I find the english language is a bit too convoluted sometimes.

I’m bilingual, and it was always quite confusing for me when my friends asked me, “do you think in french or english?”. I always wanted to answer, “I think in thaughts like everyone, not words, don’t you?” I only understood 30 years later that what for me was a thaught was not like them. Also, to me, imagining thinking with words is so unrelatable and seems so strenous.

This is me! I imagine this is your most read post because I thinking in words causes struggles for us that few around us struggle with… so we have no easy access to information and experience that helps us in understanding this part of ourselves.

In terms of getting our thoughts out into words, I always say its like my language transalation software is faulty. I am planning on practicing answering questions outloud and without looking left, right and centre whilst I ‘think’, in order to improve. Really though, its to quicken the translation softwares synapses…. my thinking is almost too great!!!! This plan is something I came up with yesterday so wish me luck!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s