Quotes Notebook

Being a quote-keeper

I’m a sporadic quote keeper.

I have a small Moleskine notebook set aside just for quotes, and while it’s nearly full, I don’t use it as often as I mean to. The last book I recorded a quote from was Andy Miller’s A Year of Reading Dangerously, which was my first read of 2015. It’s now June.

I love finding a quote in what I’m reading that stands out and speaks to me louder than all the other words. Sometimes I can go through a book and find a hundred phrases and passages I want to save, too many really, and sometimes I can pick out one and sometimes none at all.

Finding one or none or a hundred doesn’t matter when it comes to my quote keeping. I don’t write everything down. If my notebook isn’t handy, I won’t write it down. If I’m reading an eBook or a library book and can’t underline or want to take the time to figure out how to highlight on my tablet, I won’t save the quote. A quote has to be ridiculously outstanding for me to scribble it on a post-it or type it into a draft email.

In fact, writing that made me recall that I’ve had a quote saved in my email since January. I’m recording it into my notebook now. I also have 28 quotes saved to this blog that randomly refresh in the sidebar. I should add more, and I will. In fact, I just added the quote I mentioned here. (It’s from Bill Bryson, who is a one of my most-quoted writers, because everything he says is amazing and I would just dictate everything he’s written down if I could.)

Keeping quotes is important. It’s important as a reader and as a writer to have an archive of quotes that meant something in a moment.

I go back to quotes I’ve written down. I like reading them, being reminded why I wrote them down in the first place. Even out of context, they speak to me. Some books have several written down in a row. Some books have one quote that defines the entire book for me. But what they all have in common is that they can take me back to a particular moment — maybe I don’t recall the book or the plot or the characters or the scene, but there was a reason the quote stuck out for me. Maybe it was because of something happening in my life, maybe it was because of the book. Maybe it was neither of these at all.

One thing I’ve discovered is that jotting down a quote has no bearing on whether I loved or hated a book. I have quotes from books I didn’t like, books that are forgettable to me now. I have quotes from books I adore. And I know there are books that I loved that I never took the time to record anything from.

I was thinking about this the other day when reflecting on my own writing. It started when I decided to reread all of The Rules of Summer Camp, hoping to experience it on Swoon Reads the way the readers there will. Then I moved into my WIP, reading the next two chapters I’ll be submitting to my writing group (that need revision before I hit send; I’ve been avoiding that). After that, I dipped into the ‘writing’ folder on my computer and read a whole bunch of story and novel starts, ideas, half-finished scenes, my undergraduate thesis — and I thought, would I write any of these quotes down myself?

It’s unfair to ask myself that. We’re naturally judgmental about our own writing. I read a great passage in someone else’s book and think, oh gosh, I wish I could write like that. And I read my own writing and nothing stands out at me. At first, I convinced myself that was because there is nothing quotable or worthy of recording in my own writing. I had to talk myself out of it. Those are words I wrote, and it isn’t my place to deem them quotable or unquotable. That’s someone else’s job. Some other quote-keeper.

The closest I get to the feeling of needing to write a quote down from my own writing is when I see a turn of phrase or a sentence or read a scene and I get that shivery excitement, that feeling of goosebumps for a fleeting moment, and I think to myself, my gosh, did you really write this?

But it’s already been recorded from me, and I don’t need to fill up my quotes notebook with my own words. I record my own words every time I write another scene, another sentence. No, my quotes notebook is for finding the words that I want to return to over and over again. It’s for keeping the words of others close to me, so that I can remember one of the many things I love so much about reading.

And about writing. Because one day — one day — I hope to see my own words recorded in someone else’s quote-keeping notebook.

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