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.
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[Queen of Sheba]
Keep the spice rack full.
In the kitchen, the aroma quivers,
the mood shivers: sweet on Saturdays,
bitter on Wednesdays, curried Fridays.
An assault on the senses in four
bottled shelves. The rack sags,
bows. With a crack, it quakes:
cayenne, cumin, paprika, mustard
seed, onion seed, garlic, nutmeg
cinnamon, clove, oregano —
the spice-cloud hovers, thick, salty
coating every surface, like ash,
with a fine dusting of flavor.
Scritch-scratch of blue ink on computer paper.
Ink stains my wrist, the spot under my
lower lip, the button of my cream dress.
Cross out half the page,
start again with familiar
words telling the same story over.
I get a high by deleting without
the backspace key, in seeing both
the replaced and the replacing.
Two stories on the page, words
from before hidden behind solid strike
outs imprinted on every line.
I leave a physical mark on each page, see
the first and the next, already reaching for
another color to uncover the third.
When ordering tea, I like to say
“Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.”
to see if the barista cracks a smile
I’m a fan of great quotes. I like to carry them around with me. Most of these quotes I get from the books I read and I write them down into a little black book. Some of these I return to and some just fill the pages. There are a few I’ve collected over the years that have stuck with me. Obviously, John Gardner’s stayed with me, and I thought I’d share a few others here and there.
I’ve read a lot of books about writing. I guess maybe I think that the more I read about it, the better I’ll be as a writer. There are a lot of ways to be a better writer, and there are a lot of things writers do that other people might think are weird or different.
And here is a perfect quote by Sara Lewis, from her Second Draft of my Life:
When I was a writer, I had to explain over and over again that my fiction was not based on my life. People never believed me. No one ever asked if my life was based on my fiction.
– Sara Lewis, Second Draft of My Life
I think most people tend to believe that fiction is based on the life or experiences of its writer. I know that I put a lot of myself into my stories. Sometimes it’s an experience, sometimes it’s a thought, sometimes it’s an emotion. It’s not always fact, though. I don’t write non-fiction. I don’t even take liberties and write creative non-fiction. I took one creative non-fiction in college and just wasn’t very good at it. I prefer my stories made up, so that’s what I do.
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