Quotebooks

When I was in grad school, studying psychology, my first wife and I (who are still good friends) kept a spiral notebook in our bathroom for guests to record thoughts and quotes. Some of them, inspired by what they’d read, brought the “bathroom book” out to the kitchen or living room to make their own entries. I still have the original book, and one of the final entries was, “I hope this book starts a movement.” Clearly, it has not, but it got me started.

I liked so many entries in the bathroom book that it fueled my subsequent habit of keeping quotebooks. (I’m sure that my father’s ability to recite poetry and quote Shakespeare had something to do with it, too.) I developed the habit of copying meaningful quotes in blank “anything books,” for future perusal. Not only does that give me easy access to my favorite quotes, as a thinker and a writer; but over the years I given unique, personalized quotebooks to people I love, hand-written in anything books, collated from my own collection.

As a wordsmith, I constantly learn from other writers. Keeping quotebooks has helped me to grasp concepts and to refine my own craft, in expressing my thoughts and beliefs. The quotes I record are from recognized thinkers and writers, and from people I’ve never heard of before. I have full pages of quotes from people like Lily Tomlin and George Carlin, various quotes from luminaries like Albert Einstein and Oscar Wilde, and pithy or funny observations by a wide variety of writers. I have long quotes and short poems, too. I sometimes embellish quotes with simple drawings. I illustrated Howard Nemerov’s “You don’t have ideas; ideas have you.” with a drawing of a lit-up lightbulb.

Having introduced the concept of quotebooks, I’ll share some of my favorite quotes – perhaps to seed your own quotebook. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “. . . make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in your reading have been to you like a blast of triumph.” I invite you to make your own Bible. You can hand-write it or store the quotes digitally. Here are some of my own favorite short quotes, in no special order:

“Let your life be a counter-friction to stop the machine.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.” – Oscar Wilde

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” – Mahatma Ghandi

“We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable – but then, so did the divine right of kings.” – Ursula Le Guin

“Unless some one like you/ cares a whole awful lot,/nothing is going to get better./ It’s not.” – Dr.Seuss

“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” – Dorothy Parker

“Life shrinks or expands according to one’s courage.” – Anais Nin

“Everyone takes the limits of his own vision for the limits of the world.” – Arthur Schopenhauer

“A poem should not mean, but be.” – Archibald MacLeish

“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” – Friedrich Nietzsche’

“Soft is stronger than hard, water stronger than rock, love stronger than violence.” – Hermann Hesse

“The reward of patience is patience.” – Saint Augustine

“Good judgment comes from experience; experience comes from bad judgment.” – anonymous

“Life must be lived forwards, but can only be understood backwards.” – Soren Kierkegaard

“Renunciation is not giving up the things of the world; it is accepting that they go away.” – zen precept

“Beware of the naked person who offers you clothing.” – African proverb

“If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to treat everything as if it were a nail.” – Abraham Maslow

“Paranoia is having all the facts.” – William Burroughs

“Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.” – Edward Abbey

“Discipline is knowing what you want.” – anonymous

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” – Oscar Wilde

“I caught a happy virus last night/when I was out singing beneath the stars./It’s remarkably contagious./So kiss me.” – Hafiz

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