How to Save Your Favorite Quotes from Books

I’ve been rereading Bird by Bird the past few weeks, and I’m remembering how many underline-worthy sentences there are in it. I love those sorts of books—the ones that make you pause every few pages to dwell on and soak up a sentence that hits a vein of truth.

The problem is, we soak up the sentence but then forget it a few pages later when a new little gem emerges. I don’t know about you, but I have the worst memory. Jarrett has always had a knack for remembering quotes and favorite lines, but I would draw the longest “uhhhhhh….” if you asked me to name my favorite line from a book. It’s sad, really. And no matter how many times I read and reread a sentence, hoping to imprint it on my memory, it slips right through my fingers when I try to think of it later.

What to do, what to do? Outsource it!

That’s right–I’ve given up trying to stockpile favorite quotes in my brain, and now I just hoard them in places I can easily access anytime. Here are my two favorite ways to build a library of favorite quotes from books:

1. Evernote

Do you use Evernote? It’s life-changing. I know that sounds dramatic, but seriously: it’s my new deep memory.

I use it for everything: lists of what to get at Costco, favorite quotes, monthly reviews, recipes, ideas for birthday and Christmas gifts, links for my weekly roundups, workflow checklists, everything. I don’t know how I remembered any of this stuff before Evernote. Did I save it in separate Word files? Stick it in forgotten journals? I don’t know. My memory is so bad that I literally don’t remember how I used to remember things. (Wait, maybe I just didn’t remember things back then…)

But Evernote is now the external hard drive for my brain, and it’s one of my favorite ways to squirrel away the little gems I find in my reading.

I keep one Evernote notebook titled “Life,” and that’s where all my favorite passages go. There’s favorite lines from Anne Lamott, of course, but also plenty of snippets of things I’ve read or heard anywhere: in an article, from a song, in yoga class, at church, in magazines, and even a few sayings from my Yayo that I want to hold on to.

I like to think of it as my library of thought, which is a phrase I’ve cribbed from someone or other, and whose origin I would know if I had kept better notes on quotations from the very start. But anyway, a “Life” notebook is the perfect place to stick your nose into when you need to give yourself a pep talk or shake a little bit of perspective into your mind.

2. Art prints

Anyone who’s a very visual thinker like me will love saving their favorite quotes as art! Every once in a while, I get an itch to turn one of my favorite quotes into an art print, so that I can really see and put into images what a quote feels like to me. Isn’t it fun to close your eyes sometimes and visualize words? It’s what makes reading so magical.

I have a whole collection of book-inspired art prints here, but you should totally try making your own sometime! It’s a lot of fun, and there’s nothing better than having truly custom, meaningful-to-you art hanging around your home or talking sweetly to you by your writing desk.

I use InDesign or Illustrator for art prints, but you could use whatever design program gets you the look you want. And you might be surprised by how much fun you have thinking in images rather than words every once in awhile.

As I was reading Bird by Bird this week, I picked up this quote:

“Maybe all we can do is make our remaining time here full of gentleness and good humor.”

In the book, it’s just a little sentence tucked into a parenthetical, but it jumped out to me right away.

To me, this quote felt like The Little Prince: soft and whimsical yet panoramic.

 

 

Anne Lamott quote art print

So here it is for you: a free Anne Lamott quote art print!

Download this art print for free here!

Hang it by your writing desk, frame it and place it on your nightstand, or just print it and tape it anywhere it might make you smile. 🙂


Giveaway Winner!

The winner of one copy of Add a Pinch: Easier, Faster, Fresher Southern Classics is…

Cathy Baker! Cathy says:

“I’m a HUGE Robyn Stone fan! I cook many of her dishes but my favorite is her Honey Soy Pork loin but my favorite Southern recipe is mac and cheese, like my grandmother made.

Also, I enjoyed this post on generosity and marketing. I launched my first book Tuesday and struggle to find my voice when it comes to marketing. I don’t have the budget to offer mixers and other expensive things to my readers but I do desire to be generous so I’ll need to find more practical ways. One thing I love about Robyn’s site is her willingness to share herself with the readers and if that’s not generous, I’m not sure what is. :)”

 

Thank you so much for reading and entering the giveaway, Cathy–we’re all sending positive thoughts your way for your first book launch!


What I’m Reading This Week:

The Therapeutic Benefits of Writing a Novel (Jessica Lourey for The Write Life): I’m a big believer in the healing power of writing (and reading!), and Jessica has such a powerful story of how writing helped her overcome her husband’s sudden suicide. I also completely agree that writing doesn’t have to be published to have meaning. No one–not me, not another literary agent, not a publisher–can decide whether your writing is worthwhile. As long as it helps you, it matters.

Writing Groups 101: How to Find Your Perfect Match (Kristen Pope on The Write Life): Make this summer the summer you get out of the house and actually meet some writers in your neighborhood!

Q&A: Jump Into Video and Make Mistakes, Says David Lebovitz (David Lebovitz on DianneJacob.com): Video. You can’t escape it. So why not play around with it, pressure-free, and see how much fun you might be able to have? Here’s my guide for how introverted writers can dip their toes into video.

The Optimist’s Daughter (Eudora Welty): We’re off to Greece for our honeymoon next week, so I dug into my “To Read” list (which yes, lives on Evernote!) and pulled up this novella by Eudora Welty. I’m not sure you could call it a beach read, but read it on a beach I will.


What We’re Eating This Week:

Half the week in DC, half the week in NYC, then taking off for Greece = utter meal confusion.

Monday: One Pot Harissa and Beef Penne (adapted from SkinnyTaste: Fast and Slow). I’ll be sharing this recipe with you all next week, dispatched from Greece where I will be blissfully off #TheGreeceDiet!

Tuesday: ??? Can question marks be a meal? Sometimes they’re all that comes to mind when I think about dinner.

Wednesday: Taking my mom out to dinner for Mother’s Day! I’m thinking salads. “Yes, salad. Right…” she murmured as she dreamed about linguine with clams.

Thursday: Drinks out with an editor and nibbling on whatever I can scavenge in the city.

Friday: I’ll be taking pitches at the Literary Speed Dating event at Food Book Fair, so come by and say hello! Also tell me what I should eat for dinner, because the imagination deficit is REAL this week. Wish me godspeed and a full belly.

Cheers!

How to Stop Procrastinating (& a Free Brené Brown Art Print!)

Brene Brown quote on writing

One of the toughest things for writers (and really anyone working on anything) is learning how to outsmart procrastination. Our minds are so resistant to being used, and they’re just as wily at coming up with ways to distract us. A quick look at Twitter? Well, sure! Just a peek at Facebook to make sure I didn’t miss out on something super important? Definitely necessary. Another break to search blogs for inspiration? Why not?

We all know the end result of this: we put off the project, and the longer we put it off, the harder and more intimidating it seems. Whether we’re writing a blog post, a book chapter, or a business plan,  it will probably require using more than 5% of our brain. But social media and other passive activities requires so much less energy from our brains–biologically, we’re hardwired to prefer these “easy” activities, like watching TV, because they use less of our energy than “difficult” activities, like writing and brainstorming.

But isn’t there a secret way to trick our brains into preferring these difficult activities?

Read More

The Joy of Terrible First Drafts (Plus a Free Art Print!)

Anne Lamott quote on writing printable

Writing is hard. Writing well is even harder. And unfortunately, I think too many people forget that writing well is not a talent–it’s a process. It starts with one draft, usually a pretty bad one, and then evolves during editing to become not-so-bad, and hopefully, pretty darn good.

Yet we have this idea that we should write well the first time. That we have to start at the right spot, end at the right spot, and have all the right things in between. That if we don’t start with strong writing, it means we’re not any good and our words won’t ever get better.

But that’s just not the way creativity works in real life. Sometimes we have the words to start in the middle, sometimes we have to dump out all the not-right words before we can find the right ones, and sometimes we just need to flow each word out, one at a time, with no idea where they’ll lead.

Every single writer, blogger, and creative deals with this. No one is immune to the fear that comes with a blinking cursor on a blank page. I actually think there should be a 12-step program to overcome CBCA (Chronic Blinking Cursor Anxiety). Someone please invent this! Seriously.

Even though, as an editor and literary agent, I’ve seen firsthand how much editing it really takes to get to great writing, I still wish my own first drafts were better. Even this post you’re now reading started off with me feeling stumped about how to start. So I started in the middle, with what I had in my head right then, then I went back afterward and filled in things with the hope (fingers crossed!) that it would make a modicum of sense. But the first draft of this post was terrible. Truly bad. Like the disjointed ramblings of David After Dentist.

Luckily, the world’s terrible first drafts never need to see the light of day, and when we give ourselves permission to let them be terrible, we’ll have an easier time getting started at all. Hey, if a writer as talented as Anne Lamott needs to throw down some nonsense on her way to the good stuff, then we’re not in bad company.

So for your every day inspiration, I created an art print with Anne Lamott’s smart words (pictured above)! You can download it here for free, print it on standard (letter-sized) paper, frame it, and hang it near your work space.

I hope it serves as a helpful reminder that starting somewhere is always better than not starting at all!