How to save your favorite quotes from books (& free art print!)

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!

best quotes from literature books

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:

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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?

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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!