I like quotations. Everyone does, of course; that’s why we see them all over the place.
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.”
– Maya Angelou
I can’t remember where I first heard of the concept of a Commonplace book, but it seems like such a great idea. We’re used to having spiral notebooks full of received wisdom in classes, or in journals filled with our private thoughts and experiences. But what of books of knowledge that we compile — not secret info, but things that strike us as important or that we want to remember.
“I even have a superstition that has grown on me as the result of invisible hands coming all of the time—namely, that if you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss, and they open doors for you. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be. … Wherever you are, if you are—if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.”
– Joseph Campbell
I use Yojimbo all the time, primarily to save web pages I find interesting, but somehow that’s different. That’s more like a shoebox full of newspaper clippings, like I (yes) used to keep when I was younger. Of course, I go through my collection of Yojimbo articles about as often as I went through that shoebox; i.e., never.
(Although that’s not quite true: I started going through the Yojimbo articles to see which ones stuck out as something I might be interested investigating further as story ideas. I came across one article about abandoned houses being used for indoor marijuana growers. Then I found another article that was almost the exact same thing, except it was printed four years later and in a different town. Apparently I’m really intrigued about the idea of marijuana growers taking over abandoned houses. And also it’s a problem that’s not going away any time soon.)
“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”
– Theodore Roosevelt
Anyhow. I keep a list of meaningful quotations in a file, and I add to it every so often. I find it’s very useful for an attitude reset, or a small burst of inspiration, or even to get an idea of my next reading. Honestly, I’m going to read Epictetus and William James any moment now. I’m quite sure of it.
I also find it interesting to see what quotations speak to me and which ones don’t. You’re either stirred by an idea or you’re not. Which is fine — you just have to go find the ideas you are stirred by. And if everything just brings you down, honestly… Get out more. Go photograph a flower or sniff a tree or sketch a sport car or something. Get out of the damn house.
“Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.”
– John Allen Paulos
I find I get the most out of the ideas I find the most shocking — like Paulos’s. Why does what he said upset me? What would it take for me to be okay with that idea? If what he’s saying is true, what does that mean about the rest of my life?
“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”
– Zig Ziglar
Some of the quotes I save are repeated everywhere (like Ziglar’s). That’s okay. That reminds me that this dose of inspiration or outlook-changing I’m doing is perfectly natural. You need to keep setting course and remembering where you want to be. And anything that propels you to do it is okay.
I highly recommend keeping a list of quotes you find meaningful.