Quote-Hunting: How to Improve your Writing and your Life.

Big claim. How on earth can capturing quotes in a notebook improve our lives? I’m guessing you’re a book lover as well as a wordsmith. Or an avid reader of other people’s blogs? If we use our skills as quote-hunters with integrity, we can sharpen our writing and invite presence, openness, connection, focus and inspiration into everything we do.

Being open to inspiration and guidance

As a writer, you should have a sticky soul; the act of continually taking things in should be as much a part of you as your hair color. ~ Elizabeth Berg

I never go out without a pen, a notebook and a book to read. When I read a book with a ‘quotebook’ and a pen handy, it’s a signal I send to myself and to the universe. It says “I’m open. I expect nothing, but I’m prepared to be moved, enlightened or entertained. I’m a student, ready and willing to learn from the lives and the wisdom of others.” In my Filofax, stuck on the fridge, pinned to my pinboard and incorporated into my art work, albums and blog, quotes serve as flashes of inspiration, mini mission statements and signposts to keep me on track. Dead poets become heroes, strangers become mentors.

Right in the middle of Barack Obama’s inauguration speech, I jotted down the words that became the header quote for a multi-threaded article I’d written about school decisions, coaching, my daughter and the new president, called Sharing the Journey. I’d been hunting for the right quote for hours and I felt like he was speaking to me directly when he said, “It is…the parent willing to nurture a child that will decide our fate.” It brought the whole piece together and set the tone.

Focus and attention

“You see, what catches our attention might be more than a coincidence – it might also be a potential incident of inspiration.” ~ Wayne Dyer

Using a quote by someone else can add freshness and a different perspective to what you’re expressing, like a photo used to illustrate a blog post. At the beginning of a piece, it can stimulate curiosity and provide a taste of
buttonswhat’s to come or it can highlight an important concept. In the middle of a piece, it can link sections or bind ideas like a ribbon around a bouquet.

Finding the perfect quote that illustrates several sentiments or pulls together a complex train of thought is similar to recognising one of life’s Aha! moments. It’s synchronicity’s way of helping us focus and pay attention. Highlighting sections of your own writing, either as a header or in a text box, can help clarify your aims, intensify your intention or mirror your message. We all have different ways of processing the world; it’s a sign of respect to others if we try and find a way to repackage what we’re saying in ways that resonate.

Connection, magical moments and collages

“Cling to simplicity, sincerity and the power of truth.” ~ from the I Ching

Our first instincts are often the ones that bypass our censors and cruel inner critics which is why many quotes become deeply personal and precious to us. They’re like messages sent from our own souls.

Every time you choose a quote that resonates with you, don’t stop to ask why; just write it down and keep it safe. Quotes are like photographs, snapshots of who you are, who you were. They’re music that moves you, lyrics that leave you scarred. They’re memories of a moment when you came upon someone else’s words and felt connected, not only to another human being, but to the moment, the thought and the feeling that overflowed from them and cried out to be heard. The ‘Me too!!’ or ‘That’s it exactly!!’ moment.

As writers, isn’t that what we want to achieve in our own work?

Being open to connecting with others in this way makes us more grateful and humble, more open as human beings, more able to create this kind of connection in our own writing. It’s our unique life experience and how we channel, choose and arrange the moments, the music and the words that makes us writers, creating collages that turn our lives into works of art – living, breathing works of art that we want to share with others.

(This piece appeared as a guest post in Write to Done . It was was adapted from my Coaching Moments article Treasure Hunting, which was edited by Linda Dessau and appeared in the March 2009 issue of VOICE.)