I love words. I always have. Though I profess to be a writer, sometimes the right words still escape me. I'm good with the well-mulled phrase, but my tongue usually takes a while to catch up. While grasping for snappy comebacks or soothing consolations in real time, I have more than once turned to the words of others for what I could not readily express.
There is no shame, then, that one of my all-time favorite pastimes is collecting quotes. Words already made famous (or infamous) and even utterances by family or friends unknown to the rest of the world; all are fair game when my own wit won't suffice. Yet of all the thousands of quotes I've collected over the years, there are just five well-known phrases that I insist on passing on - a legacy, if you will, of collective simple wisdom. I think you'll recognize them:
The only thing to do with good advice is pass it on. It is never any use to oneself.- Oscar Wilde
"This too shall pass."
Often attributed to King Solomon, this timeless nugget (and favorite of my wonderful mother-in-law, God rest her soul) doesn't actually show up in the Bible, though it feels like the gospel truth. Everything has a beginning and end - every mountaintop experience and every dark night of the soul. If you don't like the way things currently stand, don't worry; sooner or later circumstances will change. You've heard the term "temporal", right? Well, everything in this world is subject to time. Don't get too attached - especially to feelings that drag you down. They are fleeting in the greater scheme of things. Sure, sometimes it feels like we're stuck in the pits forever, but only if we insist on dwelling there. Make sure to enjoy the good times, too, while they last. Soon enough, all will be just a memory.
Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn't. - Erica Jong
"It's all good."
This cracker-barrel phrase used to irritate me to no end, but I've long since realized the truth of it. Everything has purpose, whether or not we like, or even get, it. Noted psychologist Mihaly Csikszmihaly studied happiness around the world throughout various socioeconomic groups, and found that circumstances matter very little in determining overall happiness. What does matter is attitude. A positive one always serves us better... which leads to my next anonymous tidbit:
"No rain, no rainbow."
Look for the upside, the proverbial "silver lining" of any situation, and you'll eventually find it. About now you are probably saying "Wow - what gall! What about about all the suffering in the world, the horrible and horrendous things people do to each other, the senseless tragedies?" While I can't condone many things people do, believe it or not, even senseless tragedy is integral to the greater scheme of things. Just as nights separate days, and shadows accentuate what they surround, we can only fully experience the mountaintops when they are punctuated with valleys. Nothing makes us appreciate wellness so much as being sick, or realize how rich we are until we know poverty. Experiencing the negative aspects of life enables us to develop compassion, to move beyond our flawed humanity to embrace the divine. At the risk of sounding preachy, it's how we learn the merits of sacrificial love first hand. Sometimes we're the recipient, and sometimes the giver, and we are incomplete until we've been both. Want blue skies, not constant gray? Let the rain fall, and the foul wind blow away the clouds to what lies beyond them.
"Can't never did."
A similar maxim utilized by moms and successful people throughout the world - Failure is a choice. Unfortunately, it is a common one. Most often, failure occurs because we're not even brave enough to enter the starting gate. Remember: "Try" might eventually win, and "will" always will.
I am glad that I paid so little attention to good advice; had I abided by it I might have been saved from some of my most valuable mistakes.- Edna St. Vincent Millay
"Actions speak louder than words."
Lip service is an ugly form of flattery, one that masquerades as compelling. I have been taken in by it, and I've served it up, and in either circumstance was left empty as a piecrust promise. What we do matters more than what we say we'll do. Not that words are powerless; those meant to console become a knife in the back when follow-through fails to happen. To make words work for, and not against you, be a person of integrity. Do what you say you'll do, and while you're at it, "Do good".
Good advice is always certain to be ignored, but that's no reason not to give it.- Agatha Christie
Okay, so I snuck in a few extras. I never claimed to be good at math! What are your favorite quotes and words to live by?
People frequently ask how I come up with my story ideas. They wonder how I ever found time to write three novels. They sigh, wistfully lamenting their own lack of discipline, imagination or ability, and seldom believe me when I tell them they could do it, too, if they really wanted to badly enough. I know it's true because, aside from always dreaming of being an author, I am no different. I am just your average schmo, no special training - heck, I've never even taken a college English course! Yet, somehow I've managed to publish a trilogy. My degree in Commercial Art makes it possible for me to illustrate my work, but even my seventeen year old daughter knows more about sentence structure and composition than I do.
So, how do I convince them - and you - that you can achieve your dreams, whatever they may be?
Let me start by sharing a little something I've learned in the writing process:
It's all about the editing.
When the idea for my series first sparked, I mentally filed it away, too "busy" and lacking in confidence to do anything concrete with it. Over the years that file grew. Life experiences sparked other ideas, most seemingly unconnected, yet somehow meaningful. These got tucked away as well; sometimes whole chapters worth. A name here. A description there. I took notes on any available scrap of paper, and lost more of these jottings than I saved. By the time I actually buckled down and attempted to make a coherent story of it all, it had morphed into an amalgam barely recognizable from that first firing of the imagination. Some of the new material was golden. Some was embarrassingly full of holes. Some of it I loved, but eventually had to part with anyhow. That's where knowing what to edit comes in.
Often, less really is more. Dreams and ideas aside, we need discipline to make room for what really matters. Our modern lives are overcrowded, our days jam-packed with work, activities and...well...other less important stuff. Along with the good we accumulate sludge and detritus - like mindless binge TV watching and FaceBook scrolling. Such constant entertainment and opinion bantering, with no purpose beyond numbing ourselves to reality or making our point known, saps our energy. It distracts from what is meaningful, and lulls us into complacency. Our days disappear in a blur.
I get sucked in, too - which is exactly why I haven't produced much of worth in the last few months. Sure, I've been busy with some important stuff, but I've also indulged in a lot of fluff that needs editing out if I ever want to finish my WIP. Fluff that actually weighs down dreams. My initial goal to publish was only realized because I took inspiration and gave it the time to grow, along with proper trimming when necessary. Doing the same in our day to day lives creates beauty and order. It allows our reality to exceed former expectations, and grow into the stuff of dreams.
What do you need to edit out?
If you found this article helpful, please feel free to share with your friends on FaceBook (I know!) and Twitter.