We all love a good quote … from a reputable name. I do too. By associating our work (and thus ourselves) with an authority on the subject, their prestige, eminence, credibility or plain wit rubs off on us, right? There’s nothing wrong with that unless everybody is doing it, which is pretty much what’s happening with quotes these days.
We’ve probably read more Hemingway quotes than his novels. We probably know more about Einstein through his hit list of pithy statements than his theories about the two pillars of science (relativity and quantum physics). Some of us may have used Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’ words to express the reality of death and dying. Others of us may have sought to inspire our readers by dipping into the many words of wisdom of Maya Angelou. I plead guilty to all of the above. There is nothing more beautifully said than a quotable quote.
However, the downside of quoting quotes is that it becomes cliché. Just as citing an overused phrase or opinion betrays a lack of original thought, so too, citing yet another quote reminds us of all the quotes we’ve ever read. This can lead to the conclusion that the writer is riding on another’s originality rather than offering a fresh new thought (or an old thought freshly said) to our understanding.
After all, isn’t that what good writing is about? To make visible the invisible; to express what the reader cannot express; and to simplify the complicated.
Perhaps the most challenging (but definitely most rewarding) of all writing is to compose an original thought in the form of a quote. You only have to write one to experience that lasting moment of poetic championship. Believe me, it will stay with you for a lifetime. If you are serious about good writing, I recommend you try your hand at one original quote.
Here are 5 tips for writing an original, quality quote:
- Be true to your self
- Live through your quote
- Feel it as part of you
- Make it mean something
- Use patterns of expression
And here are 8 quality quotes from original thinking:They are written by participants of my Copywriting in Action course as an optional extra assignment to the group project. Not everybody took the challenge but those that did experienced transcendence hanging out with the champions of prose and poetry on Mt Olympus. The project was the book, Climate of Ingenuity, which includes true stories of people dedicating their technical, engineering and scientific ingenuity to climate change mitigation. The brief was to express the need for human ingenuity in the face of a crisis (climate change). The following quotes were sprinkled throughout the book as thought-provoking breathers between stories:
The earth’s resources are finite; the human spirit of ingenuity is not.
Progress is not always about looking forward, but also looking up, down and around.
The most renewable of all energy sources is the human spirit in times of adversity.
Nature has grown the solutions all along.
We have always tried to dictate our natural environment, now we should take heed while she still has life in her.
At last! Mother Nature’s tolerance for our selfish, destructive and consumptive human nature has reached its limit.
Whilst harnessing resources to fuel progress is one vital aspect of human ingenuity, giving back to the environment by way of protection and care is the obligatory other.
Suchismita Saha Chowdhury
We have nothing but our limitless ingenuity to reverse the effects of our unlimited indulgences.
See what a first time quote writer can come up with when they apply those 5 tips and a dash of original thinking? They were no different from you, they just needed a little finesse and lots of feeling.
Next time you’re tempted to use a quote in your work, I encourage you to try your hand at an original one. Go on, have a go. It may not be easy but it’s well worth the effort. And if you want some practice in the meantime, you’re welcome to submit a quote for the Climate of Ingenuity book to email@example.com The brief again: express the need for human ingenuity in the face of a crisis (climate change). If your quote needs a little work, I’ll give you some direction. And the best quotes will get published here in April 2015.
To quote yours truly:
Writing an original quote begins with a meaningful idea and ends with a meticulous edit.