Quote Me On That

“Quotes are nothing but inspiration for the uninspired.” – Richard Kemph, writer and retired British military Commander.

I love quotes. If you have followed this site from the beginning, you might remember that my posts always began with a quote. I would find some insightful nugget that illustrated my point and tag it to the top of the page. There is something spectacular about a good quote. They seem to transcend time and genre.

That being said, you might be surprised that I don’t keep track of them. I don’t write down lines that struck me as interesting. I don’t note interesting quotes I find. I enjoy them for the minutes, and then I kick them loose. If I am looking for a quote on a specific topic, I use it and send it on its way. When reading, I rarely underline or make notes unless I will be doing literary criticism on that particular work.

Quotes might be useful, but in the hierarchy of creative inspiration, they rank pretty low. They are just sort of a fun afterthought, like the mint at the bottom of the Sonic bag. It’s like finding a penny on the ground. Its a nice surprise, but it has to be pretty shiny for me to pick up.

The way I see it, I absorb everything I read on either a conscious or subconscious level. Whether I actively remember it or not, it is drifting around my head, adding to the creative mix, waiting for its moment. For example, I recently read Cover by Jack Ketchum. I adore Jack Ketchum’s work. His stories are haunting, but quite honestly I couldn’t remember a single phrase from the story. I remembered the book. I remembered a strong emotional connection. I didn’t remember a single line of actual writing.

Part of that is Ketchum’s writing style. He never gets in the way of his characters, letting them take the stage while never drawing attention to himself. It’s a spectacular talent, and there are lots of writers who don’t have it. You are sucked into the story to such a depth that it stops being sentences on paper. Ketchum is capable of good one-liners. Looking up his quotes, you have such lines as “Black coffee’s a lot like whiskey, you know? All devil and no trimmin’s. Always liked my sins pure and take it as it comes” (from Off Season). Or, “As though all the world were a bad joke and she was the only one around who knew the punchline” (from The Girl Next Door, along with its haunting opening line “You think you know about pain?”)

When I have a truly good connection to a book, I don’t have the time to write down an interesting quote, anymore than the guy wearing the clown-wig and foam hands in the endzone has time to write down Tom Brady’s yards per attempt. I have to get to the next page, and anything that slows me down is my enemy.

I write the same way that I read, at a breakneck pace, as if typing under a million words a minute will let the demons catch me. I write with emotion-filled desperation. I don’t worry about being clever. I leave that for rewrites. Quotes, while fun, are just a small part of my emotional gasoline. I wander into the fumes, strike a match, and just hope make it out alive.


Jack Campbell, Jr. is a dark fiction writer in Lawrence, KS. His writing has appeared in various venues including Twenty 3 Magazine, Danse Macabre, and Insomnia Press. He writes about reading, writing, and life on his blog at www.jackcampbelljr.com.


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