I had a friend in college who thought I could do no wrong, so it really threw him for a loop one night when we were flipping through books on his bookshelf and I stopped on a certain page. I grabbed the first piece of scrap paper I could find (I think it was a receipt for some junk food from the campus cafe) and started scribbling down certain phrases, a line here and there, from this one particular book. My friend stared at me, aghast, "You can't do that, Molly! You can't just write down random phrases, out of context moments from a book, and call them 'quotes'. Well, now, um, I'm no historian, but I'm pretty sure you can. I think what really burned my friend at the time was that I didn't write down the author or the book title. Neither of which I needed, nor do I long for now. It was the words, and only the words I wanted to remember. Now, I don't remember the book, or the words I copied down, and I haven't gone on to use the quotes I copied... but I know they're in some journal of mine somewhere and I'd know them if I saw them today. I'm not sure I could articulate it back then, but it was the beauty I was after. The words hit me and knocked me down and when I got up, I wanted to remember them. I wanted to own them.
That feeling of needing to possess certain words or phrases has never left me. I often find myself scribbling on a scrap when I read something that moves me. Or, if I overhear a line said outloud at a bar or a party, I search for a napkin and a pen and zone out until it's all down on the paper. It's rare that I'm ever moved by words on the computer screen. They don't hold the same weight for me as words pressed into paper.
Recently, a friend of mine pulled a book off his bookshelf and said I had to sit down, right then, and read it. So, while they all went outside and mowed the lawn, I sat down and read the book. I didn't actually plan to get all the way through it, but couldn't pull myself away from it. I wanted to write down words from every page. Between tears of joy and surprise and feeling like my heart might burst while reading, I took pictures of them instead. It's such a beautiful little book: based on the idea of a little boy in school who's teacher writes comments to him about his writing...but we only see his side of the 'conversation'. I was drawn to it for the idea, the out-of-context responses and the beautiful way this little boy expresses himself. At one point, the teacher has the students read some classic poets and this little boy is totally moved by the words in these writings. He can't get over how lovely the poet's words are and how each word holds such meaning and beauty. He eventually writes to one of them to visit their classroom, they do, and the boy's joy is palpable in his written words.