A quotation is a handy thing to have about,
saving one the trouble of thinking for oneself,
always a laborious business.
always a laborious business.
- A. A. Milne
You know I love a juicy quotation, dear readers. After all, I have a whole "musings and mantras" label on this blog! I even Instagrammed one yesterday. But I have to tell you that I'm feeling a backlash against inspirational sayings.
Okay, that's not entirely true. I have no problem with the quotes themselves, and I'm obviously guilty of using them all the time. What I'm getting irritated by is the seeming over-reliance on these borrowed thoughts. At this time of year, holiday wishlists alternate on many lifestyle blogs with posts either reflecting on the past year or looking ahead to 2014, and almost every single one includes an inspirational line from a writer or philosopher or religious figure that, in most cases, the blogger discovered while searching for "quote about ambition" or whatever on Google. (Like I said, I'm totally guilty of having done this before, though I actually have read some of If I May, the series of essays from which the above A.A. Milne line was taken.) But even that doesn't get at the root of what frustrates me; you don't have to be familiar with a wise person for his or her wise words to strike a chord with you. Here's what it is, I think:
I feel like I keep seeing the same quotes shared in a never-ending loop by the same bloggers. Of course it makes sense to use deep thoughts to motivate us because inspirational words at the end of a year are an organic quantification of how we've grown and they're an obvious launching pad at the beginning of a year as we set off to accomplish new goals. But when the same lines are used repeatedly, the words become empty. They lose their meaning. When I notice that the same sorts of quotes being published on a blog over the course of months or even years, I wonder if the blogger is actually taking any lessons from her own posts. It makes me think of a song from My Fair Lady where Eliza Doolittle, faced with continued declarations of love from Freddy, tells him, "Sing me no song, read me no rhyme / don't waste my time, show me!"
As you know, one of the reasons I love blogging is because of the support the community provides no matter what sort of encouragement we might need. And I absolutely get that it can be easier to ask for help through a tough situation by appropriating another's words; often, we're sharing these quotes not for our readers but rather to inspire ourselves as we blog about them. At a certain point, though, we need to stop relying on them. Eventually we need to go beyond repeating motivational sayings and we need to put them into practice. As Eliza sings, "Tell me no dreams filled with desire / if you're on fire, show me!"
Meaningful quotes are everywhere. But what I've learned from this year is that finding the inspiration within yourself is a hundred times more powerful than any quotation. Like I said, I'm guilty of using them, too, and I do think that they can provide a productive framework for understanding what you might be going through and how you'd like to come out on the other side. But, at the end of the day, they're just words. We're here for whatever support you might need, but a quote will only get you started. After that, you have to find the motivation inside yourself.
So show me.