On Writing

On Keeping Words-Notebooks, Quotebooks & Journals

               “His view of truth was such that he would have accepted no distinction between ‘spiritual’ and secular’. He saw no conflict between his Christian convictions and his interests in science and philosophy. All true knowledge leads to divinity.”   Iain Murray, “Jonathan Edwards, A New Biography”

Whenever I visit the Thrift Store I head to the book section first with an eye out for old children’s books and classic literature.  I have found many treasures that way, the most recent being a very slim volume written by Natalie Babbitt (her very first book, 1969) called “The Search for Delicious.” Although it’s hardly a classic, Delicious does have a fairy tale feel with some timeless themes.

Babbitt begins the story of a king and queen fighting over a definition of the word ‘delicious’. The King is writing a dictionary and is stuck on the letter ‘D’ because no one in the castle, his wife in particular, can agree on what is delicious.

Twelve-year-old squire Gaylen is shortly dispatched to travel across the Kingdom, polling its citizens to record their thoughts and opinions in his notebook. The King hopes to reach a consensus of meaning and thereby restore peace to the Kingdom. Gaylen sets off on his horse Marrow with little more than a pen, a notebook and food for the journey.

Gaylen’s task takes him far and wide, leading him to some very strange encounters, a bit of adventure and not a few brushes with disaster. In the end, everyone in the kingdom agrees on the meaning of the word ‘delicious’, Gaylen learns how to be brave and harmony is restored.


I enjoy saving and savoring words—new words, old words, your words.  Although I am not endeavoring to write a dictionary, I have quotebooks and notebooks of varying shapes and sizes containing all manner of language within their covers.


Words with more than one meaning—like ‘make’ and ‘take’ or ‘pitch’ and ‘frequency’–all go in my ‘Defining Moments’ journal. (I got the idea from Kel Rohlf, who wrote a little volume on words and their meaning, devotional style.)

I have a small Moleskine of other words that are new to me, the meaning of which I have yet to learn, set aside for my own dictionary work. Words like ‘mimesis’ and ‘amanuensis’ via the book I’m reading for the season—“Waiting on the Word—a Poem a Day for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany” by Malcolm Guite.

When I happen upon a particular verse in Scripture that I want to meditate on for a while, I write that in a thin volume with blank pages to add a little embellishment next to the words.

And then there are favorite quotes I’ve been collecting. (I mentioned my Quote Book in my Glory Writers Five Minute Monday video here.)

Fifteen years ago I found an old-fashioned Record Book (at the Thrift Store) and began a scrap booky kind of collection. I’d gathered phrases I liked from magazines, church bulletins, calendars, what-have-you, and started gluing them into the pages of the book.

Some favorites:

“The writer is an explorer. Every step is an advance into new land.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

“That’s what storytellers do, Mrs. Travers. We restore order through imagination. We instill hope again and again and again.”  Tom Hanks as Walt Disney, in “Saving Mr. Banks”

My readers are no doubt familiar with the quotation ‘Bible’, Bartlett’s Quotations, a volume first published in 1855 by John Bartlett, “a small, thin volume of 258 pages set in a single column with an index which ran to a full 36 pages.” (from the preface to the 13th edition, 1955).

The copy I have of the 1955 Bartlett’s belonged to my stepfather, also named John. It is the only possession of his which I have, making it all the more valuable. But the real meaning to me is knowing we both shared a love for words with rich meaning, colorful and creative language. His hands once turned the pages of this book, an image that spans the years like a bridge between us, bringing me not a little joy.

I am no Bartlett but I also have written down my own quotes over the last few years; I have 42 pages filled so far in my drugstore notebook.

Some of the latest entries:

“God wants to give us our hearts desire—God just needs to work on our hearts a little.” Debbie Blue, Consider the Birds.

“Idolatry has two faults. It is not only a slur on the true God; it is also an insult to true things.” Robert F. Capon, The Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

On my shelf there is also a separate journal dedicated to entire books cataloguing passages and phrases I want to remember.

Eugene Peterson’s “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction,” “The Journal Keeper” by Phyllis Theroux, “Green Dolphin Country” by Elizabeth Goudge (1944), Ann Voskamp’s  One Thousand Gifts, and a classic that had me scrambling for my pencil to underline every other page—the biography of Jonathan Edwards mentioned above.

“The whole universe was stilled as tho’ listening for a voice. For the space of one heartbeat there was peace on earth…Existence rested against the heart of God, then sighed and journeyed again.”  Elizabeth Goudge, “Green Dolphin Country.

I’ve written before about how the things we keep, keep us. These collections of mine will be added to as long as I’m able to gather words, perhaps to pass on to my own children or grandchildren. Like a written snapshot of what made my heart sing or moved me to tears, left me in awe or touched me deeply, they are a record of who I am.

Someone has said that all good stories lead to God. I believe that to be true.

Natalie Babbitt’s tale ends with people in the kingdom discovering the one thing they all needed to live was water. An evil man had threatened to stop the flow of their beloved river; the crops and people downstream from its source began to thirst and wither away. When they joined forces to defeat the disgruntled villain, the people of the Kingdom discovered what really is delicious. Water . No one can live without water.

I couldn’t help thinking about Living Water, how our souls thirst for it whether we know it or not. And that words that ring out beauty and truth are one of the ways that well is filled.

What will you fill your well with today? And where do you keep your words?


Kel Rohlf blogs at soulPantry. You can find her book here.  She also is a member of our Facebook group Glory Writers. Maybe you’d like to join? The sign says ‘Closed’ but all you have to do is knock on the door.







Sharing is caring!


  • Nancy Ruegg

    Such a beautiful post, Jody. I drank in your words so thirstily, I must now go back and really taste them–especially some of those quotes. They made my heart sing, too. And as I reread, I’ll grab my quote journal and record them, with credit to the original writer, and credit to you, collector-extraordinaire! Love your tender heart, Jody, holding dear that copy of Bartlett’s. I, too, turn pages of family Bibles, my grandmother’s journal, etc., knowing their hands turned and wrote upon the pages. Precious possessions, indeed. P.S. Oh! To answer your first question, just this morning I filled my well with a meditation on the word “peace,” in Isaiah 26:3. Peace is the outcome of trust. (May that be my first thought when the next difficulty occurs!)

  • Carol Wilson

    Reading this was like drinking a “delicious” cup of hot chocolate. There’s lots of delicious in this world. Your writing falls into that category. From another word & quote collector, Thank you.

  • Natalie

    I, too, collect words, although I struggle to be very orderly about it. I have good intentions, but soon I’m back to jotting quotes on scraps and envelopes to be rewritten later. You mention authors that are on my to read list. That Spurs me on! And the idea that what we keep, keeps us? Love it.

    • Jody Lee Collins

      Natalie, one of these days you’ll have a few more windows of time in your day….then you can gather those scraps of paper into a drugstore notebook and, voila! There’s your keepsake.

  • Laurie Klein, Scribe

    It fills my well today hearing you mention Elizabeth Goudge! Smiling to think that we share this, too. I’ve reread “Pilgrim’s Inn” and “The Dean’s Watch” many a December. And “The Scent of Water” is another favorite.

    • Jody Lee Collins

      Ahhhh, we’re connected by a bridge of books! I’ve read the Goudge titles you mentioned; looking forward to another one in the new year. Thank you, friend.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: