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9 invigorating literary quotes to make you feel optimistic about the new year

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Moya Crockett
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Courtesy of Emily Dickinson, Rupi Kaur, Helen Fielding and more. 

For a long time, my fondness for inspirational quotes was not something I was proud of. 

Like my penchant for the musical stylings of Bruno Mars and my habit of eating peanut butter straight from the jar with a spoon, I was slightly embarrassed by my enjoyment of motivational mantras. Leaning on the stirring words of others felt silly and somehow weak, as though I was admitting that I wasn’t strong-minded enough to motivate myself. Whenever I saw someone share a rousing quote tile on Instagram (inevitably written in swirly, girly calligraphy), I’d shudder outwardly – then secretly tuck it away in my private ‘Saved Posts’ section.

Today, though, I’m less squeamish about acknowledging my appreciation of a good quote. The older I get, the more willing I am to admit that I hardly know anything – so why wouldn’t I turn to the collective wisdom of the world’s greatest writers, thinkers, artists, politicians, entrepreneurs and activists? I even have a motivational quote by Picasso framed on my desk at home: “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”

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When the start of 2019 rolled around, I got thinking about inspirational quotes again. The beginning of a new year can elicit all kinds of emotions, running the gamut from excitement to melancholy to outright terror – and given the pressure so many of us feel to reinvent ourselves in January, it can be an overwhelming time.

With that in mind, I set out to track down literary quotes by authors and poets to make everyone feel steadier as the new year begins – whether you’re raring to go or wishing you could hide under your duvet for a few more weeks. 

Emily Dickinson

Poet Emily Dickinson 

“Not knowing when the dawn will come / I open every door.”

– Emily Dickinson, Not Knowing When the Dawn Will Come

“I made no resolutions for the New Year. The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning and moulding my life, is too much of a daily event for me.”

– Anaïs Nin writes in her diary, January 1927

“I used to dream about escaping my ordinary life, but my life was never ordinary. I had simply failed to notice how extraordinary it was.”

– Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children 

Poet and writer Maya Angelou 

 “Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need / For this bright morning dawning for you / … The horizon leans forward / Offering you space to place new steps of change.”

– Maya Angelou, On the Pulse of Morning, a poem written for President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in January 1993

“I do think New Year’s resolutions can’t technically be expected to begin on New Year’s Day, don’t you? Since, because it’s an extension of New Year’s Eve, smokers are already on a smoking roll and cannot be expected to stop abruptly on the stroke of midnight with so much nicotine in the system. Also dieting on New Year’s Day isn’t a good idea as you can’t eat rationally but really need to be free to consume whatever is necessary, moment by moment, in order to ease your hangover. I think it would be much more sensible if resolutions began generally on January the second.”

– Helen Fielding, Bridget Jones’s Diary

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“A new year … a fresh, clean start! It’s like having a big white sheet of paper to draw on! A day full of possibilities! It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy … let’s go exploring!”

– Bill Watterson, It’s a Magical World: A Calvin and Hobbes Collection

“Don’t worry. Just when you think your life is over, a new story line falls from the sky and lands right in your lap.”

– Rebekah Crane, The Upside of Falling Down 

Renee Zellweger on the set of Bridget Jones’s Diary 

“I hope that in the year to come, you make mistakes. Glorious, amazing mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.”

– Neil Gamain, Neil Gamain’s Journal

“The year is done. I spread the past three hundred sixty-five days before me on the living room carpet… I fold the good days up and place them in my back pocket for safekeeping. Draw the match. Cremate the unnecessary. The light of the fire warms my toes. I pour myself a glass of warm water to cleanse myself for January. Here I go. Stronger and wiser into the new.”

– Rupi Kaur, The Sun and Her Flowers 

Images: Kate Williams/Unsplash, Getty Images

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Moya Crockett

Moya is Contributing Women’s Editor at stylist.co.uk and Deputy Editor of Stylist Loves, Stylist's daily email newsletter. Carrying a bottle of hot sauce on her person at all times is one of the many traits she shares with both Beyoncé and Hillary Clinton.