Highlighting is My Jam

Highlighting is My Jam

I have a confession to make: I am obsessed with highlighters.

I love them. I carry them in my purse and my laptop bag. I have them in my office upstairs and the kitchen downstairs. There’s one on my bedside table and another in the living room.

I’ve always had a thing for fat yellow Sharpies, but lately my obsession has kicked into overdrive. Since I began sharing my writing publicly (and not just scribbling in my journal), I’ve been reading dozens of books on the craft: On Writing, The Essential Guide to Freelance Writing, You are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One), The War of Art, A Writer’s Guide to Persistence, The Byline Bible, Bird by Bird, and the 2018 AND 2019 Writer’s Market books.

With each book, I keep a Sharpie close by to highlight any passages that strike me as meaningful, inspirational, or educational. Sometimes it might just be a simple line or two, as with this passage from Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird:

I understood immediately the thrill of seeing oneself in print. It provides some sort of primal verification: you are in print; therefore you exist.

Other times, I’ll highlight chunks of pages, as I did with Jordan Rosenfeld’s A Writer’s Guide to Persistence:


I’m not entirely sure why I feel the need to call out specific lines or phrases. I think it harkens back to when I was a student, and I had to write down everything the teacher said in order to retain it. I highlight now to remember bits of information that might help me in my writing journey.

Since I don’t always actually remember everything, the yellow marks also serve as a reminder of what I found important in the book. I can go back months or even years later and reread just those passages. It’s a way of telling my future self: Hey, pay attention to this. It’s going to come in handy someday.

The Medium Marker

Once I joined Medium, I realized my affection for highlighting wasn’t restricted to marker and book. I’m constantly pulling my cursor along the page and saving phrases that jump out. A few recent examples:

These are just a few of the thousands of sentences I’ve highlighted since becoming a Medium member.

At first glance, they have nothing to do with one another —many are about writing, others are about relationships, fears, or…um, Nutella. But give a closer read and you’ll see they all have one thing in common: the writers’ willingness to be open and vulnerable. There’s a shared humanity on display; no matter where you’re from or what you believe, you might read some of the above (or other pieces on Medium) and nod your head in understanding.

When that happens to me — when I find myself nodding in agreement— I pull up the tool and highlight the word, phrase, sentence, or paragraph.

It’s my way of saving snippets of wisdom. You never know if it’ll come in handy someday.

A version of this post first appeared on Medium

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