Things are only as they appear when you see clearly.

The Lone Ranger made his mask from his dead brother’s vest.

Sometimes self-destruction looks like survival.

Resist temptation and it ceases to be temptation.

You can’t keep a hummingbird in a jar.

There’s a point where the wind and the rain sound the same.

The light changes. The light changes everything.

While you were waiting, something else happened.

Keep something hidden.


The proof of having broken a code is not being able to understand a message-but being able to send one.

To come from behind is to know more precisely what you need to achieve.

If there’s not a weak point you’ve got a problem.

If it were worth doing you’d have done it by now.

Simplicity is complexity you understand.

The Wild Men of Borneo came from Ohio.

Don’t be afraid to abandon all hope.

Intensify all ambiguities.

Take all the time you need. This is an emergency.


Certainty in anything always implies completion-an end of change.

Would you rather break a leg climbing up a steep mountain on the other side of the world-or tripping over a curb outside your house? Think carefully.

Fire moves fastest up a hill.

Humble yourself and make repairs.

It is not necessary to catch a fish each time, to enjoy fishing. But it is necessary that there be the possibility of catching one.

A walking stick makes good kindling.

There is a reason why the gods are pictured with the heads of animals.

An unidentified key is useless.

Options diffuse momentum.


Use fewer tools.


Search through what you’ve discarded.

The man swimming in the shark cage died of a heart attack. Not a mark on him.

The slightest doubt derails the whole enterprise.

The fissures in the granite run north-south. The rabbit runs clockwise around the pond.

Lose your confidence but not your curiosity.

Simply renaming a weed a flower won’t stop it from spreading.

Everything is a reflection.

Nothing can hold back the person who is willing to reevaluate everything.


Wouldn’t you try to paddle the leaking boat as far as you could?

All the clocks tell slightly different times.

When would precision not be desirable?

The secret goal of music is the restoration of silence.

Failure is the least of your worries.

Find the hidden assumption.

Never approach a horse or a helicopter from the rear.

Redefine the boundaries.

Striving for originality has been the undoing of many.


Constantly compromise-until you master the secret of it.

When you know when to stop, you’ve gone too far.

It is the fence you stumble over, not the property line. Yet, after the flood, the property line remains.

Time to change your password.

Try not to lose or depend on the element of surprise.

The difference between surgery and dissection is of vital interest.

Carefully plan all surprises.

In any crime, motive is the most important factor.

Intentionally make the mistake you most fear.

The search for answers is the art of asking ever better questions.


Take a hammer to your seashell collection.

Savor your uncertainty. It won’t last long enough.

You look down at the wake of the ferry, and see your shadow at the rail.

Patience is a virgin.

Be generous with your anxieties.

Because people are not always what they appear to be does not mean that they are never what they appear to be.

The most interesting things can only be seen out of the corner of your eye.

Secrets have a life of their own.

If you’re ready for anything, you’re probably not very well prepared for what’s actually about to happen.

The old woman in the wheelchair has not forgotten how to ride a bicycle.

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KRIS SAKNUSSEMM is a writer, painter and musical producer. He is the author of the international cult novels Zanesville and Private Midnight. Random House is bringing out his third novel in the USA in March 2011, and a new book called Reverend America has just been completed and is already being sold in Europe. A Fellow at the MacDowell Colony, he has won First Prize in the Boston Review and River Styx Short Fiction Contests, and received the Fiction Collective 2 Award for Innovative Writing, in addition to publishing in a wide range of places such as Playboy, Nerve.com, Opium Magazine, The Missouri Review, The Hudson Review, The Antioch Review, New Letters, Prairie Schooner and ZYZZYVA, amongst many others. You can find more about him on his Facebook Page.

13 responses to “Sayings for the Days”

  1. sheree says:

    Interesting post.

    One year when I couldn’t afford a winter coat, I fashioned a blanket into a coat.
    People would ask me, Is that a blanket you’re wearing? When I would reply yes, they would always respond with the same follow up question: Are you cold?
    I always answered: How can I be cold, if I’m wearing a blanket for a coat.
    I don’t know why your post reminded me of that snippet of my life, but it did.

  2. Kris Saknussemm says:

    That’s hilarious, Sheree.

  3. sheree says:

    Here’s hilarious: I used to have a cow hide poncho. One year a group of kids asked me if i would be their driver to and from the beach so they could get drunk. I wandered off over a sand dune and fell asleep. The kid who owned the van kept the keys in his pocket, I didn’t have any pockets or carry a purse. Apparently they couldn’t find me, so they thought I had left.
    I awoke the next morning to an old man poking me with a stick while saying to his wife, see, she’s alive. Thank goodness they found me instead of some freak and gave me a ride 60 miles back to my house. Heh, i now wear real coats and life is somewhat dull.

  4. Nathaniel Missildine says:

    I’ve always had a soft spot for sayings, adages and the quotations people select for themselves and I like the new ones you offer here. I might have to keep revisiting this. I’ll hold onto for now-

    The Wild Men of Borneo came from Ohio.
    Failure is the least of your worries.
    If you’re ready for anything, you’re probably not very well prepared for what’s actually about to happen.

  5. JSBreukelaar says:

    ‘If you’re ready for anything, you’re probably not very well prepared for what’s actually about to happen.’
    Yep, that’s a goodie.
    ‘Patience is a virgin.’
    And above all:
    ‘Be generous with your anxieties.’

    Preaching to the converted on that last one, Kris 😉 Great post.

  6. Don Mitchell says:

    I like these. Some I’ve heard, most not. They all bear thinking about, at least for a moment.

    Can I add a couple that I’ve found on household supplies and equipment?

    Always keep a wet edge.

    Keep cool but do not freeze.

  7. Gloria says:

    Oh man. I especially love this:

    The proof of having broken a code is not being able to understand a message-but being able to send one.

    Also: An unidentified key is useless. <—- this one cracked me up.

    Simple, poetic, and beautiful.

  8. Lorna says:

    Wow. Too much here to pick a favorite. Good food for thought. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Kris Saknussemm says:

    I’m pleased people have enjoyed these. I’ve always drawn a lot of inspiration from the aphorism as form–particularly in its modernist guise as fragments (from say, the diaries of Kafka or the notebooks of Novalis).

    One of the lost works of mine I would give a lot to have back was called Kung Fu Lunchbox (because I saved the notes in an old Kung Fu TV show children’s lunchbox I’d found in a garbage can). The notes consisted entirely of remarks made to me by the people in the psych ward where I served as an orderly.

    I’m also a big fan of Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies, and to some extent I’ve appropriated and reinvented this technique for myself, as a practical means of stimulating lateral thought when faced with a prickly decision or some crossroads of intuition and rationality, where it seems that neither gut feeling nor logic offers a solution. I’ve developed a random scrambling version of the above in the context of characters from my novel ZANESVILLE called the III Chings. It can be found on my website saknussemm.com.

    I’ve also developed a musically synthesized program called BOB, named after a good college friend, who had an uncanny knack of listening to what I was saying, then feeding it back to me in a subtly refined way, which very often revealed a startling new insight–directly composed of words I’d used, but not necessarily inherent in my organization of them. Burroughs talked about the “Third Mind,” and I think we all look for different angles on our thought process.

  10. Irene Zion says:


    My favorite is: “The old woman in the wheelchair has not forgotten how to ride a bicycle.”

  11. Lorna says:

    The only thought on here that I disagree with is this one:

    “Take a hammer to your seashell collection.”

    I think that would destroy me. 🙁

  12. Kris Saknussemm says:

    @Irene. Glad you like.

    @Lorna, I understand. Maybe tough therapy?

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