A Permanent Relationship With Words: Literary Tattoos

This is the first official post for the newly-instated “Free-For-All Fridays.”

It’s a funny coincidence.  On Tuesday Clay talked about being “Tatted Up” on his blog EduClaytion.  Of course, his story is about receiving a few temporary tattoos from his niece, but still.  Tattoos.  Major coincidence, because I’ve planning to write a blog about tattoos all week.

Let me begin by saying I don’t have any tattoos, but I am endlessly fascinated by them.  I really want one, but haven’t worked up the guts to get one.  Here’s the thing: my mother is one THOSE people.  You know the kind.  One of those people who honestly believes that anyone with a tattoo must automatically be a punk and quite probably a criminal.

When I was fourteen or fifteen years old my mother told me in no uncertain terms that, besides from the obvious things like drugs and alcohol, there were four things I was never allowed to do: die my hair an outrageous color, get body piercings (for her meaning anything besides a single ear-piercing), get a tattoo, or date a guy who owned a motorcycle.  (You can see what kind of mentality my mother has pretty easily from this list.)  And, purely by accident since I’d never said anything, these were almost all things I was interested in.  I’d thought about dying my hair purple on a number of occasions (though I have since decided that I like my hair just the way it is, thanks), I’d thought about getting an ear-cartilage piercing, I wanted a tattoo, and I loved motorcycles (though I’d rather own one myself rather than date someone who owned one).

I am twenty-six years old now.  I have never done anything of these things.  And for the most part, I’m okay with that.  But after all this time, my fascination with tattoos as remained.  As long as they are carefully planned and done by a professional, they are beautiful, expressive, and a wonderful portrayal of a person’s tastes, beliefs, etc.  But more than any other kind of tattoo, I have recently discovered a trend that I love above all others: literary tattoos.

As is true for most of the people who read this blog, words are my life.  Period.  I read, write, dream them.  I breathe them in.  Words stay with me forever.  Books that are important to me, leave an indelible mark on my thoughts, beliefs, and life.  It seems to me that have a tattoo at all gives you a permanent connection to art.  Having a literary tattoo gives you a permanent and explicit relationship with the words that have touched you, marked you.  How can could I say no to that?  So when it first occurred to me that one could get a tattoo based on a book, poem, etc., I was hooked.

I have been going through a few blogs devotedly specifically to literary tattoos, admiring and also scheming.  The two best blogs are Contrariwise and The Word Made FleshContrariwise, unfortunately, hasn’t been updated since May 2010, so I’m assuming it’s essentially been abandoned, but there are still plenty of pictures to go through and admire.  The Word Made Flesh updates with new pictures of tattoos a couple times a week.  I find myself checking back every day to see if there’s a new one yet.  The Word Made Flesh is also a book (and the creators are apparently working on a second one), that I really really want but haven’t shelled out the cash for yet.

Some of my favorites from The Word Made Flesh are (each image links back to the original post on The Word Made Flesh):

After years and years of being fascinated by tattoos, I’ve finally decided that this isn’t some passing fancy that will go away.  And I think it’s about time I finally said ‘screw it’ and get a tattoo.  So my plan is for my birthday next May, I’m going to get one.

I like to plan everything very carefully, so before I go through with anything, I want to make sure I know exactly what I want, and where I went to go to get it.  There are quite a few tattoo parlors in Houston, and I have no idea how to go about picking one.

In the mean time, I have a few ideas for tattoos I want to get.  The first, and I think strongest, choice is the words “Still Rowing” from Anne Sexton’s poem, “Rowing” in white ink.  White ink is a fairly new trend, and it looks really cool.  Here’s a couple examples (also from The Word Made Flesh):

Another idea I’m really leaning toward is a tattoo based on Watership Down by Richard Adams.  I’d love to do something with El-ahrairah and The Black Rabbit of Inle in a circle, possibly with Frith in the center, and the quote “All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies, and whenever they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you” encircling them.  I’ll have to find someone who can design it for me though.  And those of you who haven’t read Watership Down are completely lost right now, but that’s okay (and if you haven’t read it, you need to.  Hmm… I think I know what book I need to blog about next now…).

There are at least a dozen other books and poems I’ve considered doing a tattoo for, but I think the two above or the most promising right now.

Okay, tattoo enthusiasts, chime in!  How many do you have?  What are they for?  What inspired them?  Etc.  And those of you who don’t have any tattoos, have you ever considered getting one, or are they just not your thing?  And if you have considered it, what kind do you want, and why haven’t you done it yet?

(Again, all images are from The Word Made Flesh, clicking on the image will take you to the original post.)

725 thoughts on “A Permanent Relationship With Words: Literary Tattoos

    • have a tattoo covering my entire left peck, right over my heart. Its a yin yang symbol, seated nicely in the sky, eclipsing the setting sun. The clouds around it are stained red, orange and yellow by the sunset’s glow, and in the foreground there is a mountain and a bonsai tree, whose leaves are also colored by splashes of the suns color. To me it is very involved and symbolic, with the Yin Yang representing inner balance, and the good and bad that will always intertwine to form life. The bonsai on the mountain reminds me of myself, in that I grew up despite harsh conditions, and the sunset reminds me that there is a beauty even in the end of things (like the end of a beautiful day).
      I shared that because I believe whatever tattoo you get, it has to be something that is supremely symbolic to you. It should be something you can live your life by, because you will see it every single day and have to remember why you got it and why you keep it.

    • I am waiting for my tattoo to reveal itself to me. Eventually there will be something so important that I will not be able to imagine not having it on my body. Then it will be time!

      • That’s a good way to think about it. I think the Anne Sexton poem “Rowing” (and many of her other religious poems) have been popping up so much in both my personal reading and in my academic interests, that it seemed to be a sign. That quote “still rowing” just haunts me sometimes. I think that means its about time.

      • I always said I wouldn’t have a tattoo. Always. Then in October all the tattoo shops around here were doing a fundraiser for Susan G. Komen. You could pay $25 for a breast cancer ribbon tat, and then they donated all the money to Komen. My first experience with death was the death of my Aunt Betty to metastatic breast cancer. Needless to say, my tattoo revealed itself to me. I now have a pink ribbon on the back of my calf that says “Betty Jean 1944 – 1990”. I was scared to let my mom know, she had begged me to never get one. She loves this one though (Betty was her sister). Your tat will definitely reveal itself to you. Don’t hurry it, it’s a big decision.

  1. I don’t have a tattoo, but I love the idea you have of a Watership Down tattoo! Hmm, I’m worried that I got a tattoo it would be something really cliche like “Through the Looking Glass” or something. Love those pics!

    • There’s nothing cliche about getting a tattoo based on Through the Looking Glass! It’s an absolute classic! I feel the only thing anyone should worry about is if it has meaning and importance to them, anything else doesn’t matter. I’m glad you like the pics! You should check out The Word Made Flesh blog, it’s awesome.

  2. I have a tattoo on my right ankle. It is the words Wild Angel which sprout wings that wrap halfway around. Every time I look at it, I am reminded of who I am and that I was brave enough to tell the world about it. I got the tat when I was nineteen. I have been planning my next art for the past few years. An ankh on my left shoulder (to balance the right ankle) to honor my Egyptian heritage.

    Make sure any tattoo you get speaks to your soul (I think words are an excellent choice for you) and is something you want for the rest of your life. Placement is also key. The closer to bone (like your ankle) and nerve centers, the more painful the process will be. If you get an ankle tat, beware the Achilles tendon. I have NEVER felt pain like that before or since.

    Once she gets back from Paris, you should talk to @CidTyer because she has some gorgeous ink on her and can advise you far better than I.

    • Yeah, I’m a little nervous about the pain, and I’d probably avoid any areas that are too bony, at least to start with.

      And the moment I posted this I thought I had to make sure Cid chimed in, then I remembered that she’s in Paris without much of an internet connection. I’ll have to remember to bug her about it when she get’s back.

      • The trick is to mentally distract yourself from the pain. Maybe fill up your mp3 player with something you won’t mind being associated with the event. Also, you can’t imagine how powerful you feel once the whole process is over and you’re all healed. I felt like a superhero for months afterward. I mean, look what I did! Me? Someone notoriously allergic to pain!

      • I emailed the link to Cid this morning. I’m so behind on my blog reading that I didn’t see this until I logged out of my account to log into my Seekrit Account.

        I’m sure she’ll chime in. She can’t help it around tattoos. 🙂

        As for tattoos, I’ve sort of decided on one already, but I made myself wait 6 months to make sure I wanted it. It’s a verse from the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, though I still need to take it to an artist and see what they can do to make it look amazing.

        • Thanks for emailing the post to Cid. I was curious about what she’d say but I knew she was busy in France.

          A verse from the Rime of the Ancient Mariner would be fantastic! I love that poem. Good luck with finding an artist!

  3. Those are cool tats! I think the Watership Down tattoo would be a good one. I appreciate tattoos, but I have no interest in getting one myself. I hadn’t heard of literary tattoos until today, but they look pretty awesome. At least if it’s a timeless quotation from a great work of literature, you’re probably not going to be ashamed of it when you’re seventy haha.

    I guess saying I have no interest in getting one isn’t fully true. I’ve had a passing fancy of getting a Dharmachakra (“the wheel of the law”) tattooed on my arm. Then I think I could probably just get a necklace of the same and leave it at that haha.

    • Lol, yeah, tattoos aren’t for everyone. But that doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate them as art. I think I will definitely have to get the Watership Down tattoo as soon as I can find someone to design it for me. And I think that doing a tattoo based on literature, or words that are important to me will definitely keep me from regretting it when I’m 70. ^_^

      • I cannot believe how many responses you have!!! :o) What a fun subject. I do not have any tattoos. I have always not wanted one b/c I did not want people to assess me based on an image on my skin. I want me to be what they see, not a tattooed image. But I do think many of hte are stunning and I love th idea of a literary tattoo. I do not think I would get one though, but maybe 🙂 Thanks for the new idea of what a tattoo can mean.

  4. I don’t have any tattoos either- I don’t even have my ears pierced. I probably would have some tattoos if it weren’t for the pain, but I do think they can be beautiful expressions of meaning. I love seeing tattoos which reference something I don’t recognize and then asking the person the story behind it. I will have to check out those sites you mentioned that are specifically devoted to literary tattoos, how cool!

  5. I got my first tattoo as a gift to myself for my 29th birthday this past march. I was also enthralled with Literary tattoos, and kept bouncing between Wordsworth, Shakespeare and Robert Frost. I was really leaning towards “The road less Traveled”. Finally it hit me. Tattoo my own words (I realize this sounds vain). I went through a collection of years worth of my poetry and I found a piece that really spoke to me and more than anything spoke of me. I knew that was it. I had a whole stanza tattooed to my right shoulder. It’s beautiful and I love it. My mom hates it. She’s one of “those people” too, lol.

    • Yeah, I’ve actually thought about doing something I’ve written myself too. Maybe I will eventually… but there are so many words that live in my head, that I’d like to pay tribute to if I can… It’s hard to pick.

      And it’s amazing how many mom’s are “those people,” you know?

      Thanks for commenting, I hope you drop by again some time!

  6. None for me (I actually talked about this on my blog today – weird). I’m scared of the pain and I’m not keen on the idea that you’re stuck with it for life…unless you want to endure more pain and fork over more money to have it removed. I do love me a Henna tattoo though. I get one every trip to Vegas.

    • Lol, we’ve all got tattoos on the brain lately, apparently. I have been concerned about the prospect of getting a tattoo removed, which is one of the reasons I’ve taken so long to actually get one. I’m a planner. I want to be very certain I get one I really want, in a place I really want, that I won’t regret later, or feel embarrassed about.

      Thankfully, English depts. aren’t generally too concerned about that kind of thing, so I don’t have to worry about it interfering with my job too much.

      • I’m just reading through the comments and I wanted to add that I had the same sort of aprehension before I got my tattoo, so I planned it strategically–I wanted to put it somewhere where it wouldn’t get too distorted with body changes and somewhere not completely obvious to the general public, somewhere I could forget about it if I decide that I don’t like it.

        My tattoo is at the top of my back, about 1/4-1/2 inch lower than where a t-shirt collar normally sits. I show it off if I want to and it’s not a place that will see great fluctuations in shape/size as I go through life’s stages. 🙂

  7. I think you would look cute with at least a purple streak in your hair somewhere *wink*

    I’ve always been a bit fascinated with other people’s tattoos and the stories behind them. I’m not much for tattoos personally though. I’m a huge baby about pain and I can’t think of anything I’d want permanently on my body enough to go through with it 😀

    -If- I did, it like would say something about the beauty in rain. If it were literary. Tattoos are always best (when I ask about someone else’s) when they come with some sort of story. It’s not just a butterfly because you like it, but maybe it’s a butterfly because of a dream or story that stays with you, or maybe because you’re a follower of the chaos theory.

    Not that a simple /shrug “I like it” isn’t a good reason.

    • Lol, I’m not sure I’d ever live it down if I dyed my hair. My hair is kinda my signature. Though, purple being my favorite color is also my signature… Heh.

      And I agree. There’s nothing wrong with just “liking” something, but I personally would want something that really has meaning for me, something that contains a story for me, or has had an impact on my life in some way.

      Thank you for stopping by!

    • Please keep in mind sometimes the meaning of a tattoo is something so very personal to the bearer, they may not even share the reason for a particular design with those closest to them.

      I personally have four. Two of which I most definitely wouldn’t share the story/meaning with a stranger and very likely would give a shrug & simply say “I like it”.

      • That’s true, and lord knows I’d never try to force someone to tell me the meaning behind their tattoo when they don’t want to. And “liking” something is a perfectly legitimate reason anyway.

  8. Pingback: A Permanent Relationship With Words: Literary Tattoos (via Amanda Rudd's Blog) « whoisturkey

  9. I have two of them – the first one I got inked is an arm band (all the way around) with the names of my boys’ and my then-husband. The second one is a triskele, a Celtic symbol I used in my first novel, Again. I plan on getting another one when my second book is completed. Who knows…a tattoo for each book…

    • A tattoo for each book? That sounds like a great idea. Of course, if you write a lot, you could end up completely covered. But hey, it’d mean you were really good, right? LOL.

      Thanks for commenting!

  10. I’ve always been fascinated by tattoos, too, and I’ve always wanted to get one, but I haven’t yet. I’m too cheap and I’m afraid that what I want will be expensive. But I’m going to be 30 in December, and last year I decided that for that birthday, I’ll get myself a tattoo. For a long time, I couldn’t decide what I wanted, then I found a really awesome dragon. I write about dragons, so it’s fitting. I’m going to get him in dark red, like my favorite character, that way he’ll always be with me.

  11. Interesting post! I think you said it well here: “As long as they are carefully planned and done by a professional, they are beautiful, expressive, and a wonderful portrayal of a person’s tastes, beliefs, etc.”

    I have seen some beautiful tattoos full of meaning, and some hideous ones done on a drunken whim.

    Hope you find the perfect idea for you.

  12. Pingback: A Permanent Relationship With Words: Literary Tattoos (via Amanda Rudd’s Blog) « Jac-In-A-Book

  13. Congratulations, Amanda! Good to see you’re Freshly Pressed.

    Watership Down is my favorite book, and I love the Black Rabbit of Inle. How about, “What is, is what must be”? It would use a lot less ink. And as a mother, I’m advising you to put it in a place where your mother won’t see it. 🙂

    • Thank you! If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t have even figured it out until tuesday night after I got home to find the biblical flood of comments and “likes.”

      And yes, I’ve definitely been contemplating places I could get a tattoo and hide it from my mother. I’ve also been practicing speeches to just TELL her I’m getting one. Haven’t decided which approach to take yet. 😀

  14. i just got a pablo neruda quote on my lower back. it says, “we must dream our way” and i couldn’t be more happy with it! i think literary tattoos are definitely the way to go.

  15. Ah, Watership Down. Great classic; highly underrated and disliked.

    Anyhow, I don’t have tattoos either and years ago considered getting them. Logic and my checkbook won the day – as well as my faith.

    What if at a later date you determine that you no longer like the tattoo you have? What if its meaning changes for you? What about job prospects? What about familial perception?

    Part of what determined that I couldn’t bring myself to get a tattoo was the possibility of having grandchildren ask me questions, or how absurd they’d look on my pasty, liver-spot ridden, wrinkly body.

    Few tattoos are done beautifully or sensibly. Most are done stupidly and haphazardly.

    And then there is the cost factor. I have spent plenty of money on personal enjoyment/entertainment (though buying a thousand dollar sword – it’s real, not a fake $50/100 piece of dangerous crap – over 15 years ago was probably my singular stupid money move), and such over the years, but I could never justify the expense of such a thing as a tattoo, especially considering its permanence and visibility.

    Our bodies are temples… too bad I haven’t considered that concerning what I ingest!!

    • Even the buddhist monks decorated thier temples, I do agree its not for everyone,Im an aritist so getting tattoos was a voice for me, and allowed me to connect on some level with the inner artist I am. Check me out @ http://www.art-malpassocollection.com I dont want you to think Im trying to get business, just have fun looking around, good topic nice to read your opinions. Artpiecemalpasso

    • If you’re the kind of person who worries about perceptions, don’t get a tattoo. I say that lovingly, but save yourself and pass on by.

      • Heh, I worry about my mother’s perceptions to an extent… no, that’s not even it exactly. It’s that I living with my mother right now and I don’t want to deal with the constant pestering about some things. Other than that, no, I don’t really worry about other people’s perceptions overly-much. Still, it is a consideration, I agree, which is why I’ve taken so long to make sure its something I really want and am willing to live with for the rest of my life. I’m pretty determined at this point though. At this point its just a matter of making absolutely sure I know what kind of tattoo I want to get, and saving up the money for it. I know they’re expensive and I’m currently broke. Lol.

  16. I too always wanted one but just never could get the courage to do so. Now that I’m in my 30’s, I’m actually quite happy that I didn’t. I think they are beautiful and if don’t write, an extremely beautiful way of expressing yourself.

    Cheers and congrats on bring freshly pressed!


  17. DO IT! That’s all I have to say. It sounds like you’re already half way there – you love tattoos, you want one and you have an idea. Now buck up the courage to go into the parlour and book it for your birthday itself! I myself have a literary tattoo, it does not link itself to any books I enjoy, but what my father wrote to me in a book he gave me. I have “never lose the light that shines within you” tattooed on my inner bicep, and I love it.

    I can totally sympathise with you on the parent front – my father is ‘one of those people’. When he saw my first he freaked out majorly. But as much as a respect the old traditional ways of our older generations… Tattoos are so worth the arguments!

    • At this point, I’m pretty determined. It’s just a matter of saving up the money and making a final decision on WHAT exactly I’m going to get.

      Thanks for commenting!

  18. I have two tattoo’s and would like more. I have a memorial tattoo and then a cross. But the one I want next is from ee cummings. “i carry your heart. i carry it in my heart” I want to get it tattooed on my rubs, on the left, just below where my heart is. Im thinking of some type of bird to go with it. Maybe a dove in white ink. Our words are our passion and tattooing is a way of expressing them. Go for it! 🙂

  19. I think most tattoos are really tacky. But my sister has a a very tasteful tattoo on her wrist that says “Time Heals All Wounds”. It’s so tiny & unassuming – I love it.

    Words are my life, too. But I’m not getting any on my body.

  20. Hello,

    I was just reading around and came across this great blog! My mom is just like your mother same mentality but, just have to switch the rules up a bit. With me I’m not allowed to ride a bike. I wasn’t allowed any tattoos untill i broke the barrier when i was 17. Today i have a total of 9! She hates them all!! I’m not allowed to walk around her without a shirt cuz she doesn’t want to see the ones on my chest. She calls me the human chalkboard cause I have so many!! I’m in complete favor with the push of body art, because it’s art in a diffrent canvas. My tattoos varies from some paying tribute to my grandmothers, my parents name, my puerto rican native indian side, my pride for my roots, and couldn’t miss putting a luscious pair of lips by my neck!!

  21. I have a small chinese symbol on my hip from high school. My 3 best friends and I were all going to different colleges and decided to tie ourselves through tattos. They are small and sweet. I love it.
    I am currently planning on getting another. I am thinking of getting “Be who you are”, which would stem from my favorite quote “Be who you are because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

  22. I love tattoos very much. I can’t get enough. You and I are the same age and I have 5 already. First when I was 18. I have to admit. My first three were on a whim and I kind of regret them. But they also show who I was and where I’ve been.

    I have also started getting into the whole literary tattoo idea. And I have several planned. All I have seen so far are beautiful works of art.

    Currently on my hot list of what I’m getting for sure will be Hangul (Korean) on my wrist that says “I am enough”. This is because I spent 5 years in korea and fell in love with it all and the quote, ‘i am enough” because I just finally got the courage to leave an abusive marriage and I realized that no matter how much he wanted me to change, I am enough for myself and for someone who is worthy to have me in their life.

    The other one I’m sure about will be “What’s stopping you?” in white ink that curves just under my right collar bone. I want this because I’m finally learning that we need to stop with the excuses and just go after the things we want. Nothing should stop you.

    Good luck with your first tattoo. Its an amazing experience!

  23. I have 1 tattoo and my husband has 3 large tattoos. We are always contemplating getting some new ink, but haven’t figured out excatly what that would be just yet.
    The one I have is justa peace sign with a flame around the circle all in black, and my next one I know will be this…
    “Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise are hard work, it means to be in the midst of all these things things and still be calm in your heart”
    The place for this is yet to be determined but I think on my side in the white ink would be fantastic, thanks for the post and the ideas!

  24. I waited until I was 41 to get my first one. Part of the design incorporates the Watchmen smiley face since that work has had such an impact on my creativity and writing since I first read it back in the 80’s.

    While I have no current plans to get another one, a literary tattoo that has always crossed my mind is from my favorite author Rex Stout:

    “Satisfactory.” -Nero Wolfe

    All the best to you and good luck with your upcoming tattoo!

  25. I love this post! It was almost as if I had written it myself, except I’m 41! My mother told me the exact same things, and, consequently, I have always been fascinated by tattoos and the art form. As an artist and a writer, a literary tattoo is for me the best of both worlds, although I haven’t worked up the nerve to get one either. I look forward to seeing what you decide on!

  26. My daughter has a hummingbird tattoo. In fact, she also had her lips tattooed with pink so she always looks like she’s wearing lipstick. I would think for your first tattoo that going with something relatively small and simple would be less painful. In a spot your mother won’t see. Then if you really, really like it, you could get a more complex design.

    • Wow, she got her lips tattooed? I’ve heard of that — women getting makeup tattoos so they never have to actually wear makeup, but I always thought that was kind of extreme.

  27. I currently have two tattoos–I got my first when I was 16–a moon and star on my ankle (real original, heh). Then 4 years later I got a shooting star on the back of my neck. Six years have passed and I haven’t had a desire to get a tattoo until just last month. I’m thinking about a willow tree on my forearm as a tribute to a beautiful willow tree that used to stand between my childhood home and my grandmother’s house. It was cut down when I was 10 or 11 and I remember mourning the loss of something so stoic and strong. I’m also thinking about getting some Modest Mouse lyrics–probably “It all will fall, fall right into place” somewhere, though I haven’t decided on the placement just yet. The only thing currently stopping me is not having the money!

  28. I know how you feel! My mom is the same way “NO TATTOOS!”. She barely let me get my ears pierced. I love books and would love to get something tatted on from one of them. I’m so scared of what it will feel like though :-/ I know my curiosity will get the better of me though 🙂

  29. I have one white ink tattoo that says MONTAGUE I got about six years ago as a reminder to love big and wild, like Romeo, even if it’s destructive in the end. Here’s a picture: http://instagr.am/p/LED4I/?ref=nf

    My favorite tattoo is my second, most recent which is an actual copy of my father’s heartbeat from his EKG from the hospital a few hours before he passed away. You can see it here: http://instagr.am/p/K-jo3/?ref=nf

    My only advice would be when you are ready to get a tattoo, there is no doubt in your mind that you want it. Wait until something comes along that strikes you immediately as something you want forever. If you can’t think of anything yet, don’t rush. 🙂

    • Did you have trouble getting your tattoo artist to agree to doing a white ink tattoo? Because I’ve heard a lot of them really don’t like to do them for whatever reason. And I’ve been warned that they fade a lot. Would you say yours has faded a lot in six years?

  30. I have one tattoo, and it’s not words, but I’ve been wanting to get “Rejoice Always” tattooed on my wrist, as St. Paul said. I’m not one to shout my religion to everyone around me, but I love that simple phrase because it’s so positive, and I sometimes need to be reminded of something joyous. I think that the most important thing to consider is whether you will always love your tattoo. It should be something you will identify with forever.

  31. I am loving the red wheelbarrow tattoo!

    I’m in a similar position to you, really, in that I’ve been thinking about tattoos for years, chickened out on my 21st birthday and am still thinking about the prospect.
    The problem for me is that there are probably so many things I want to write on myself I’d want to be able to scrub them out and start again (as I did for many creative writing projects at uni…) – so good on you for making a choice, it’ll be good to see the final result!

  32. These are fantastic! Great idea. I have two tats, but am never certain what else I would want. I got my first done when I was 25, and had it altered recently. It was a bicycle encircled by an omega. I had just bicycled across the country then, and the omega was for resistance: to war and other government hooliganism. I have now added a road for the bicycle to travel on, and it travels from birth (a Navajo weaving symbol) to death ( a ancient skull symbol). A few years back, I had some graffiti tattooed onto my arm (from a photo of an old grain silo). It’s a sad looking spray-painted man with SAD in large blue letters. It’s unusual, but appropriate at the time. I don’t regret either tat. Now, you’ve got me thinking about literary tats, and I’m intrigued.

  33. I’m similar to you in that I don’t have any tattoos either, but they fascinate me as well! I really like the “Don’t panic” one…haha. To be honest, I will probably never get a tattoo…I’m afraid that I’ll stop liking it after a year or so, and then what would I do?!

    I suppose my fear of commitment even follows me to body art as well… 😉

    Loved this post! Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

  34. Well sadly I don’t have any tattoos at the moment. My father is just like your mother, but more threatening. I’ve been told if I ever get a tattoo he would burn it off, so if I do ever get one it will be after he has sadly passed on or somewhere he’ll never see. Unfortunately it will probably be after he is gone because if I were to get one I’d want it to be somewhere that not only I could see but many people. I have ideas for what I’d want though. My biggest one would be angel wings done my entire back. I love wings and I think tattoos like my idea are very beautiful. Then just a few other small things like Russian symbols and Arabic because I love the written language of both. Then a biohazard sign, I just think it looks cool.
    As for choosing a tattoo parlor do research on them. Look at some of the work they’ve done and pricing never hurts. Make sure they are clean and you’d be comfortable there. If you’re spending any amount of time there you want to feel good being there. (In case you’re wondering how I know about picking a parlor, I have a lot of friends who have tattoos or work in parlors… 🙂 )
    Best of luck!

  35. I’ve got a simple black tattoo (papyrus font) on the back of my neck that says ‘passion’. My mum (oh so hilariously) keeps threatening to write ‘fruit’ underneath it. I’m aiming to have a list of words down my back – passion, life, love, faith, happiness, destiny – whatever word takes my fancy at the time. I want them to be associated with big events. Passion was for my 21st birthday, I may get ‘life’ for my uni graduation.

    I love literary tattoos…though I don’t think I am brave enough to get a whole passage!

  36. I have three tattoos. The first in 20 years old (it is the replica of the face of a ring I owned at the time) and I still love it. The second is a large, colorful piece that was meaningful at the time and now, is something I forget I have. It is on my back, therefore pretty easy to forget about. I still like it, but don’t have the same passion about it as I did 13 years ago. I just got my third, and it is a variation of a Henry James quote: “Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.” which has great meaning to me. This is my most visible tattoo, and I love it. I shortened it to “Be Kind, Be Kind, Be Kind” inked in my handwriting. On either side I have two accents, in red so it is often mistaken for henna. My thoughts are these: NEVER do anything that feels like a trend to you, and don’t allow other peoples choices to lead you ANYWHERE. The pain is temporary, so I feel pretty chill about it. There are specific places that will hurt more than others, but it is fleeting pain, and if you feel strongly about what you decide on, it wont matter. If you can’t see yourself as a wrinkled old woman sporting a tattoo, don’t do it. If other peoples perception of you matter greatly to you, don’t do it. If you are clear as to the what and the where and the why, do it.

    And for the love of all things holy, don’t get a tattoo of the Tasmanian devil holding a lacrosse stick. THAT you will regret! Ha! Go with your gut, and good luck to you!

    • LOL! No, I won’t get a tattoo of the Tasmanian Devil. I understand those kinds of popculture references are meaningful and important for some people, but that isn’t the kind of thing I care enough about to put on my body. I will only be choosing things that have special importance for me as a writer, a scholar, and a person.

      Thank for the advice!

  37. I’ve been pondering my tattoo for YEARS now. My birthday is coming up and I plan on finally getting it! In terms of where to go, get recommendations from friends who have tried and tested the tattoo experience.

    This is my first time seeing the white ink, pretty rad!

  38. i only have a few, but the ones i do have mean a lot, i have the quote “hakuna matata” pretty self explanatory, my favorite disney movie growing up and of course a quote i live by (it means no worries!) i also have the COEXIST bumper sticker tattoo, a tattoo saying NBRHD which means neighborhood i got this with a bunch of my friends because we are just one big nbrhd and i also have a basketball with wings on it, living in chicago and loving michael jordan of course and it doesn’t hurt that i love playing basketball. nice post by the way!

    • I LOVE that COEXIST bumper sticker image with all the different religious symbols! That would make a great tattoo! And the idea of a ‘hakuna matata’ tattoo is fantastically amusing to me. It’s my brother’s favorite movie, and if the was the type to get a tattoo (which he’s not), I could SO see him doing that. Timon is his favorite character. LOL.

    • Now I have Hakuna Matata stuck in my head. *sighs* I’ll be singing it for a week now.
      I adore the coexist tattoo idea.

  39. I’m facinated with tattoos also! I’m all for them if there is some kind of meaning behind the art. And it really bothers me for some reason when people get them just to HAVE one. Those are the people who I think end up regretting it. I just got my second a few weeks ago. I actually wrote the story in my blog (Its called “Fly”) and I said it was my last….but those white ink tattoos are pretty interesting…hmmm…..I like how they are very subtle. I too love words. I may reconsider!

  40. I have a few tattoos already – one an ankh, for both my fascination with archaeology and Egyptian history and appreciation of the meaning and the other… It’s from The Lord of the Rings. Not a quote, but the Evenstar that grants Arwen eternal life. It’s fair to say that I love LOTR. My next tattoo will be text from a book I love. It’s hardly ‘literature’, but the quote I’ve chosen: ‘All knowledge is worth having’ truly resonates with me.

  41. Saw you on the freshly pressed dashboard and wanted to comment. I am in the same boat as you as far as words, upbringing, fascination but hesitancy etc etc…I’ve thought about this a lot and I’m leaning towards part of a Mary Oliver poem. Her words always leave that indelible kind of mark you mention…:) Thanks for sharing.

  42. I have two tattoos. One is a butterfly because I used to chase butterflies in my Great-grandmother’s garden and when she passed that was the thing that kept me sane was seeing butterflies and thinking of the happy moments with her. Plus butterflies are symbolic of the cyclical nature of life. My second is the cantonese symbol for music and that is because I am a music nerd to the extreme.
    I would like to get a third one. I am torn too. It will be all words. I cannot decide between Emily Dickenson-Hope is the thing with feathers, Bob Dylan “Forever Young”, or one of my original compositions. It is a tough decision but I think they are worth it because then those words are with you forever.
    I think tattoos are a great form of self-expression just like you do as long as it is something that is near and dear to you.

  43. Hi! This is a great post! I currently have one small tattoo and am planning on another larger one. I usually wait 3-5 years to get a tattoo, and the whole time I am refining the design and thinking about its meaning to me.
    You should really look into the history of tattoo around the world. It has always been a way to further express your personality, accomplishments, sorrows & joy, honor loved ones… anything that makes a lifelong imprint on who you are. If you get a tattoo that means nothing to you then you will hate it eventually. If you find a design that speaks to your soul and describes a part of who you are then you will always love it.

    As for picking a designer, remember that these are artists. Just like a painter or sculptor, they all have different styles and skill sets. I would look for someone who is good with letters, if thats what you want. Go visit the tattoo shops and look at the individual artists work. Ask them what they are good at. Show them drawings or pictures of what you want and have them sketch something for you. See whose style and vision of your tattoo you like best.

    Your mother sort of sounds like my mother & my husbands father, just with different topics. I am 28 and its in the last couple years that I realized I am never going to please my mother. I used to make decisions about my life with her voice in my mind. What she would approve of and wouldn’t. My husband does the same thing with his father. We realized that our parents have always had this vision of who they want their kids to be. They try really hard to make us into those people. But we are our own people and can make our own decisions. In our 20s we piss off our parents because we make so many choices that dont fit into their plan and they have to learn to let go and get over it. Its part of their experience in parenting. Letting go.
    I enrolled in a college that was 350 miles from our hometown. My hubbie and I often look back and laugh at how dumb we were to stay under our parents thumb. (He worked for his dad and my mom is a parenting coach for the county, nuff said.) You gotta break free and live your life. Your mom will get mad about the tattoo, but she will eventually get over it. Right now my mom is livid that I wont take her non stop parenting advice, but I just don’t agree with her style. Eventually she will get over it, its part of her “growing up” too.
    I cant believe what a long comment this ended up being! I hope I helped you though.

    • Thank you for such a thoughtful comment and wonderful advice. I feel like I’m getting to that point where I can simply do what I want to do regardless of what my mother (or anyone else) thinks. I respect my mother, and don’t want to piss her off just for the sake of pissing her off. But at the same time, I don’t want to restrict myself from things I honestly care about/are interested in, just because she doesn’t understand it.

      Anyway, thanks again!

  44. I have one tiny literary tattoo on my lower back: the official Tolkien-logo. Tolkien is my favorite author, has been for years, and his books mean a lot to me, so I thought it was fitting.

  45. I currently have 2, though “2” is a fairly loose term as one is a full sleeve. My first tattoo is a quote by Kierkegaard “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forward” accompanied by an enso that I painted the night before I went to get tattooed. Read up on the symbolism of the enso and how the quote really pairs beautifully with it.

    My 2nd, the sleeve in progress, is origami as pieces of paper transform into a lifelike (but still stylized) fish and a bird. The entire piece is build around the quote “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be” by Lao Tzu (who founded Taoism) and the words will follow along the path of the piece of paper that transforms into the bird. It’s a fun project but I probably still have around 6-8 hours left since I just started it a month ago.

    Hope you find the inspiration you need to take the plunge!

    • Wow, Kierkegaard! He has some great lines to quote, but he tends to be so BLEAK. Not that most philosophers aren’t to an extent. I got any philosopher’s words tattooed on me, it would probably be Foucault. Or Judith Butler.

    • Oh, nice one! I’ve thought about getting a quote from Paradise Lost as a tattoo too. Either “Long is the way / and hard, that out of hell leads up to light” or “Into this wild abyss…”

  46. I have some…
    One is a horseshoe with three stars floating above, on my lower side/back (NOT a trampstamp.) My dad’s family name is Horspool and the three stars (in pink, green and turquoise) represent me and my brothers. I love the idea of luck as something you actively try to accept into your life so the three stars are floating above the horseshoe as though they’re about to fall into a pot for safe keeping. 🙂
    I have an arrow on my back because I’m a Sagittarius and I completely embody my sign, for better or for worse, and I’m proud of it.
    I have music notes on my wrist to represent my family’s generations-long love for music and the arts.
    I have the japanese symbol for “rice” on my side because I love food and sushi.

    I want more… I really want a semicolon and I really want a food/cooking related tattoo. I’ve thought about an antique fork and knife or a chef’s knife or simply “eat to live.”

    • Wow, you have a lot of them! That’s awesome! It’s interesting to me that I’ve seen a number of people say they have tattoos that represent family members, grandparents, brothers and sisters, etc… I wonder if it says something about me that I would NEVER do that. I love my family, but I don’t feel THAT connected with them.

  47. Awesome post! I have a single tattoo, a starfish on my left foot (you know, from the starfish story — google if it you’re not familiar with it), and my mom is also one of those people. I didn’t tell my mom for nearly a month, which was hard consider it was during the summer after I graduated college and I pretty much live in flip flops. She freaked out but I wouldn’t trade it for anything because it’s so significant to me. Good luck, and I agree with whoever said put it in a place your mom will never see. 🙂

  48. I have some stars down my back which is pretty generic but has meaning for me. I am due to get a new one on my wrist next Wednesday, which is my sisters initials surrounded by tiny hearts and intricate patterns. You should only get tattoo’s which means something in my opinion. I love the idea of a literary tattoo. One my favourite ones I’ve seen is Jenna Jamesons Joan of Arc quote across her shoulders ‘I am not afraid, I was born to do this’ which is so empowering 😛

  49. I have a smiley faces tattoo on my middle finger. At work I draw smiley faces every where, it kinda makes a long or bad day better when I can see a smile. So that was what I picked for my tattoo. My parents are like yours they think the same way about tattoos, piercing and dying your hair funky colors. I like your ideas for your tattoo 🙂

  50. I have one tattoo on the back of my right shoulder. It’s a smiley face (the classic-in-a-circle-with-no-nose smiley face.) I’ve collected smiley face stuff for years and always a tattoo of one, but I kept chickening out. When I turned 30 a few years ago, I finally said “that’s it! I’m getting the tat!” and I actually did. Now I want more and am considering getting one of my favorite F. Scott Fitzgerald quote, but I’m not sure where to put it.

  51. Pingback: St. Ebba « "That's a dancer's leg, Margaret!"

  52. A couple of weeks ago on the beach of Valencia (Spain) I discovered, to my dismay, that almost every body is adorned with tatts. As much as I can appreciate the artistry and thought behind some of them, I can’t help but feel tattoos have become some kind of fashion statement. Also, whenever I see someone with a tattoo, I can’t help but wonder what this tatt will look like on this person in twenty or forty years time.

  53. These tattoos remind me of two excerpts from two poems. The first one is from an anonymous author- “Do not stand at my grave and weep, I am not there, I do not sleep.” The second line is from John Masefield’s “I Must Go Down to the Sea” “I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky.”

    Great post. Reminded my of two awesome poems.

  54. These tattoos remind me of two excerpts from two poems. The first one is from an anonymous author- “Do not stand at my grave and weep, I am not there, I do not sleep.” The second line is from John Masefield’s “I Must Go Down to the Sea” “I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky.”

    Great post. Reminded me of two awesome poems.

  55. Yeah, I crossed a line when I got my first tattoo, and that was one of the reasons I did it. 🙂 Mine are all symbolic pictures. But my son has a picture of Beethoven on his arm, with the words “Ode to Joy” (in German) around it. Love your idea of literary tattoos.

  56. I have a literary tattoo from Jacqueline Carey’s “Kushiel’s Dart” – It’s a black trinity with red tribal flairs and underneath in my own handwriting I have “Love as thou wilt.”

    I wish I had a picture to show you, it’s lovely.

    Just a word on the white ink shown–in the pictures, the skin is still raised and angry from the procedure so it casts a shadow/outline for the white ink. Once that settles in, white ink will be much more subtle and may even fade to the background. I think the best way to pick out a tattoo artist is to go to the shop, meet with the artist, go through their portfolio to get a feel of their personal style and interview them about what you’re thinking. Most tattoo shops will be happy to schedule such a consultation with you. 🙂

  57. I just wanted to stop in and tell you there is only one “Word made flesh” and that is Jesus Christ. He is the living Word (of God , that is) . And yes, in Revelation He has written on His thigh, “King of King and Lord of Lords”. Why shouldn’t anyone get a tattoo(aside from religious belief, problems of aesthetics and aging, and health concerns and job placement?) .Lots of people have reasons.But when it comes to the “Word”, anyone can read it. But don’t start reading the bible in Revelation, start in John. There it will tell you Who, and what the Word really is, and it even explains how important our words really are, – to one another and about ourselves. Your family might be old fashioned to some, but they’re probably just sticking to what they believe in.

  58. Found you through freshly pressed and love the post. It’s something that’s really been on my mind lately.

    Ever since I read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress at 15, the plan has been to get TANSTAAFL in cursive on my left wrist. It’s one of those mantras that never gets old or loses meaning for me. When I graduate college this spring the first place I’m going is to my carefully picked parlor to get my first tattoo.

    And no, my mother’s not pleased.

  59. Awesome post! I’ve got two tattooed. One is a song lyric and another is an asterisk by none other that the enigmatic Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

    It is a shame explaining it to non-Vonnegut fans when they do not recognize it– for it is a shame to not know about him!!, but nonetheless, I revel at any opportunity to speak about him!

  60. Great post! I got a tattoo when I was 25 (I am now 38) and never regretted it. It is a picture of a little blue orchid. I got it while I was studying horticulture and I was going through a very difficult phase in my life. I love the colour blue and I love flowers and I just thought, “I will survive this…. like the tough Australian orchid”… and I did survive. And I still grow orchids, and think of those times.

  61. Oh wow! I am getting my tattoo done on Friday! Really nervous and excited. It is a memorial tat for my mother that passed away last year.

    It reads “The beautiful wounds remain”. It is a Buddhist saying, that all of the wounds in this life will be carried into the next and will remain forever. Below that is my birth year 1986 – (no death date, obviously.) to show that what I have been through in my life, all the terrible things, that only the beautiful wounds remain.

    So yeah, really awesome blog!



  62. I think literary tattoos are great…I have 13, all based on classic literature, and things that have been especially meaningful to me. Everything from Poe, Carroll, Hugo, Shakespeare, C.S. Lewis to Scripture. As long as they are well thought out, well designed, and you know that they will mean something to you for life, I say go for it!

  63. I loved this post. Finally more people who love the written word, and more over love it on their skin. For far I have inscribed lyrics from Pantera on my ribcage http://lockerz.com/photos/126166855 and Alice in Chains on my arm (“I’ve written my own part”) – now I’m looking forward to tattooing a couple of sentences from De Profundis by Wilde soon, I just need to figure out the location. I think it requires more commitment to get sentences etched on to one’s skin rather than, say, a generic abstract star or flower.

  64. I also had one of those families. So you can imagine how scared I was when I decided to get my one and only tattoo. It is a caduceus on my inner left forearm with the word “Diabetic” running along the staff. I did it for my year anniversary of surviving a Diabetic Ketoacidtosis (DKA) coma that not only diagnosed me, but almost robbed me of my life. To make a long story short, most people I meet (those people) who hate tattoos actually love mine. Little old ladies at church-run functions of all faiths, Nuns & Priests, My family and.especially anybody in the medical field. I find those people will accept the tat if it has a purpose. If you get one, make sure it IS your motto. Words of inspiration that help you stay a good person and remind you to be humble and remember where you came from. If you explain your choice to your mom in that way, I am sure she will understand.

    • Wow, that’s a very powerful and important tattoo. That ‘s so awesome. Thank you for sharing that! I hope my mother can be as understanding as the people you dealt with.

  65. Love this. I love tattoos, and have just recently got one in January up my wrist. It’s a bar of music with the notes of a song I played a lot on the piano! There are also many symbols surrounding the music, such as a cloud with the sun peeping out, and a raindrop coming off the bar of music, and stars made out of music notes etc. I absolutely love it! It basically just signifies personal things which have happened in my life which I have moved on from.

    You can see it in a picture I have on this post:

    Congratulations on being FP x

  66. I got my first tats two years ago. I was 64 years old at the time. They were to “celebrate” surviving a heart attack, two stents and eventually quadruple bypass surgery.

    Now one of my favorite quotes is by Jack London. “Show me a man with a tattoo and I’ll show you a man with an intereting life.”

  67. My guess is that after your b-day in May, if you do go through with it, you will find yourself wanting a second tattoo by June! My first was inspired by my father who passed away in 2005. I got the tattoo one weekend in 2009, and the very next weekend I was back at the shop getting more ink done on the other arm. It’s addicting, be careful! I made it through 32 years without any, now I have 6!

  68. I’m working on a half-sleeve of tattoos. I’m limiting all my tattoos to the space between my shoulder and elbow on my left arm, just so it doesn’t get out of control. I have a vine of daffodils (my daughter’s birthflower), a swallow (cliche, but it represents my time in the navy), and a band of barbed-wire that goes all the way around (cliche, but it was my first tattoo and I was rebelling, not to mention totally didn’t think that one through). I have also recently become completely taken by literary tattoos. I’m not a fan of the Lord of the Ring series, but I absolutely love the phrase “Not all those who wander are lost” I’m thinking I might get this tattooed next… Good luck picking your tattoo and artist!

  69. This was such a nice read and so well written. As someone who is very well involved in the tattoo culture and community it’s always nice to hear stories from those that are intrigued by the beautiful art of tattoo. My mother is the same as yours…very old school. Alas, her son is the founder of a lifestyle brand that revolves around tattoos and music, and anything that challenges society’s perceptions.

    I invite you to come visit joeyvoodoo.com as you will find many amazing artists that we profile and showcase. Some you may have seen on T.V. (Miaimi Ink, L.A. Ink, NY Ink) and others are celebrities within the tattoo community.

    Tattooing is an art and your skin is the canvas for amazing individuals to paint upon. So please always do your homework before getting a tattoo. Visit the shops, look through the portfolios and feel comfortable.



  70. I have several tattoos; most of them are symbols (one from an old book, now that I think of it). Being a big reader, I’ve been interested in literary tattoos as well–I don’t know how I’d ever narrow things down to as single sentence or phrase from one work–but I’m concerned that they’re becoming trendy. As far as font goes, I’m rather fond of typewriter font. Anyway, like many have said here, definitely get your first one in a inconspicuous place. And perhaps your first one shouldn’t be so big. I’m curious as to what white ink looks like after it’s healed–the pictures here featuring that are of fresh tats, red and puffy.

    • Winnie the Pooh would be a wonderful one to do! I loved those books when I was young. And ‘Now We Are Six’ is STILL one of my favorite books of children’s poetry.

  71. I got my first tattoo back in February of this year. It’s a Hemingway quote my PawPaw used to quote to me all the time while I was growing up, “Courage is grace under pressure.” I had into translated into Latin and had the artist use and Old English font and black ink. He passed away when I was 11 years old and I decided to wait until I was 20 to get the tattoo.

    I got it in his honor because even now, if someone ever asks me how I would describe my great-grandfather, (we were very close) I use the quote above.

  72. I have tattoos…8 to be exact. My first tattoo was an act of rebellion, and then I became addicted to the art. After a few pieces of art I wanted a tribute to my grandfather and I got that, then I had a daughter and got her something, and the last one I got was of a fairy angel in memory of my sister who I lost last year. I love tattoos and I am going to get a new one soon for my other daughter. One artist did the majority of the 8 I have, I trust him and he is the only person I let do mine now.

  73. Hi there!

    Great post; I don’t usually comment on stranger’s blog because of the adult nature of my own blog, but since I have Catch-22 tattooed down my arm I felt compelled to share it.

    You can find an image near the bottom of this blog post, if you’re interested:


    This is the only tattoo I currently have, and I’ve had it around three years. It has an awful lot of power for me, and I’m not sure I want to dilute that highly personal message with more tattoos.


  74. I really like your Watership Down tattoo idea – such a great book! I am quite partial to Archy and Mehitabel, so if I were to get a literary tattoo it may have to have the phrase “there s more than one dance in the old dame yet.” 🙂
    Great post and congrads on being FP.

  75. Loved your post. I adore when people post about tattoos. My parents are THAT kind of parents too, mom and dad almost killed me when I made my tattoo, but after a time, they notice that I’m still the same girl with or without a tattoo, and not a punk just because I have a tattoo.
    I made a Bon Jovi heart with dagger with a song name inside because I love much the band and all the Bon Jovi’s mean to me (here it is, when I had just done http://sobre0nada.wordpress.com/2010/12/19/minha-tattoo/)
    Now, I’m thinking about another ones and I know I want something just with words. But still don’t have my final decision.
    Lucky with your tattoo, I loved your blog and sorry for my horrible brazilian english.

  76. I never allowed anybody to put or make, not even a dot, on me. I don’t usually like tattooed individuals. I belong to the time when tattoos meant either an ex-con if not a sailor. They both have something in common – nothing to do most of the time.

    Today, tattoo could mean anybody. But still I wont want even a dot on me. I am no anybody’s writing paper. 🙂

    • That’s completely understandable. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. My brother would never get a tattoo in a million years, but he doesn’t have a problem with others having them, and he’s been helping me choose one for myself. I think the main thing is not to judge people JUST because they have a tattoo, or to automatically disdain anyone who does.

  77. Pingback: A Permanent Relationship With Words: Literary Tattoos (via Amanda Rudd’s Blog) « Removing the Static

  78. I don’t have a tattoo yet either because my mother is rather of the same opinion you are. I have several ideas of what I want when I’m completely out of my house though (I’m still in college right now!)
    I want the word “Always” inspired by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I also want the Deathly Hallows sign, the J.R.R. Tolkien symbol and also a Bible verse somewhere! 🙂

  79. Hi there! I just came across your blog and it peaked my interest, as I have tattoos, and 2 are quotes and two and sigle words that guide my daily life. All in all I have 10 tattoos, ranging in size. I have a Tree that takes up a majority of my back (an oh did it hurt) I have words in latin on each shoulder blade (wisom and virtue) I have an Albert Einstein quote on my left inner wrist: “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity” and on my right wrist, a Hunter S Thompson quote: “It was one of those fine little love stories that makes you smile in your sleep at night.” I have other art as well. All of my tattoos were very thought out and planned. I thought about each one for practically a year before permenently etching it on my body.
    What I would suggest to you when seeking out a tattoo artist is word of mouth as well as portfolios and talking to the artist a few times before sitting down with the needle. Some artist will say they can do what you are looking for to get business, and then your tattoo turns out horrible. Take time, Trust your instincts, Don’t be afraid to tell an artist no, that is not what you had imagined.
    Good luck to you!

  80. I would have a hard time choosing what would stay there forever :). But if you have a tattoo that you like forever, it is a great way to express yourself. (Like I’m the first to say this… 😉 ). Great pictures, good words, it was worth reading this!

  81. Hey there… I just stumbled on this when I went to check my own WordPress… and wanted to reply.

    I am a 23 year old woman. I have a two year old little girl. I hold my Bachelor of Fine Arts. I have two tattoos, both hidden as long as I am wearing shorts, and I am a self-confessed text addict.

    Every tattoo I want is full of words and meaning.

    Though, as an actress, I am very careful with where I place them. They are wholly for me, so I don’t care if they’re covered by undies. I don’t care if they are covered by any clothing.

    My first tattoo is text. It is from Sonnet 23 by William Shakespeare and reads, “To hear with eyes belongs to love’s fine wit.” This is chock full of meaning for me. Shakespeare is my passion. Shakespeare is my life. So in that sense, it’s pretty self-explanatory.

    (Sonnet 23:

    As an unperfect actor on the stage
    Who with his fear is put besides his part,
    Or some fierce thing replete with too much rage,
    Whose strength’s abundance weakens his own heart.
    So I, for fear of trust, forget to say
    The perfect ceremony of love’s rite,
    And in mine own love’s strength seem to decay,
    O’ercharged with burden of mine own love’s might.
    O, let my books be then the eloquence
    And dumb presagers of my speaking breast,
    Who plead for love and look for recompense
    More than that tongue that more hath more express’d.
    O, learn to read what silent love hath writ:
    To hear with eyes belongs to love’s fine wit.)

    To me, this sonnet is acting. This sonnet is love. This sonnet is me. This sonnet is what brought me to the world of Shakespeare. I have a whole list of Shakespeare quotes that I would love to have to carry with me everywhere, on my skin, but this one was the one that spoke to me. That had the most meaning.

    Personally… I say… if you want a tattoo… think about it long and hard. I’m sure I’m not the first to say that. Find the one that speaks to you. I’m big on designing my own so I feel they are part of me. (My second tattoo is a Triskelion, three interlocking spirals that represent action and movement… the spirit, mind, and body forever flowing away from each other, and then back into each other… rebirth… past, present, and future… as well as creation, preservation, and destruction. I did not invent this, but I drew it out myself so that it was me.) But, I also think it’s a wonderful and beautiful piece of artwork if it’s part of you. I love tattoos when they have meaning and beauty to the person wearing them, instead of just a tattoo for the sake of a tattoo.

    And… my mom hates tattoos, as well. She likes mine… oddly. Probably because my sister has a butterfly tramp stamp.

    So, to end my long and rambling response… I love text. I love tattoos. I LOVE when they combine.

    • Ah, Shakespeare… Always a good choice. That is a beautiful sonnet. Though, if I chose a classic poet for a tattoo, it would be Milton’s Paradise Lost.

      Thank for the advice. I will definitely be careful to pick something meaningful.

  82. I don’t have any tattoos but I want one so bad! I looooove women with tattoos. I was thinking of getting “Born this way” in script on my wrist. But that might make me look like a dumbass, like for eternity.

  83. has anyone considered other native languages? It would be interesting for those of us who are omniglots to have this concept laid into the evolution of who we become, one concentric day at a time.

    Like many here, I also share this tremendous relationship with words every day, language as a whole, thinking in different patterns and forms, often impossible to translate, now in 5 languages, going on 6, two of which are bilingual natively fluent.

    LANGUAGE — the entire form of mind & its whole expression– is the passion of my life, I can feel it is in your words too. Above all, I reach out to the world through my words. The fear that plagues me is the loss of ability to use my words to sense and touch and feel everything I come in contact with.

    Like everyone else here, I too fall in love with the story telling abilities of those colors and forms of culture and custom, from the tiny things we take for granted, to the great mistakes we commit and learn from.

    Thank you for inspiring such a strong and innovative concept of relating in a deeper way to something completely mundane like ‘words.’ It’s brilliant! I was going to be getting a prayer tattooed on me, because of the power of certain words, like using an ancient art, I’m like a word spinner and smith, elucidating meanings like a shaman from the power of Promethean language that inspires change in the way people consider their world and what they find in it towards finding their own inner bliss. Your joy is the world’s joy. Much respect.

    D. Ogyen

    • Wow, thank you for such a wonderful comment! I have thought about some tattoos in other languages. My grandmother is Japanese and my grandfather is French-Cajun, so either of those languages seem natural choices (though I’m not fluent in either, unfortunately.) My Japanese name (given to me by my grandmother when I turned 21) is Sumiko, and I have thought of getting a tattoo of that kanji, as well as my grandmother’s maiden name Haimoto.

      I definitely experience and share the world most and best through language, and love all aspects of it. And I am so envious of your extensive language background!

      Thank you again.

  84. If its an ex-con, the more tattoos mean likely a coward. Some tough guy who had got nothing to do used him sort of a guinea pig.

    Tattoos are meant to scare people by a person who is more of a coward. I heard that once so that I never thought of tattoos on me. 🙂

  85. Kinda paraphrasing what you say in your (great) post, the appeal for me was about having some physical badge showing a devotion to literature and language.

    I wanted a tattoo when I moved to Amsterdam, and what was initially going to be an anchor ended up as a quote from Borges’ poem The Dream (El Sueño).

    The poem is about the mind-boggling weirdness of dreams, and in the quote Borges talks about dreaming someone else’s life/them dreaming yours – I chose the quote for the music of the lines, and while my personal meaning for it is not a literal belief in that concept, it ties into common themes in Borges’ fiction that resonate with me for other reasons.

    Here’s the ink and the poem.

  86. A very interesting post! My mother was kind of like that about tattoos…when i got my first one, I didn’t tell her for months but luckily she accepted it when she knew. I only have two small tattoos and one of them is “the rest is silence” which are Hamlet’s dying words. I also love the idea of having a part of a book or poem (or a play!) on my forever. I was hesitant about getting one at all but now I totally have the bug and I’ve got plans for about three more! Good luck 🙂

    • Oh, I LOVE Hamlet. However, I’d be more likely to get the line about Hamlet from T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” : “No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be…” I identify far more with Prufrock than I do with Hamlet. Lol.

  87. I have 4 tattoos. You can see my most recent ones on my blog. (www.confessionsfromthecenteroftheuniverse.wordpress.com)
    In chronological order:

    1) the characters “1C927” This is a reference to a scripture from the Bible 1 Corinthians 9:27 “I Beat My Body and Make It My Slave.” It means a lot to me about self discipline and growth.

    2) Batman has always meant a lot to me in my life: His ingenuity, his humanity, his singularity of purpose, his drive, his uniqueness. The phrase I’m Batman means being rigorously original. On my right bicep is Batman’s cowl combined with a sugar skull motif to celebrate my individuality.

    3) Anchors to me symbolize what you cling to when things get rough. Right around the corner from my cowl is an anchor after the style of Salvador Dali, to represent that I am the only one who is perfect for the role of me.

    4) Is my most recent one. It is “stamp” style tattoo. A simple circle with the word “AUTHENTIC” around the inside. It is my “seal of authenticity.” I will soon add the words, “rugged, classy, comfortable” around the outside.

    I eventually want both arms completed with half sleeves.

  88. I really enjoyed your post! I have a very special tattoo for my sons. The tattoo is an image of the Eye of Horus which, is believed to have healing and protective powers. I have my son Grant’s name on one side, and Logan’s on the other. I love my tattoo, I have had it for 10 years and it’s just as meaningful to me today as the day it was placed on my body!

  89. I don’t have any tattoos either, we’re actually in a similar boat…I want to get the word “unless” in white ink, my issue is just deciding where. I think white is a good way to go because it’s less noticeable and softens the whole scary process (in my mind).

    Good luck! I love literary tattoos.


  90. As a proud geek I LOVE the ‘don’t panic’ tattoo pictured, but I am biased as I have a ’42’ on my wrist (my first). I am thinking of getting more tattoos done and have certainly considered them being quotes. There’s something powerful about words that makes them desirable as tattoos.

    People keep telling me my tattoos should be something that will still be meaningful in twenty years time, but I don’t care if my ’42’ doesn’t mean as much then as it does now. It is a representation of who I am, who I was, where I’ve been etc.

    Also, it doesn’t hurt as much as you might think it does, and I feel your pain about your mother as my mum was very much the same, but I got the tattoo and she has realised that actually, I haven’t turned into a thug over night.

    Good luck, and I hope you find something you want!

  91. I did wind up getting a tattoo when I was eighteen – a butterfly. I have a fascination with them and did not realize how much the symbol actually meant when I got it almost ten years ago, but now I do. The butterfly is a symbol of metamorphosis (Kafka anyone?) and transformation. It embodied the changes I went through in my life from when I was eighteen to now and will continue to grow with me as I change in the years to come. It is also the logo for my new business venture as I help small business owners/future business owners “transform” their ideas into money-making, marketable products/services. I would not take it back for the world, but I would not get another one. I too am in love with the written word, but there are too many wonderful phrases out there and it would be impossible for me to pick just one. Watership Down is amazing though, so if you feel strongly about it – go for it!

    • It’s definitely proving difficult to pick just ONE quote or phrase, though I have at least narrowed it down, and the two I talk about in this post are at the top of the list. I think I will probably start with just the words “Still Rowing”, which will be small, unassuming, and not too painful or expensive, and then see how it goes from there.

  92. personally I am about 75% covered in tattoos. Now the literary tattoo you speak of,well I never heard that term used, I have many tattoos with words that truly mean something for me that no one else gets,that’s OK. You should do what you truly desire! Besides you can get em anywhere so “mother” doesn’t see it. Good luck!

  93. People love to talk about their tattoos. When you see someone in Houston with a beautiful tattoo compliment them on it and ask who the artist is. Make a list and visit different establishments by the time your birthday arrives you’ll be prepared.

    I don’t have any tattoos but lots of I love do. At 26 your skin is still young and pretty, pick a spot that will age well and a spot you can conceal if you choose to.

  94. I, like you, am in love with words. However, save for my burning desire to get a mockingbird on my body, I have only one, tiny tattoo on my body, my right foot.

    My husband is a lot like your mom so it sounds (my mom has tattoos – how cool is that?) but he HATES them. Thinks they are trashy, etc. I disagree. My tattoo is my father’s signature. It’s the perfect balance of love, writing, inspiration, and something that even when I am 95, I will cherish dearly. But hey, that’s just me 🙂

  95. Yeah, the Don’t Panic one is perfect.

    I have the seventh verse from George Oppen’s “Of Being Numerous” on my right inner forearm. It’s my favorite of my tattoos and makes up for the ska tattoos I got when I was younger – luckily, those are pretty hidden 🙂

  96. I find it funny that I merely stumbled upon this blog of yours and felt an immediate connection, like you were writing down my own thoughts for me to re-read. I now feel like I really should read Watership Down (and pull it up to the top of my list)… If you need any help with the design feel free to ask, one of my hobbies is drawing. I wish you luck, and let you know you’ve just caught yourself another follower.

    • Aw, thank you very much. I’m so glad I could say something that connected with you. And you should definitely read Watership Down. Of course, I think everyone should read Watership Down. I’m honored that you’ve decided to stick around, and I look forward to more comments. ^_^

  97. Pingback: A Permanent Relationship With Words: Literary Tattoos (via Amanda Rudd’s Blog) « Wild Writing / Délire d'écrire

  98. First off, let me congratulate you on being Freshly Pressed! I loved this post!

    Secondly, congratulations on taking the plunge and deciding to get a tattoo. It’s true what they say- they are addictive. I should know, I have 3 and plans for more…

    My first was a paw print (for my dog), the second is a little man (everyone thinks he’s a bumblebee) that my Dad drew in the card he gave me for my college graduation and the third is a quote:

    “You’re never too old to become young -MW” [Mae West].

    They’re all very significant for me but my favourite has to be the quote. I really like Mae as an actress but more importantly, this was how my grandmother lived her life (she also had the same initials). I put it on my left shoulder because I want people to be able to read it and remember that it’s important to live life and have fun.

    I also love the written tattoos, I’d love to get another one of my clan motto- “Adversis Immersabilis Undis” (we cannot be overcome by adversity) somewhere on my arm (which one and where I still haven’t decided yet).

    Good luck choosing the right words for your tattoo. You’ll know when you’ve found it/them!

  99. Congrats on Freshly Pressed!

    I don’t have a tattoo, and have never really wanted one, mostly because I couldn’t think of anything that was important enough to me to have tattooed that I couldn’t get a necklace of or express it in another way. However, I have seen some really beautiful and meaningful tattoos. My college roommate had one on her wrist that simply said “Hope” in a pretty script, and I’ve seen some people with tattoos of Bible verses on their chest.

  100. ok i love tatts i have only one but i vow to get more more and more everytime i see new work.

    i dream about how good the pain will be. and the reaction people will give me when they see it.

    my first and only one was selected 13 years ago my daughter was 3. her father and i just finished off a monumental argument. my feelings were hurt.

    so i said, no one will ever induce pain in my heart and soul again ,his words stung my very flesh, i will be the only one who will ever authorize that kind of pain again

    so i went with my uncle and his wife to his friends shop and had it done on my chest so i could look down and see it too.

    im very glad i had it done im gonna do it again and again and again
    i am really

  101. Awesome article I have chosen to republish on my blog about creative writing. When I was a teenager my mom said: no tatoo, no body piercing, no bulldog (I wanted one so badly) and no weird boyfriend… I ended up dating indie rock guys but always was a good girl. I am very tempted by tatoos. I am 33 now and would not get one fearing getting sick or suffering too much. I will go for removable ones… Thanks again for your article and feel free to get in touch with me I am looking for guest posts on my blog, which is most of the time written in French and English.

  102. I have a tattoo, and when I got it 20 years ago or so, I was an opera singer—furthest thing from being punk or a criminal…(That’s for you to tell your mom, when the time arises for you to explain your new INK!)

  103. Hi, im new to WordPress and this post is the first that i have read!
    I’m 18 and i have 2 tattoos already! I have wanted one since I was 7 years old and I think my family thought that it would be a passing phase… nope 😛

    My first i got on my 18th birthday. I got a swallow on my ankle. I spent three years trying to decide on what to get for my first tattoo, and it was a tough decision but i chose a swallow as many sailors had them on their chests to mark having sailed so many thousands of miles. They did this beacuse when they saw swallows it was a sign of land/home. As this was for my 18th it was to mark this special birthday and that no matter what i do or where i go in the future, i will always return home.
    I drew up a design of what i wanted and kept it on my bedroom wall for 3 years, i saw that design every day and after 3 years, i hadn’t changed the design in any way and i still loved it. I knew that was the tattoo for me.

    My second i got only recently. I got a small anchor behind my ear. The reason for this is my best friend was moving back to canada and he changed me and my life in so many different ways. we were on holiday together just before he was to leave. We got matching tattoos. The anchors were to remind us of where we were when he had it done (by the beach) and that no matter where in the world we are and no matter how far away we are from each other. we will always be anchored to each other 🙂 (may seem a bit cheesey) haha

    i love your ideas for your tattoo, and that your tattoo will have a special meaning to you! Good luck in deciding your design and have fun getting it done 🙂

    • Wow, I am so honored to have been the first post you ever read on WordPress! Your tattoos sounds beautiful. I love swallows, they’re just so graceful. Thank you for commenting, and I hope to see you here again!

  104. The Red Wheelbarrow

    so much depends
    a red wheel
    glazed with rain
    beside the white

    By: William Carlos Williams

    Nice to see the tatt of one of my favorite poems.

    My brother is a tattoo artist and he use to say wait with the tattoo until you are really sure and ready, you´ll live with it for the rest of your life (lazer removal just makes it really ugly and leaves scars). But if you know what you want,don´t let fear get in the way, it is a moment of pain for a lifetime of pleasure (if you go to a really good artist, it is worth your while to check them out and travel for a good one). Good luck!

  105. I’m 48 years old. My father is “one of those people” so he doesn’t know I have a tattoo of a tiger on my calf. A large one. It’s been 3 years, and the one time I spent time him in bare legs, I wore a pareo around my waist that dropped to my ankles, and then I went in on the other side of the pool…GREAT POST–thanks!

  106. I have one tattoo, and I am getting the second one in 4 days Appoint made, deposit paid. My first tattoo, says “Live Love Smile” in a font I designed. My second one is two lilllies with “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always” from the Robert Munsch book. Both are on my shoulder blades.

    I didn’t find it nearly as painful, as much as really irritating. Of course, thats all very indivual opinions and where you get it. But I agree, it is so empowering when its all done. I couldn’t where tshirts for months because I wanted everyone to see it. They are addicting too. I’ve had about 5 tattoos planned since before I got my first one, but I started with the smallest just in case I couldn’t handle it. Now that I have one, I plan more and more.

    • They are a bit pricey; most places charge by the hour (my one on Saturday is $260 and will take 2.5hours). My original design actually cost about $600, which at this point in my life I can’t afford. At the shop making my appointment I felt a bit cheap, and they looked at me like I don’t appreciate the art and work in a tattoo. That couldn’t be more untrue, and hopefully I get to express this at my appointment. But price aside, if it something you really want money shouldn’t be a HUGE issue (obviously, it is an unavoidable issue) but my tattoo motto is : set a budget, then jump in with tw feet.

      • Yes, the money is an issue for me. But my plan is simply to save up for awhile. I always receive money from relatives for Christmas and my birthday, so I think they’ll be buying me a tattoo, whether they like it or not. (And most of them WON’T like it. Lol.)

  107. Pingback: A Permanent Relationship With Words: Literary Tattoos (via Amanda Rudd’s Blog) « ~ I Drowned In Words Ages Ago ~

  108. Just the one so far, from Lady Chatterley’s Lover by DH Lawrence.

    “ravished by dead words become obscene and dead ideas become obsessions.”

    getting my second soon. 🙂

  109. I am a tattoo lover, supporter, and advocator!
    I have 8 myself and finally mustered up the courage to get one with words. I had this terribly phobia of becoming one of those people with a misspelled tattoo on those “Worst Tattoo” websites.

    Well, now my back boldly displays “Roots & Radicals” in all of it’s perfectly spelled glory. It’s a lyric from the band, Rancid, but an ideal that I hold close and have for as long as I can remember.

    A lot of the time, people will tell you, “You’re going to regret that in 30 years”. Well, even if I do, I will remember the time, the place, and the state in my life where I was at the moment that I got that tattoo, and I certainly will never regret that!

    Good luck on your first! If it makes you feel any better, my mother didn’t talk to me for a week after I got my first. I was also heavily pierced and had pink hair at the time, haha. (Also, oddly enough, my name is also Amanda and I am also 26! HAH!) Be wary, though! Everything you hear about them being incredibly addictive is true.

    Great post and congrats on being freshly pressed!

    • Wow, talk about coincidences! Nice to meet you, Amanda. (Now I feel like I’m talking to myself…)

      Thank for the advice. Everyone keeps telling me tattoos are addictive, which could be dangerous for me as I have an addictive personality anyway. Lol. But I guess we’ll see how it goes…

  110. This is so interesting because I have a saying that I constantly tell everyone, “I don’t know if I would ever get any ‘WORDS’ on my body.” I feel it defeats the purpose of paper. That’s not why, but there is somethings about writings on the body that are beautiful, but do I really want to paraphrase permanently on my skin. I don’t know, I think there are better expressions with tattoos besides wording, like using artwork to display the phrase or lyric. This is a great post, can’t wait to read again.

  111. I enjoyed reading this because I’m definitely one of those people who doesn’t have a tattoo but loves looking at other people’s tattoos. Two acquaintances of mine have major ones on their chests–one is a diagram of a heart, one’s a wooden ship steering wheel. I think they’re pretty cool.
    I’ve been thinking about what I’d do if I got one…it’d probably be a small Greek word in brown ink.

  112. I have one tattoo and would love to get another. Problem is, my father has the same mentality as your mother. The day I got my tattoo, I had an hour long lecture and I’m suprised my dad didn’t pull out the bible (by the way, I’m 22!). For me, I view tattoo as art and not a label. You can’t even see mine unless I’m wearing a bikini or my shirt rides up a little (it’s a treble cleft on my left hip).

    Even my boyfriend is wary about me getting another one. If I do, I want a sampaguita (Filippine jasmine) on my right shoulder blade. I haven’t done it yet for two reasons: 1) It costs money! and 2) My boyfriend is really against it. I want to honor him, however, I really want it. We’ll see. I may sway him again.

    Good luck with your future tattoo! I didn’t think the pain was so bad that I wouldn’t want to do it again 🙂

  113. I’m not against tattoo’s but I change my mind so often that I would never get one because I know I’d end up hating it down the line. It’s definitley something that requires a lot of thought and preparation. I think you are going about it the right way. 🙂

    • Thank you! I’m the kind of person that tends to love something forever. Years and years later, I still feel the same way about things I loved as a child. So I don’t think I have to worry about changing my mind and regretting something later, as long as I’m careful about what I pick.

  114. I guess I’m approaching a point where I would be considered moderately to heavily tattooed. Your post made me remember the days when I planned and dreamed and obsessed about what I was going to get. The more you get tattooed, the more comfortable you become with what it means to permanently mark yourself…the less obsessive you become. At this point I have an artist I trust to do pretty much anything. I might have a seed of an idea, I tell her and she spins it into an epically gorgeous piece.

    I have some advice.
    1. Research!! There are a lot of artists who really dislike doing script tattoos (and a fair amount who are no good at them). People think that since it’s just words that it doesn’t matter who they go to. So wrong. Especially for delicate scripts. You need to find someone who has a book loaded with examples of words and different fonts. You need to ask them about how they feel about word tattoos. Some artists are far better than others with line work. Same goes for tattoos of animals. Look at portfolios for examples very close to what you want.

    2. Tattoo artists didn’t get into the job so that they could be told what to do. A lot of them really dislike not getting any creative say in what the end result will be. If you bring in a drawing and tell them you want that exact thing, it’s boring for them. Let them guide you and offer suggestions. They know what makes a gorgeous tattoo.

    3. Don’t let an asshole tattoo you. Anyone who is condescending to you because it’s your first tattoo or who is just a dick in general is bad news. You want your artist to be someone who wants to make you happy and relaxed.

    4. It hurts. Ribs, tops of feet, inner arms, thighs and anything directly over a bone is going to hurt like a mofo. Not that you shouldn’t pick those places, but fair warning.

    5. Take care of it, sunscreen for the rest of your life!

    That was really long. Apologies! I would have loved for a little help back when I started getting tattooed though.
    Good luck!

  115. I saw this on Freshly Pressed and I just had to read!

    I have only one tattoo right now, the Assassin’s symbol from the Assassin’s Creed video game series on my left ring finger. I had simply gotten it there because it’s where I thought it was most appropriate. Oddly enough, no one really notices, but it’s cool when another fan sees it.

    As far as the actual process happen, I feel like if I can get a tattoo, anyone can get a tattoo. I hate pain and I hate needles (terrified of them actually), but having something with me now and forever had enough allure that I ended up getting one. I definitely have to look into that white ink. It looks sharp!

    Good luck on finding your tattoo, the Watership Down idea you you spoke of seems like it would be really beautiful.

  116. A tattoo based on a literary passage, reference or illustration is certainly a solid way to go. There is something much more personal about a tattoo that states “To thine own self be true…” or “They danced down the street like dingledodies..” or even a “Oh the places you will go..” than to get a Tweety, or Tasmanian devil or be-skulled viking – simply because it looked cool in the flash book at the tattoo parlor.

    I didn’t get my first tattoo until age 40 – and all of them (yep, more than one) are based on the illuminated letters and artwork found in the Book of Kells – because they have deep personal meaning to me. So tat up – just make sure it has that deep personal meaning for you…like the Black Rabbit of Inle…

  117. Congrads on being chosen for FP. I never gave thought to a tatoo. As a young man I had this childhood vision that some day I would be a James Bond kind of guy, and wanted to insure that there would be no way that anyone could identify me with a tatoo of any kind. To this day, I preceive one having tatoo’s as being “low class.” Thought I remember one wonderful lady I dated in my early forties. She had a tatoo of a butter fly just above her shaving line between her legs. It would peek above a two piece bathing suit, which I thought was real neat at the time. I think of that gal often….she was a great gal.

  118. I don’t have a tattoo (my parents have the same sentiments as your mother, and even at the age of 23 I haven’t dared get a tattoo yet!) but I’ve long thought about getting one. I know for sure I’d like it on my foot, and I’ve considered getting a line from a poem (prefacing the book) by Primo Levi called “This is a Man.” The line would be: “carve them in your hearts” and it is a reminder that we must always remember and take into account the people less fortunate and those who are unjustly prosecuted, discriminated against, tortured, and harmed. It’s inspiration for every day to keep working against this in any way possible.

  119. Lovely post! Word Made Flesh is awesome too. 🙂 I only have two smaller tattoos right now, one is a treble clef with a blue rose and one is a small scarab beetle on my left wrist. I have entire arm sleeves planned out and a whole bunch more all planned. Just need to get my health back up to par enough to actually get them done at some point. And get the money, they aren’t cheap haha.

    The beetle I got from my ex’s friend, she was doing a competition that was a toonie sized tattoo for well, a toonie. $2 for a lovely tattoo seemed like an excellent idea. It was originally supposed to go on my ex but when she told him that she was doing a scarab he let me get it done since i’m obsesssed with Egypt.

    The treble clef I got done when I was 16. I wanted to get a much larger piece but my mom made me downsize and get a smaller one then. The rose isn’t the best but I don’t regret getting it done at all. I love music and roses, and it was a good time in my life. 🙂

    I definitely want to get a lot of tattoos done with words, since they have helped me out through a lot of things when nothing else really word. Words are important and special, getting them tattooed makes them all the more special to whoever is getting them done. Just make sure they’re spelled right. 😉

  120. When I was younger I got a tattoo on my back. It’s the coat of arms of my father’s family. I remember the crazy sensation during its creation: a fork being dragged over my already-scratched back. It lasted about 3-4 hours. Looking back, I think I got it done because I thought somehow it would bring me closer to my father. He was always so proud of his ancestors that I thought I should be too.

    He never got to see it because he died of a heart attack about 12 months later (I was living in NYC at the time, he was in London, the city where I was born and grew up). As the months following his death went by, I came to realise that you’re not defined by your ancestors – who they were, what they did, where they were from – but by who you are and what path you lead, regardless whether you’re a descendent of nobility, or the son of a working-class family. So I’ve decided to get the tattoo taken off my back by laser surgery.

    My father was writing his autobiography when he died. A teen-aged member of the Polish resistance, he had spent time in two concentration camps in Poland at the age of 18 after being caught about to execute two SS officers for mistreating Jewish factory workers. His story, and my family’s, is truly the stuff of Hollywood.

    Which is why after his death I made an oath to finish my father’s story, in the form of a written biography involving me retracing his steps from Poland to London. Once it is finished, and only then, will I remove the tattoo. Until that point, particularly whenever I look in the mirror with my back turned, I will be reminded that I have unfinished business and that his story needs to be told.

  121. I’m in the same boat. 23 years old and I don’t have a bit of (permenant) ink on my body. Not because it hasn’t struck me, but because I have a father who my respect for tends to cancel out some of my wild ideas. I’m not so much afraid of his reaction. I just can’t bring myself to disappoint him.

    I’ve always wanted to tattoo the word ‘love’ across my forearm though. The story behind it is a bit ironic (I later ended up interning with a non-profit called To Write Love On Her Arms), but the idea stemmed from something I started my sophomore year of college.

    I used to write on my arm a lot. Especially during a particularly dark time in my life. I would write lyrics, quotes, or just words that resonated with me and reminded me why I bothered to get up each morning and face another day. Every time I glanced at my forearm, whatever was written there would encourage me as I sought for reason and purpose. Eventually, it dwindled down to a single word: Love.

    Those four letters summed up the purpose and road I chose in life. My reason for existence, and to keep going. To this day I still write it on my right forearm when things get heavy, and it serves as a reminder of who I am and what I dedicated my life to.

    I’ve thought about getting it done in white ink. In a way it seemed fitting in its subtlety because I never wrote it for anyone to see but me. It was personal.

    Maybe one day I might get up the guts to actually do it.

    • That sounds like an absolutely wonderful reason for a tattoo, and I hope your father comes to understand that if you end up getting it. Also, I’d like to say thank you for working with TWLOHA. It is such an important organization with a such a wonderful mission.

  122. The only tattoos I would ever consider getting are words. Like you, words mean everything to me. I only have one right now — It’s from a song that my dad would often play when I was little, and has since become my favorite song strictly because of the words. It’s a little different than a literary masterpiece, but it means everything to me. It wraps around my foot (easily hidden) and says, “I want to write my words on the face of today.”

  123. interesting post. i’m fascinated by the tats too. i have one. it says “love” in the shape of a vine and branches. inspired by a passage in john 15 talking about how god is the vine, and the people are the branches, and apart from god we are nothing. i want another…

  124. Congratulations on FP!

    I do not have any, and I do not think I am going to get any ever. I am changing my mind about pretty much everything constantly, so having something relatively permanent as a tattoo does not make any sense. I do like some of the tattoos on others, and do not make any assumptions about the person based on their tattoos.
    If I ever decide to have one, I will definitely have it well done by a professional, certified, accredited and so on 🙂

    I might e-mail your mom to ask how she managed to stop you from rebelling against all those specific things, I have a feeling I will need those tricks down the road 🙂

    • Lol, my mother is a very dominant personality (she’s a Marine too), and I have always been the quiet, non-confrontational type — with her and everyone else. Certain things make me get up in arms, but it takes a LOT. And so I was never especially defiant unless I felt it was something really worth fighting with her over.

  125. I have three tattoos, one of which is based on a song, and one of which is based on a book, so I totally understand and share your love of literary tattoos! The song quote is “Hear all the bombs fade away” from Sons & Daughters by The Decemberists, and book one is an acorn, from the Artemis Fowl series. Good luck deciding on the perfect tattoo!!

  126. Hey!
    I think the tattoo artist you’ll chose will be able to design your tattoo! You have to find one that draw and design in a style you’d like your tattoo to be… And a safe one, but you know that!
    There are some other website about lettering tattoos but, you can find pretty awesome ones on Pinterest.com. I have a board with some, if you’d like to check (http://pinterest.com/lilith_bernou/lettering-tattoos/), but they’re others like mine 🙂 There is also a pretty good tumblr about tats (of all kind) : http://fyeahtattoos.com/

    My next tat will be a lettering one, but I’m not decided of those I’ll do first ^^

  127. i love this post!

    i have 13 tattoos now, and each and every single one of them mean something, in one way or another. On my left arm, I have: the green cross wrapped with a green mental health awareness ribbon, cheer bear’s rainbow, on my left shoulder; kanji meaning poet, on my left shoulder blade, is a stingray that i designed myself. On my right arm, I have a small cluster of exploding stars. On the back of my neck, from the show firefly, is the aged symbol from the ship, Serenity. On my left leg, I have a series of three butterflies, and a cherry blossom on my ankle. And finally, on my right leg, I have a frog with a fly buzzing overhead, a sunflower on the ankle, and a ladybug on my middle toe.

    I love the idea of using literature as tattoos. Please keep in mind that white ink is very difficult to tattoo. I’ve done all of the tattoos on my lower body, and the white was the hardest color, and the most painful, because I had to continuously go over it. However, like you said, when the tattoo means something to you, the pain is definitely worth it. Chewing gum, and having a mantra often helps.

    mine? “suffering before serenity.”

  128. I’M only 19 and already have four tattoos, and am planning multiple ones based off of literature. I’m a big fan of T.S. Eliot and ee cummings. Watership Down was one of my favorite books. Regarding you being 26 and not having gotten any of the body modifications you always liked, just go for it. Tattoos are something you’ll never regret if you really know what you want. 😀

  129. My tattoo comes from one of the great musical authors of all time, John Lennon, “Living is easy with eyes closed” (can a pic be included with a comment?)

  130. I have one old, really quite sad and faded tattoo, always wanted to get more but never got around to it. As both a chronic panic monkey and a lifelong Hitch hiker’s fan, I could really do with having a ‘Don’t Panic’. A ‘Mostly Harmless’ would be quite apt also.

    It sounds like you have some beautiful ideas. I personally couldn’t handle a Watership Down one, even just the theme music has me in tears!! soft eejit that I am.

    Love your blog, btw, trust you’ll post a pic if and when? 🙂

    • Heh, I panic easily as well and could probably use a “Don’t Panic” reminder on my skin.

      I’m glad you like the blog. And if and when I get the tattoo, I will definitely post pictures.

  131. I Loved this Post Amanda….
    I have three Tattoos at the moment, one is a tribal piece, and two are variations of a design created myself from mine and my daughters initials…

    Why this Post speaks to me is my next planned tattoo…

    I am a poet, I’d like to think a reasonably good poet (?), and my next tattoo will be a poem, probably a Sonnet or a pair of Sonnets, which will be inked on me from my left shoulder in a tight spiral all the way to my left wrist… Essentially, my entire arm will be inked with my own words… The hardest part is writing something worthy of being permanently marked on my skin, though all my pieces, almost without exception, are an indelible part of me.

    I’d love to see Yours next May!!!


  132. Thank you for this post on your blog. I myself have many tattoos, which consist of my stars…like in the sky,not actors etc… 🙂

    After the first initial sting of the rapidly fast in and out of the needle, the area becomes numb. I love that feeling btw.

    So, be choosy as to what you want and go for it! LIke Madonna says “Express yourself”

    Cheers~ H

  133. I LOVE literary tattoos as well! So far I only have one, but have two planned

    I have my last name (not actually Francis) on my right foot below my ankle currently.

    Next two planned:

    – Hic Sunt Leones (Here be Lions) on my left shoulder blade
    – We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little lives are round with a sleep, on my left foot starting at the pinky toe, running along the bottom of my foot and up the back of my calf

    They are big commitments though, the first one doesn’t seem to have impacted my ability to be the Corporate Whore that I am, and neither would the Shoulder blade one, but I was en route to get the Shakespere one earlier this year and balked at the fear that it would impact my career. WUSS.

    I’ve also thought about getting a white ink one with the word ‘laugh’ on the medial side of my right wrist.

    Never wanted a picture though… 🙂

    • Yes, the impact on your career is always a concern and what many anti-tattoo people cite as the best reason not to get one. But I’ve met so many professors (which is my chosen career path) now who have tattoos, that I’d like to think, even if I get a tattoo somewhere visible (which I might not), it won’t be a huge problem when I start looking for a job.

  134. I have a handful of tattoos. Each of them was selected fairly ‘last minute’ but since they represented a change or turning point in my life, I love them all. I also have the piercing (a lip stud), once had a boyfriend with a motorcycle, and I have dying my hair a fun color on my list of things to do this year, especially since I quit the day job scene to write full time. My own mother has come to terms with all of these things. 😉

  135. I have one! I spent a long time trying to figure out the best tattoo to get to be representative of my infatuation with the writings of Borges. I was trying to think of an image that was tied to his work and at a certain point realized that a better tattoo for me and my relationship to his writing was a line from Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius (http://www.coldbacon.com/writing/borges-tlon.html):

    hlor u fang axaxaxas mlo

    It’s a line in the fictional language of Tlon that means “upwards behind the onstreaming it mooned” and manages to represent the complexities of langauge, translation and how words shape the way we perceive the world.

    I have a friend who got a tattoo in white ink in on her hand that said “I will not tell lies” –or whatever the exact line was that Umbridge made Harry Potter write on his hand as punishment. Pretty clever, I thought.

    • I’ll admit I haven’t read much Jorge Borges but that definitely sounds like a fascinating choice for a tattoo. Also, your friend’s tattoo is very clever. I’d never have thought of that.

  136. I have what might be called two tattoos or four tattoos. They all correspond to rites of passage, so to speak. You are putting something permanent IN your body – the ink goes under the skin – this is a BFD. Mine were all done within the context of a ritual of some sort and they are all unique to me or a small group including me and those close to me.

    One is a rune for protection with a celebratory flourish added later when the protection was no longer needed. One was a matching tattoo with my love, later incorporating an upgrade it became our ‘wedding rings.’ I have never had much interest in a tattoo that is likely to be found exactly the same on someone I do not know.

    Also, text is tricky because tattoos can fade and blur over time and tiny details run together and such. If you want text, I recommend you look at someone who has worn a text tattoo for many years and find out who did theirs.

    Congrats on making a decision to do this; it will probably thrill you.

    Also, about how to handle the pain: Breathing techniques can be VERY useful, and a tattooist who understands them and is willing to go your pace. If you do meditation or yoga, you might know what I am talking about.

    GOOD LUCK and enjoy! Thanks for sharing.

    • I also don’t want something that just anybody else could have. I know that other people have read the same things I have and might be inspired by them in similar ways, but it’s still not as likely to see someone else with a tattoo that says “still rowing” as it would be for something more common.

      And thank you for the advice. I really appreciate it.

  137. Pingback: Love it… « This girl's blog

  138. I have the symbol for “infinity” tattooed on the back of my neck. I wanted that symbol on my body since I was 15 years old. I first encountered it in math class and came to regard it as a symbol of love and life. For me, both never end. The fact that it is permanently a part of me is just another layer of its symbolism.

    I will definitely get more tattoos as my life unfolds. When my first child is born, I will get a line from one of my favorite songs on my right foot. And when I receive my black belt in jiu jitsu, I will have the words “Faixa Preta” between my shoulder blades. For me, words and symbols mean more than pictures of things which can easily become distorted as time passes. The words or symbols might fade a bit, but their essence will still be as clear when I’m 90.

    (Love the tattoo that references “The Amber Spyglass”, btw!)

  139. I think the best tattoo that you showed in your post was the white text one that said “I am haunted by humans” although that’s probably because I just finished and loved that book (The Book Thief by Markus Zusak).

    I don’t have any tattoos, but the idea of getting a literary one is interesting. If I had to pick a phrase for one now, it would be one of the following:

    “We are always more afraid than we wish to be, but we can always be braver than we expect.” – Sorilea from Lord of Chaos, book 6 of the Wheel of Time.

    “The life of a person is more than just the chaos of it’s passing.” – Vin from The Hero of Ages, book 3 of the Mistborn Trilogy

  140. Congratulations! Yes, for the tattoo, but even more for doing what you want. I’m also a tattoo lover. I only have one, but there are plans for the second. It’s “hold” on my left hand on the web of skin where thumb joins hand, and then “fast” in the same spot on my right hand. It’s a commitment to being an artist first. Keep going!!!

  141. I so agree with you that you must really put some thought into what type of tattoo you want and where you want one before you get one. Like you, my wanting my own ink was a feeling that never passed. And, since my first one, I have added four more. With each one I still put a lot of thought into them because I feel that they should have a significant meaning. I recently got my first literary tattoo of some sort a month ago; and I love it.

  142. It’s almost scary how much I relate to this (close-minded mother, purple hair, piercings/tattoos, motorcycle, etc). Funny enough, I’ve decided I’m dying my hair at the end of this summer. Hurrah for change!

  143. I’m currently planning my first tattoo, this post is brilliant! I love those pictures! My tattoo will also be based on words, however it will be an affirmation that reminds me of how far I’ve come in this journey of mine. I’m currently playing around with the words: “With faith comes hope” with a dove or butterfly. I love the new ideas this post has inspired!

  144. Don’t Panic is great. I have one tattoo, for my son. I would like to get several others. I would like a quote from Ray Bradbury.

    “You must stay drunk on writing so reality doesn’t destroy you.”


    “Jump, and you will find out how to unfold your wings as you fall.”

  145. I’m a Shakespeare girl. My favourite quote is from King Lear spoken by the King on seeing his daughter die in front of him: “never, never, never, never, never…” Kind of the ultimate expression of grief, don’t you think?
    Not sure if I would commit it to my body but your post has got me thinking. I’m a word geek so personally I’d stick to words without images. I think the shapes of letters in words are beautiful all on their own. Thanks for the inspiration and congratulations on being freshly pressed!

    • The word “never” is very powerful, indeed. I think for me the best representation of it is in Elie Wiesel’s Night:
      “Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky.
      Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever. Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.”

  146. I loved this post, and have added those two to my Reader! I love literary tattoos. I have one on my neck in Gaelic which translates to “my father’s daughter”. It was a father’s day gift. I really want to get more… Shakespeare, Chaucer, Neil Gaiman… so many wonderful words, so little space lol!

  147. I have three tattoos. One is large, in color – cross and rose (last name – da roza) on my back. Then I found, like you, a fascination with words. I have “inner strength” in Japanese on my neck and “faith” in Greek on my left wrist. I love other languages and I love words. I want my next tattoo to be a dance quote, probably something from Martha Graham, on my foot. I sometimes am insecure about having different languages and words done in ink on my body because people think tattoos should be these artistic, colorful pictures. Well, words, poems, books, etc. hold heavy in my heart, like you. So thank you for sharing. And do tons of research. I would start by a recommendation of someone you know for a tattoo shop and then make a consultation to get a feel, etc. Good luck!

  148. I love this post! I also have never had a tattoo but keep coming back to the idea of getting one. AND I ALSO have a mother who would think I’d gone to the dark side if I got one (which is one of my largest motivators for waiting). I’m 28 and I figure one of these days I’m just going to go out AND DO IT — once I find exactly what I want and decide where the heck I want it. Then I just have to wear long underwear indefinitely when coming into contact with my mother. 🙂 Hope your tattoo experience is a perfect one!

  149. I have “At any street corner, the feeling of absurdity can strike any man in the face” on my tummy, and “We are like roses, that have never bothered to bloom when we should have bloomed, and it is as if the sun has become disgusted with waiting” on my forearm. I adore literary tattoos.

  150. Nice post. I’ve thought about a tattoo for years – never been the right time to get one although I see ink on my skin in the near future. 🙂

    If you would like to see some lovely examples of literary tattoos, check out Jacqueline Carey’s website – http://www.jacquelinecarey.com/ – under her “Gallery and Archive” in the side menu and what people have done based off her books. Some of it is lovely.

  151. I have love all on my right arm, it was my second tattoo & I’m still as in love with it as I was the day I got it. Next up is “Light a candle” (full quote: It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness)… and an iris.

  152. Great post! I love tattoos; I love seeing what people get, and how they relate to the person. The problem with them can be people getting them for the wrong purpose – out of rebellion, or peer pressure, or because it’s “cool”, instead of because you want a representation of something that’s a big part of you on your skin forever.

    Which is why I got a tattoo, for the representation. I have a set of three wolf paws on my shoulder for various reasons; mostly because I’ve always been close to canines and wolves fascinate me, and because I read and fell in love with White Fang by Jack London when I was nine, and it changed me. I suggest thinking about, instead of words, finding an image that represents the book for you, just because words can quickly become too much.

    But then, I’m all for the minimalistic approach when it comes to tattoos.

  153. I’m an ink addict. So far, I have four with my most recent one being barely a week and a half old today. I’ll give you the VERY basic run-down on the significance, since to go into the full meaning of them would take nothing short of a novel.
    I have three small nautical stars on my leg starting just above my knee and stretching to my belt line. They symbolize guidance and direction in my life. I got them at a time where I had no clue what I was doing or what I wanted to do with my life.
    My second and third are part of a trilogy, of which I still need the final piece. The second is an infinity cross with a rose bud and two butterflies located in the lower right portion of my back. My third is a half-way opened rose with another butterfly in the center of my back. The next piece will be a fully opened rose with, you guess it, another butterfly or two on my left shoulder blade. The basic significance of this set is a combination of my recognition of my relationship with God, knowing that I have friends and family around to help me whenever I need it, and the sheer fact that love, even a new love, really can conquer all.
    And my newest and my current favorite is a two-inch scorpion on my ankle. One of the most significant meanings of this tattoo is that I recently spent four months in Arizona for Army training, and the amount of growing up and changing that I did in that time is incredible. I went from being the shy kid that was afraid of hurting anyone’s feelings to being the quietly-plotting soldier who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to go after it.

    To be honest, until recently I had been highly opposed to getting a literary tattoo. I’ve since concluded that this opposition sprang from the sad fact that most I had seen were very poorly done. However, I’ve now seen plenty that turned out great and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before I have some random meaningful word inked somewhere on my body.

  154. This was such a great post! I also have always wanted a tattoo but I just never did it. I started looking through the two websites you listed, though, and I love what I see. Part of me really wants to get one done now (somewhere inconspicuous, though, since I just started my first job where tattoos would be very frowned upon), and maybe if I find or think of the right one I will. Again, great post!

  155. I love The Word Made Flesh photos, particularly the wheelbarrow one! I don’t have any tattoos, but a few years ago I was debating between spending my money on a tattoo (the word “create” on the inside of my pinky) and dying my hair blue or going abroad for the summer. I chose abroad. It was great. But I still think about a tattoo…I think I’m over the hair though. -abi

  156. I got my literary tattoo about three and a half years ago, when I was 19. It’s my favorite author’s initials, and it STILL makes me happy to think I always have a little bit of one of my favorite people with me all the time.

    Should I ever get another one, it would either be from The Outsiders (Stay Gold, of course. Maybe it’s cliche, but dammit, I love Johnny Cade) or something from Jane Eyre. I recently reread JE and had a total literary girl-crush on Jane. She’s just such a badass! Gotta love a girl who respects herself.

    The Watership Down tattoo sounds like it would be awesome, but it also sounds like it would be kind of big/painful. Don’t let anyone tell you tattoos don’t hurt–they do. A LOT. If it’s something that means something to you, however, it’s definitely worth it.

    Any particular place you’re thinking about getting the tattoo done? You should pester an artistic friend into drawing up a sample for you and then put it on various parts of your body until you find a place you like. 🙂

    Good luck!

    • Yes, I suspect the Watership Down tattoo would hurt, though obviously it would depend on where I decide to put it.

      So, if you don’t mind my asking, which author’s initials to you get tattooed? I’m so curious!

  157. I’ve got a tattoo on my wrist that says “timshel” in Hebrew, which means “thou mayest.” It’s from East of Eden, by John Steinbeck.

    I’m afraid of commitment and needles, so a tattoo didn’t really make sense for a while, until I realized that I’m never going to love East of Eden less than I do (it’s my favorite book), and I’m never not doing to the remind that to conquer over evil, over sin, is an ability–a choice (that’s what the word, and the whole book, really, is all about). So I decided I was okay committing myself to it. And it really didn’t hurt that much.

  158. are you famiair with the work of (hypertext) novelist Shelley Jackson? (She’s best known for her break out work Patchwork Girl… recommended). She has a project you should look into on this topic: http://ineradicablestain.com/skin.html

    The story is written on the skin of volunteers, who tattoo the word on themselves that Jackson selects.

    I have a number of tattoos myself at this point, and there is one aspect of tattooing that often get’s unacknowledged, even by those with ink themselves. In addition to the obvious pictorial/visual aspect, a tattoo is also a visual recording of an experience. This seems obvious, but the reminder is important. None of our actions can be undone, and a tattoo is a literal reminder of this. But even more importantly, it is proof that one has gone through the experience of tattooing, of actually feeling the needle and there is a bond in this, particularly for those who have the strength of mind to endure.

  159. so interesting! i really like when you said that a tattoo allows you to be in contact with culture and art. i shared it with a friend that loves tattoo and literature… maybe she would copy some of the examples you put here. grettings from Argentina!

  160. I have the word “umkehren” in small typewriter font on my forearm. the “why?” is explained here:

    I’m in the process of working on a larger tat for my back, I’ve gone into the shop for one session and will need another to have it executed. I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve been thinking about it for years, but hadn’t found the right artist until very recently.

    I think you have the right motives, you sound do it when you find the right person to work with.

  161. I have 10 tattoos. One of them is simply “Prevail” to remind me to keep moving even though there will always be difficult situations. Another is “I will find a way or make one, either conquer or die” in latin. I try to base my “word” tattoos on something that means a lot to me, like perserverance through pain and bad times. It reminds me that I am strong. I love tattoos and think they are well worth it, as long as you know for sure what you want to get and why. Of course, I have my small tattoos that make no sense to the outside world, but I love them.

  162. I like the idea of tattoos, just not the idea that someday down the line I might really regret it. My little brothers want to get them because it’ll piss off our mum 🙂 But if I did get one, it’d have to be a literary one. I am in love with Jasper Fforde’s muse, and I’d probably have to make a shortlist of quotes or images I’d want from his books. It would be a tough choice 🙂

  163. The one difference between “bloggers” who know about real tattooing and those who don’t: the ones who don’t NEVER credit the tattoo artist who did the work, haha. If I did that on my tattoo blog, I’d have people actually knocking on my door.
    Congrats on being freshly pressed though, “literary tattoos” can be pretty cool. If you get one though, unless it’s going to be one word (my only lit-themed tattoo says “Nevermore”), you should get an actual picture. Occasionally people who have lines of text look alright, but those lines are going to blur in time, so make sure you get a proper tattoo- of a picture! Or one word, haha.
    I think your mother would really hate me.

    • Also- massive props for actually wanting to go to a great studio instead of getting some idiot friend to do it. Sometimes it feels like smarter people like yourself are a rare breed, haha.

    • Well, the pictures of the tattoos are not mine. They are from a blog called Word Made Flesh, and if you click on each picture it takes you to the original post — most of the people who posted these did indeed include the name of the artist who did the tattoo (though not all of them), but that was a choice/oversight of each person who submitted a picture to the blog.

  164. Great post! How about getting a tattoo of a tattoo described in a book? I’m a big fan of Ishmael’s tattoo of sperm whale measurements (it’s a passing reference in chapter 102).

  165. LOVE THIS POST!!! I love the way you style your sentences from your thoughts. It’s similar to how I try to express myself, I think. I’ve always been told that I write just like I talk, so I think that’s a good thing! I think it, I speak it! haha Anyway, I do have two tattoo’s. Technically, I’ve been tatted three times, but only have two tattoo’s to show for it. (One was a coverup, can you say, OOPSIE DAISY?!)
    First tattoo, very long story that I won’t go into in this forum, was a chinese symbol meaning love and the name Brandon spelled out horizontal below the symbol on my back. (In a quick, super quick disclosure, I did get that when I was dating a Brandon. Ended up marrying the same Brandon…and then divorcing him, too. Hence the oopsie! cover)
    Speaking of that cover, I ended up getting a design with multi colored stars to coverup the name and thenthey touched up the color in the chinese symbol (I still liked THAT) to match.
    Other tattoo is unfortunately, a “tramp stamp”. Someone once told me not to call it that, but you know what? I got it, I own it. I’m not a tramp, but that’s what it’s called and that’s how people know exactly where it is without having to say “its right above my arse and below my lower back.” I digress… I did get it before it was popular and nicknamed the “tramp stamp”, in my defense. It’s my chinese horoscope symbol in the middle and a design on either side that flows off of it.

    I do love tattoo’s, but my only suggestion would be to sit on whatever decision you end up with for at least a couple of months before taking the plunge. When I was 16, I tried to get a tattoo with my friend from this guy who, get this, did them out of his double wide trailer for $50 hard cash. I was determined to get a green frog because for some weird reason I loved frogs at that time and green was also my favorite color. THANK GOD I decided to be super rebellious and attended a party the night before where some drunken scoundrel ended up stealing my money, so I had nothing to pay mister “I tattoo from my trailer” with. THANK GOD. Coming back to current day, I don’t really care for frogs (at all!) and my favorite color is pink. My, my, how things could have been sticky with my parents when they saw what I was intending to do that next day. I’m so glad a lot of my plans were foiled!!!! …not to mention what kind of diseases I could have ended up with if the guy didn’t have sterile equipment. And, that was almost 14 years ago! I’m scared for what my kids may just try to plot out in this day and age… Ay yi yi…

    Good luck!

    • Thank you so much! I’m so glad you like the blog!

      It’s also nice to hear some cautionary tales about tattoos, so thanks for sharing! The guy tattooing out of his trailer sounds like a bad idea, I’m glad you were able to avoid it in the end.

  166. I have two tattoos, one is just a prety design, and the other is of a flock of birds. I have been holding out for my literary tattoo, I’ve narrowed the poems down and Emily Dickenson’s “I Died for Beauty” is on the short list. Just a portion of it – but which portion?

  167. Ever since law school, I’ve been kicking around the idea of a tattoo consisting of the word “Justice” in Braille. (Justice is blind….) The only reason I still don’t have said tattoo is that I can’t decide where to put it!

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  169. I’m working on a literary based design that will complete the sleeve for my right arm. Once that’s done my body will be about 50% covered in ink. Every line has significance, every image has meaning, and the pieces–as they flow together follow a common theme and tell a story. I usually design my tattoos around an image representing a milestone or major challenge in my life and the background and surrounding area that merges it with existing tattoos then sets the mood and tells the story.

  170. When I was 17 I started thinking about tattoos. Back then I was obsessed with Marvin the Martian and I swore that getting a tattoo of the little guy was the way to ring in my 18th birthday. Good thing I didn’t.
    I would say, in the case of tattoos…Go Big or Go Home. There is no sense in scarring your body for life if you’re not going to make a big statement. Make it represent something about you that will never change. I have a tattoo of a Guam Seal, because my genetic makeup is permanent. Place the tattoo somewhere that your skin is unlikely to change. My skin has stretched in places so I knew that my ankles were safe as well as my forearms for ink. And as a tattooed person and a mother….do not get a tramp stamp.

  171. OMG! Amanda, I go on vacation for one week and I come back and see you’re Freshly Pressed! Hoorah! You are awesome! Love the tattoo post; I love em too. I have three. One is a literary tat, a symbol that represents Anais Nin, a french bohemian writer who was so risque’ in her day, they had to put symbols on the flyers rather than her name cause the government would tear them down. Love her infamy! I plan on getting an Adrienne Rich one, cause you know I LOVE her, but can never settle on one line. Next up will something Jane Austen I’m sure. Tattoos are so fun. Congrats again girl!

    • I know, it’s insane, isn’t it! I’ve been in shock all week. I’ve also thought about getting an Adrienne Rich tattoo (I’ve got quite a few ideas at this point), specifically “a wild patience has taken me this far” from “Integrity.”


  172. Pingback: A Permanent Relationship With Words: Literary Tattoos (via Amanda Rudd's Blog) « Fashion Blog- clothing store

  173. I love literary tattoos as well. I’ve considered a Watership Down-themed tattoo myself, actually, along with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Dune. The one I think about the most seriously is something from John Varley’s Titan, maybe a Titanide, but more likely Gaea.

  174. One thing to remember about white ink – if you really don’t like it in the future white ink is very difficult if not impossible to get removed.

    I got my first tattoo when I was 27 and I didn’t tell my mom about it either for about six months (she finally noticed it, at a funeral of all places, because she could see something through my black tights). She actually didn’t make as big of a deal out of it like I thought she would.

    Whatever you get, take some time (I recommend at least six months) to think about your idea. If it doesn’t change and you still really want it by the end of the time period, find a really good artist and make an appointment. A *good* artist will schedule a consultation with you before you get your tattoo, and then when you go in for your appointment they will have a sketch for you to look at and make sure that it’s perfect. Remember, this is going to be on your body permanently so it’s not the time to go with a cheap artist. If you have friends with tattoos, start asking them for recommendations (and look at their tattoo to see if it’s good and a style you like). Good luck!

  175. Hi there!

    I’m a tattoo artist that graduated with a degree in rhetoric and writing from the University of Texas at Austin, and I definitely share your enthusiasm for literary tattoos. Love the red wheelbarrow one especially! I have an Adrienne Rich quote tattooed across my forearm and it’s one of my favorites (it says “inch by inch the starry worlds,” from “For Memory”).

    Quick 2 cents – if you want a tattoo and you want to actually have it forever, nix the white. The problem with white tattoos is as follows:

    When you get a tattoo, the tattooer is working with 2 of your 3 layers of skin. The 3 total are your epidermis (regenerative), your dermis (nonregenerative), and your subcutaneous layer (fatty tissue). Though a white tattoo looks really nice when you first get it and can even look nice for a month or even a year right after, once that epidermis regenerates and grows over the dermis, it’s usually patchy and definitely won’t last you forever. Every tattoo you’ve ever seen, even though it’s not immediately obvious, is viewed through a layer of skin that is pigmented the same color as the rest of the person’s blank skin!

    Also, white tattoos are easy to screw up because you can’t see how deep you’re going while your working as easily, and they often heal really patchy and need a bunch of touchups. A lot of tattooers won’t touch up white tattoos for free, either, because they know off the bat they’ll have to do it so many times and cost of setup and breakdown is high per tattoo.

  176. I have three tattoos: a jigsaw heart on the inside of my left heel, a quill on the inside of my right wrist and the Italian for “I am courageous” on the inside of my left wrist. Each of them is highly personal to me, with multiple meanings and each represents something important about myself.

    I never recommend anyone getting anything they just “like” or think is pretty for a tattoo. Things, tastes and circumstances change. My advice is to get something that really means something to you or that represents something unchanging about your life or your personality – that way you will never get bored of it and you will never regret it 🙂

    And, unless it’s on your face or your hands, you can always hide your tattoos from your mother 😉

  177. Love this post, fellow bibliophile. I have a tattoo- my husband and I were avid motorcyclists when we met (I drive a mini-van now) and I wanted to show my undying love in the most cliche way by having his name tattooed on my body. I’m half-Korean- so I got his name in Korean characters in a heart surrounded by a tribal symbol. I told him it was to merge my culture with my love for him. But, the truth is that, if it didn’t work it- I wanted to be able to tell folks it meant “Health” in Chinese. That was 11 years ago and we are still married. Love the white ink. Never saw that before and congrats on FP!

  178. I have two, I’d like to get one more. One is a trio of tribal style dragon heads, above a variation of the ancient male symbol, the blade, that wraps to the underside of my bicep on my left upper arm.

    What I’d like to do is something that begins with the armband, goes around the dragon heads, and up onto my chest, shoulder and back. I’ll probably try to design it myself, I want to include some thematic ideas, like an ankh.

    I waited until I was 31 for my first tattoo. I realized no matter what anyone else said, if it had meaning for me, that’s what mattered.

  179. Well said! My husband started getting tattoos at the age of 45. He is a missionary and spent many years as a pastor. You can imagine all the ‘those people’ he meets. But his tattoos are thought out, well-planned and meaningful illustrations of his life’s story. I absolutely love the idea of literary tattoos.Thanks for posting!

    • Most people think of tattoos as some rebellious thing you did as a young adult, so its absolutely fascinating to hear so many stories about people getting their very first tattoo in their 40s and 50s — even in their 60s! I think that’s amazing and shows that they really know what they want.

  180. I have ” This Above all to thine own self be true…” tatted on my right side. I was originally going to get Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 tatted there but was told my rib cage was too small. Then I just so happened to stumble across this quote from Hamlet and fell in Love with it. I took my own personal meaning from it and it now serves as a constant reminder that no matter what I should always put my desires for my Life above what others may desire for me.

  181. love your ‘still rowing’ idea! i have many tattoos and many of them are lettering or involve lettering. my favorite of all mine is on the inside of my arm saying, ‘steady as she goes’.

  182. WOW! congratulations on going on Freshly Pressed! and holy crap that’s awesome tattoo’s!! I’ve been wanting to get one or two but you sure took it to the next level 🙂 wowwee!

  183. i have the trumpet from the crying of lot 49 behind my ear. i picked an inconspicuous place on purpose, as the symbol’s true meaning became ambiguous as the novel unfolded. it’s nice when people recognize it; reminds me that maybe a few people still read.

    i also have always wanted a watership down tattoo, and have drawn mine out with el-ahrairah about 5 inches on the left side of my upper chest, with frith behind/above him on my shoulder. it’s been my favorite novel every since adolescence.

  184. I have 11 tattoos, 9 of them are words or phrases. Most are on my chest and arms. 2 are from Common Rider the band. The rest are original. My chest is pretty covered with a short poem I wrote in college. I even have a Harry Potter tattoo on my arm. If you think them through and plan them out well, then you will never regret them. Even when you become a High School Math teacher like me!

  185. Like many of you, i really want a tattoo and i have soo many ideas that are not only meaningful, but have background. My only problem is that i get bored so easily (heck, i rearrange my room every other month) and i’m afraid i will regret getting it in the future,

  186. Pingback: Literary Tattoos: « Luschia Porter COFA Design Studio 4

  187. My mother is the same. She says that when i will have kids and i will go to a parent meting the other parents , they will not like me and my kid.
    This kind of stuff she says always when i talk about tattoo. She has a point , in a weird way.
    By the way Greetings from Romania . (and sorry for my bad english)

    • Well, I think it also depends rather a lot on WHAT you get as a tattoo and WHERE you put it. But yes, some time in the future you will have to deal with someone’s negative reaction.

  188. Awesome post! I have five tattoos, none of them with words on them. I’d be too afraid that the crispness of the words wouldn’t be preserved over time.

  189. I have a bunch…my burning heart for my mother, the words “Nemo Nisi Mors” on my forearm, wonder woman and circe, a venus fly trap, and my giant blue squid. I love them. I’m incredibly patient with my selections, making sure I really want them. That way, there’s no regret.

    The next one I’m going to get is based on the quote “If nothing ever changed, there’d never be any butterflies” I think what I want is to have a flock of black filled butterflies, very tiny which appear to just be darting out of my skin, and one which is bright red or something…not quite sure. But I’ve tossed it around for moths, and I’m sure of it.

    Whatever you love, it will make sense when you find it. (and that William Carlos Williams one is BRILLIANT. I’d prefer plums myself though 😛 )

  190. Mmmmm, I can see you have very interesting opinios about tattoos…
    I am just planning to get the first and only one in my body… I really wish the mistic dragons and I am looking a nice and beautiful one to start the job. So, ALL YOU, please feel free to send your recommendations and a nice dragons picture, before it get done,

    Really apreciate!

  191. I love the post, and love tattoos. I have a few (I have been under the needle 6 times) and I’m definitely addicted. I have a literary tattoo on my chest that you can check out here (please check it out!!!!) along with my other tats: http://bit.ly/qzxilm

  192. that’s wonderfull. . .
    actually i want to make some tatoo in my arm but i’m not allowed to do that. till now I am still amazed by the beauty of a tattoo.

  193. My father is also one of “those people” who believes that a tattoo is an accurate sign of being a punk, criminal, and even cheap!

    Not only does literary tattoo connect you to literature, but to art, as well. To write is to create art.

    Some of the photos you provided have inspired me to one day create (or copy and alter one of these) a tattoo for myself. I’ve ever only wanted one tattoo, but wouldn’t get it until I’m older and have a hefty amount of extra cash.

    This has inspired something small, and less expensive, and also meaningful—in the near future.

    Thank you,

  194. I don’t have a tattoo either, perhaps, because of my belief (religion) that’s why I’m afraid to have one. But willing to have a temporary one, like henna. “The Word Made Flesh” just got me inspired. It’s very artistic unlike those tattoo made out from prison. Haha.

    But yeah, I’m still hoping to have one some day. If it wasn’t just because of my belief.

  195. Sorry, but I think by the time you’re 60, with age folds and cellulite, that “Still Rowing” will morph into “Slowing.” Instead, plant all those incredible words on paper where they’ll flame against people’s hearts and minds. You’re body is perfect the way it is.

  196. I have two tattoos. The first one I had to do because I lost a bet. Everyone on my track team got tattoos in Spring Break when we went to FL to train. It was my first year on the team & I said I wouldn’t be going through with the tradition. Of course, I was made fun of. I finally told them that if I won my race at the upcoming invitational, then I’d get one. I forgot my wager as I accidentally crossed the finish line first. I ended up with track wings on the outside of my left ankle on the bus ride home. I love this tattoo.

    My second tattoo came a few years later as my younger sister’s 18th birthday present. We both got the tattoo on our wrists; “Virtue Mine Honour” with a celtic knot to make a bracelet. We are of the Scottish clan MacLean & this phrase is from our clan’s family crest, so this has a lot of meaning to us. I get a lot of comments about this tattoo, and even though it is considerably more visible than the first, I still adore it. I love seeing those words, right there on by my right hand (my sister’s is on her left arm because she writes with her left hand).

    A word of advice though: only get a tattoo when you are truly up for it & it truly means something to you. Even though my track wings were a bit coerced, it was still something I had been thinking about doing for a very long time. If you pick a location that is visible or can’t be covered for a job interview, make sure that it is VERY tasteful & be prepared to talk about it a lot. It took me a few years between tattoos, so I don’t subscribe to the notion that they are addictive. Though I am thinking of a literary tattoo, but not words, but an image of the white whale, Moby Dick…I just haven’t decided on where to put him yet!

  197. I am 25 and I am getting my first tatto in October. My friend has offered to pay for it. I am getting a black and grey tattoo of two roses and the name “kuntz” under those roses in memorial of my grandparents. For my second tattoo I gonna have an image of an open book with the quote “People say that life is the thing, but I prefer to read” surrounding it. I love to read. For my third and probably my final tattoo I will be getting an angel wrapped in yellow flowers to symbolize the my friendship with my mentor and how I think of her as my personal angel. The third will probably be a back piece or on my ribs.

  198. I found your blog somewhat randomly, through the WordPress featured posts. I see we share a mutual interest in religion.

    I definitely share your sentiments here. I can’t quite pull the trigger on a tatoo either. Someday, though, I keep telling myself. But, the eternal dilemma: what if it looks ridiculous in twenty years? Or in ten? Or in five? Or in a year, god forbid!? On the other hand, though, a person could have just as much regret over having never taken the plunge and inked themselves up.

    • Exactly. Even though I’m still young, I already have several regrets of things I wish I’d done but was too afraid to, and now those moments have passed me by. I have always been the kind to hyper-analyze and debate everything, which has often kept me from doing things I wanted to do, but if one of my wishes, impulses, etc. makes it past this stage of hyper-analysis, then I generally don’t regret it. So the fact that I’ve been thinking about getting a tattoo for YEARS and still haven’t changed my mind should be an indication that I won’t regret it. I hope.

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  200. Hey! Loved the post 🙂
    My mother was the same way and I was like you. Somewhere I snapped and dyed my blonde hair black (crazy in my mom’s world). Then came the first piercing. Then the second and third, all on impulse. My dad owns a motorcycle and I plan on getting one soon. I’ll be getting my tattoo soon, as well. I’ve wanted one for years but I finally know what it will be: ‘be.’ in white and black ink. There’s a story for it, of course, but here is my advice to you: Your mom WILL get over a tattoo if you get one, but make sure you are set on it for at least a year (after all, it IS permanent!). She may not be happy if it turns into a regret tattoo but you’re smart, I know you won’t let that happen. Don’t let someone else stop you from living 🙂

  201. I love tattoos, but sadly, I am unable to get one due to a overwhelming fear of needles. (A recent trip to the ER has confirmed this for me.) From working in retail and seeing other peoples tattoos, I would just say be sure in what you want, and be patient. I would actually recommend getting a henna of what you want tattooed purely because it is not permanent. You’ll live with it for a few months and you’ll know what you want and what you don’t want.

    OH! And if your mother is anything like mine, put it somewhere easily hidden (Like the shoulder, leg, or above the sleeve line on your arm). That way when she’s in a particular mood, you can hid it so she has to look for it!

  202. I am not there, I have not left was creepy.

    Good photos but I think tatoos are not cool. Natural skin is better, art on your skin is just not my thing.

  203. One of my favorite quotes is the anonymous proverb: “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.” In honor of that, and the fact that butterflies have always been a family symbol, I have a butterfly tattoo on my right side. I also have a an outlined cross (crucifix) on my left ankle. I love both my tattoos and their meanings make me happy. I would love to get a literary tattoo but my boyfriend hates them, like a lot. Great post!

  204. Found this on Freshly Pressed – congratulations on the front page view!

    I have two tattoos – a triquetra (with some lateral dots) on my left rib and my husband’s name under my wedding band. The triquetra was my first, and I got it as a reminder of the circular nature of the universe, right after a friend of mine died after falling off her horse. That was six years after I decided I wanted it. The wedding band seems to shock more people, as if the permanence bothers them. I see it as a mark of dedication to my marriage. I plan on getting more as time goes on, but haven’t really decided on what the next one(s) will be! I had thought of a literary one on my right shoulder/side of my back, but I wouldn’t know what to put there, and haven’t found an artist I like enough to allow them to work on me. I wouldn’t worry too much about the pain – the ribs are supposed to hurt, but mine never did! The only places folks seem to agree are painful, no matter what, are elbows, shins and ankles.

    By relating, my father was the one who adamantly refused to allow me any of the things on your mother’s list. To this day, I have two tattoos, an industrial piercing in my left ear and married a man with 23 tattoos of his own. I have never dyed my hair.

  205. It seemed to be the next natural step toget a tattoo after becoming an alcoholic. Although the tattoo parlor would not allow any customer to be drunk and get a tattoo, the checks and balance system employed by the artists were as liberal as Obama and just as ineffective. The journey brought sobriety and a permanent piece of artwork on my arm. I’d do it differently if given the chance but it does have a crucifixion on it making it a great evangelistic tool. We are here for a moment and I try to make it positive. Great blog Amanda! You have a talent with your writing style and I enjoy your articles. Keep writing! You have a gift.


  206. I have one on my shoulder blade, I got it when I was in university and thought I knew everything at the tender age of 19. I did go to an artist recommended by friends of friends, to find one in Houston you should ask around and go see the artwork at a few of them. I designed my own, it’s not words but hieroglyphics. It means (to me at least) “eternal wisdom seeker”, the eye of Rah and ankh. If I get more I would want something representative of my kids, or a monkey with fire… Part of the whole experience is living through the pain of getting the darn thing, for some this becomes addictive.
    I wish you safe journeys if you choose to take the path to ink!

  207. Getting a tattoo isn’t that bad as far as pain is concerned, I have one on my chest and it didn’t hurt too bad, just make sure to bring a friend who you can look at and distract you when it starts hurting a little bit 🙂 As far as an idea, if you are a Bible reader you can get a verse or an acronym, like FAITH(ForsakingAlliTrustHim)

  208. I don’t know… in some ways I think they’re cool, but in other ways, not so much. In fact the “kids” these days are getting so many it almost seems overdone. A bunch of 20-somethings I know have words or phrases in Greek or Hebrew that relate to God – I think maybe they thought that would appease the moms?!!
    I am not one of “those moms”… in fact, my 13 year old daughter has her ears double pierced and her hair has bright pink ends! I figure it’s all changeable at some point and there are more important things to stand tough on. Would I want her to get a tattoo? Again, not sure. I don’t mind one here or there, but I really don’t like them all over the place….
    As for me, I am 50 and think “Old ladies” such as myself look bad with tattoos, so I will stick with jewelry I guess!

  209. Great Post! It’s nice to see it is quality writing that got your Freshly Pressed and not just a picture of a semi naked girls with tattoos. Although, I will try that approach tomorrow!

    Congrats on being Freshly tatted, oops I mean Freshly Pressed.

    Have a great day!

    Mr. Bricks

  210. I very much like the tattoo that says “write candidly, read endlessly, speak freely.” I couldn’t agree more. Great tattoo. The white ink tattoos are freakishly interesting to me. I say freakishly because they remind me more of branding, like burn scars, more than ink tattoos.

    As for me, I have one sole tattoo. It’s a fairly large one, though, for a first timer. It’s, oh, roughly mid back. Centered on the spine (oh, didn’t that part hurt!) The center is an Egyptian ankh and around it are the wings of Isis.

    Do I want more?? Yes. And no. And yes. If I do get another one it’ll involve words and birds. Feathers and letters. Yes. I am much obsessed with both.

    Great post! I’ll be following you now that I know you’re here!


  211. Don’t Panic? Love it! Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy was a brilliant series of books. But I’m sure the same couldn’t be said of me if I were to see a real live tat needle.

  212. I just got my first tattoo right after my 30th birthday. It means the world to me. And trust me, my mother gave me the same speech. Mine is a celtic knot armband. No beginning and no end. As such every ending is a new beginning. It reminds me to be strong, during the painful times of something I really cared about or enjoyed ending.

  213. Oh a Watership Down tattoo! Yes!!

    I totally know what you mean. I am fascinated with tattoos but never got around to getting inked. I’ve gone and watched other people get tatts, but never settled on a design that I would want on my body forever. At least hair dye grows out (and that I have definitely experimented with!).

  214. I have none, and do not want one, but I, too, find them rather fascinating – probably because they are so personal. However, I must say, I definitely do NOT like the white ink style. I think it looks like a scar, as if someone had carved the words with a knife.

  215. I just got the first in a series of planned literary tattoos a few months ago:


    It’s Ramona and Howie on tin can stilts from the Romana Quimby books. I plan to get Ellen Tibbits and Otis Spofford on the other side of my back, and possibly Harriet the Spy in the dumb waiter down the middle (that one is gonna hurt).

    I love seeing what other people do with their own favorite books.

  216. Great images! I’d love to link to this from one of my photoblog posts in the future, which often shows ink. Nice work.

  217. I wanted a tattoo all my life. Like you, I thought and schemed and planned – for years. I had the perfect idea, or so I thought, so I just went out and did it.

    It starts on the back of my neck, and goes down to my tailbone. Words, in Japanese (which was a really big thing for me at the time), before that was cool (or maybe while it was cool, but before it was embarrassing). My mother cried, but I loved it.

    For six months.

    I’ve hated it for all of the intervening years. The only plus is that my wife thinks it’s hot.

    If you really want to go through with it, get it somewhere that doesn’t show. Mine peeks up over my collar, and if my shirt ever rides up when I bend over, people can see it. It’s a constant conversation piece that I’ll never be able to get rid of.

  218. I have seven tattoos, and four of them are literary. I have a Kurt Vonnegut, a Dr. Seuss, a Shel Silverstein, and a Maurice Sendak. Thank you for sharing “The Word Made Flesh”! I have met several other people with literary tattoos, and it’s always heartening to know that there are people like me out there. I love having a daily reminder of the words and writers that have changed my life for the better. There is no better way to pay respect to the people who have influenced you than to etch that influence on your body. I am a writer, and I represent my craft in every way possible. Thank you for this post, and I hope you find the right tattoo for you!

  219. My mother is exactly the same except that i have 3 tattoos but they are all concealed and all of them are scripture & in different languages.
    I want to eventually get as many languages as i can on me, the mother shall not be pleased!

    Great photographs you’ve posted!! Interesting read 🙂

  220. I saw this post on the front page, and I was like “Ooh, like minded people!!”

    I have four tattoos, two of them are literary tattoos. One of them is my Harry Potter tattoo (I plan on having a few, but this is the only one so far). (For those who don’t want to click the link, it’s “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good” written on what looks like an old piece of parchment, with the footprints from the movie surrounding it. I love it to death)

    The second one is a quote from someone starting with an ‘H’, but I got it from Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series. Its the Shadowhunter motto/creed: “Pulvis et umbra sumnus.” (We are dust and shadows)

  221. Great post! I love the part where you describe the 4 things your mom told you to stay away from. : ) But I also love the whole idea of literary tattoos since I’m also obsessed with books, poems, and words. I wanted to get an Oscar Wilde quote tattooed on me somewhere, but I doubt I’ll ever go through with it. Good luck with your 2 options…either would be a great choice and you’ve obviously put enough thought into it. : )

  222. I attended a very conservative Christian College. They actually had a rule that, once enrolled, any new body piercings or tattoos were strictly forbidden (expulsion the obvious consequence to said body art).

    I focused on the word “new”. Before officially enrolling, I hit the tattoo parlor.

    What did I get?

    A Jesus fish, of course . . . on the small of my back. To this day my sister calls it my tramp stamp.

    And to add to all the irony, the President of the College had a grandson that owned a tattoo parlor. Exactly five blocks from campus.

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  224. I only one, with plans for many more. It is a ridiculously literary tattoo–the Oath of Feanor from Tolkien’s Silmarillion. Yes, I am that geeky. Even geekier, I translated into elvish myself.

  225. I think it is great that after thinking of this for so long you have finally decided to make a choice about what you want for a tattoo. I had a plan for a literary tattoo, but my husband keeps fighting me on that one. He doesn’t mind the tattoos that I have, even the most recent that I got just a couple of months ago, but he says he doesn’t think that much writing on my body would look good to him. In my mind it should really matter if I am happy with it, not especially him, but I suppose I have to show him some respect as far as that goes. Good luck finding the right tattoo parlor. Just one piece of advice…It seems to me that if you don’t too many breaks they charge you less. I guess a lot of people don’t have the tolerance for the pain, I have even heard of men passing out. So I guess they have people that take a lot of breaks. Of course you may find a parlor that gives you a solid price before starting.

  226. Hey, love your post!
    I unlike you 😉 defied most of my mothers orders, I did dye my hair purple, got a belly and nose ring and actually learnt how to drive a motorbike myself (couldn’t be bothered to wait for the Dark Knight ;)!

    I believe in trying most things once, however, like you I have not got a tattoo yet, but have thought about it for a long time!
    Chickened out of doing it for my 30th birthday, I’m 34 now and probably should know better but i would really like one that sums up a quote my dad has said to me since I was a kid…’Youth’s a mask, live it long, live it fast, cause it’s not going to last’. I thought about having it translated into Hebrew and either at the nape of my neck going down my spine (I have long hair so will cover it) or on my side, or under my tricep! Mmmm think I still need to decide on placement!

    It’s weird I’ve never really openly talked about it, as it’s quite a personal thing, which is probably why I am yet to summon up the courage to walk through the door of the tattoo shop that’s down the road from me!

    One day…

  227. I just saw your post on the start up page for WordPress and thought I would take a peak being a tattoo enthusiast. And I thought I’d just leave a comment. Nice post by the by, enjoyed reading it. Personally I have 8 tattoos. It started when I was 18. Mostly all are in relation to my faith. However three have to do with other people. One, my dad bought me and the other two, a simple vine of flowers on my hip bone and a single flower behind my ear, are ones I just got randomly. Not my brightest moment but they remind me of a really great friend who I went to get them with. So each of my tattoos have a special and specific meaning that’s dear to my heart. They are a huge commitment and the older I get (23 as of now) the more I am understanding that. I don’t regret any of them in actuality and I can’t wait to get more! Once you’re inked its hard to stop. So there’s my tid-bit. =)

  228. I LOVE Watership Down! I actually downloaded it on Audible to listen to with my 4 year old daughter in the car. I have a few (*cough*) tattoos. Check out my blog for a few pictures — but my FAVORITE is my chest piece which is designed to show my love and pride for my country. Across it reads “We the People” and then theres an eagle tearing through with a flag.

    There’s a link to an image of my tattoo. 🙂 People worry about my ability to get jobs, but even folks like your mother stop to comment and appreciate my artwork.

  229. Great post. One question though, is it your life or your mother´s?
    I think you should do at least 2 of those 4 forbidden things..

    I have several tattoos, on my chest it says written in a spiral Sartres words “L´homme est condemne á être libre” translates something like “man is condemned to be free”.
    Parts of Picassos Guernica on my right under arm, mary poppins flying with her umbrella, the black flag bars, the word “Godspeed” on my wrist( atheist, but I love the sound of the word and all the love incorporated in the word) a roman coin of Fredrich 2nd of sicilly (great king and one of the worlds first outspoken atheists who in the middle of 13th century celebrated science and trade. one of few people at the time who was respected by both the muslim and christian scholars) A symbol for the enlightenment and finally a light bulb on the back of my right upper arm.

    Good luck with your first Tattoo, and the ones which will follow. 😉

  230. hi there. I appreciate tattoo as an art form and a bold statement by those who have it. I always in awe looking at brave people having their tattoos done in the parlor because I hate needles. In fact any type of things that cause me pain. I’ll flinch, I’ll scream, I’ll run even before the needles started piercing my skin. Haha!
    But even if I am not scared of needles, I won’t be doing it due to my religion restriction. Too bad ey!
    Hey, if you really getting one, bravo! It’s a big leap! 🙂

  231. My dad is one of those people, too. 😉 Luckily my mom isn’t; she has a full-color back piece — a Tibetan endless knot over a lotus flower. It’s gorgeous. She also has a tattoo for me, right above where she carried me for 9 months. We went and got tattoos done for each other at the same time.

    I have six tattoos. The first is a lower-back piece, and it’s religious: it has the words “She has slept; She will rise: Thou Art Goddess” with a design of a triple-moon symbol and a five-pointed star. I got it when I was 16.

    The second is an Udjat, or Eye of Horus, on my right wrist. It’s for protection. The third is the words Courage and Spirit in Kanji, on the back of my neck. The fourth is Kanji again, and it says “Wolf on a quest” down my left side (it’s for my mom and it hurt like hell). My fifth says “My Blue Sky” surrounded by the Spanish words Hija, Alma, Vida, with the As connecting. There’s a crescent moon on top; it’s below my Eye of Horus.

    My sixth I got a year ago this October. It’s a Bible quote on my left calf: “And she kept all these sayings, pondering them in her heart.” Below the quote is my grandmother’s signature. It was her favourite, she called it “the thinking woman’s quote”, and I got it after she died last August. That’s my first piece of ancestor ink.

    For now my tattooing is on a hiatus as I try and build up my film acting career. When I’m famous or when it goes belly-up I’ll definitely get some more; I have a large back piece planned as a dedication to the goddess Brighid, as well as some geeky tattoos planned. Whatever else I get it won’t have the color red in it as I’ve discovered the hard way I’m allergic to red tattoo ink. NEVER ENDING ITCHING.

  232. I’m 20 and I’ve been a little torn about the whole tattoo thing. I’m generally very old-fashioned about a number of things like dating and clothing. I definitely want to get a tattoo as a reward for losing weight (and a few other things).

    For me, my tattoo design(s) have been based around my love of writing. My most likely design is a peacock feather pen with a rose and honeysuckle (my birth month flowers: the rose will be a green and purple swirl [alexandrite] and the honeysuckle will represent a pearl- both stones are my birthstones). I’m also going to include “Jeremiah 29:11-14” (the reference) and possibly my motto: “Beautiful, Loved, Worthy, Free: Regardless” (or just “Regardless”). I’m not sure exactly how the design will work, but I figure a tattoo artist can help wit that. Oh… I also want to include a little bee (my name means “honeybee”)

    I will say that from my research on tattoos (including white ink ones) they are risky. The ink doesn’t always hold.

    Personally, I love tattoos that have hidden meanings. The pen and birthstones/flowers and bee are a bit more obvious, but there are a lot of deeper, hidden meanings throughout the design. It’s almost like a poem in itself: a multi-dimensional design.


    Thank you to WordPress for featuring me on Freshly Pressed. And thank you to all you lovely lovely people for leaving so many wonderful, thoughtful comments! Thank you to everyone who “Liked” this post and to those who also took a moment to read and “Like” a few of my other posts as well. And thank you to those of you who decided to subscribe to my blog. I cannot tell you how much it all means to me!

    I have always been the type to respond to every comment, partly because I never got more than a few per post anyway, so it wasn’t exactly a hardship, but mainly because I honestly appreciate it whenever anyone responds to my writing in any way. However, this sudden enormous surge of comments is more than a little overwhelming. On top of that, today (tuesday) is the first day of classes for the Fall semester, so I’m very busy with school.

    That being said, I am going to try my very best over the next few days to read through all the comments and respond to at least SOME of them (I probably won’t be able to manage responding to all them, but I hope people won’t mind too much).

    Again, thank you so much! I am absolutely FLOORED by the response I’ve received. For anyone who cares, there will be a new post some time tomorrow (wednesday) morning.


  234. Hi, I’m new to wordpress and the whole blogging thing, but when I saw your post on the home pages, I had to come read it. Like yourself, I am also a little obsessed with tattoos. And more of mine are literary ones. I have six tattoos so far and only two of them don’t have words to them. Two of them are just solely words: I have one on the left side of my chest that runs along my collar bone that says, “The Heart Of Life Is Good.” Its from a john mayer song that truly speaks to my heart. The other is on the outside of my left arm and it reads, “Regret Nothing.” This one, however, doesn’t come from any book or song or anything, its my personal life motto.

    As for your ideas, they sound great! I’m personally all for tattoos and encourage people to get them so long as they have thought them through and know that this is a lifelong decision unless you want to pay a load of money and go through a lot more pain to get them taken off.

    If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask, I know I may not be a professional tattoo artist or anything, but I like to think I’m experienced some. I always spend a lot of time thinking over a tattoo and if I can’t get that tattoo done where I usually do, I do a lot of research into the other parlors around town and what not.

    Good luck with everything!

  235. Hi there…
    I have a tattoo. I got it 15 years ago. It’s a cute little tattoo of Betty Boop. Well, 15 years later I am embarrassed to have this on the inside of my right ankle.

    I paid $150.00 to have this tat put on.. I am not paying $850.00 to have it removed.

    Why, I mean no offense to anyone when I say this. I personally feel like people look down on me when they see my tattoo. Like I am white trash. I know, I know.. I worry way too much about what other people think. But Betty will be gone in 8 months or so.. that is how long it takes!

  236. Pingback: A Permanent Relationship With Words: Literary Tattoos (via Amanda Rudd’s Blog) « Samuel Snoek-Brown

  237. Hi Amanda, I love tattoos and think they’re sexy! I thought you were the girl in the pic at first lol. I will never get my body covered. While I think it is beautiful, I’m not sure I could do it. I currently have four and will definitely get more, Although my sister says it is against our religion, I think God will forgive me lol. While some people don’t understand, I believe that words or pictures can carry a spiritual meaning, depending on when and why you get the tattoo. Sometimes I get an extreme laugh to this, which I attempt to take in stride lol. I’m a writer, singer…artsy, geeky at times lol I have learned that not everyone understands us creative minds but who cares, because we will rule the world one day lol.
    On to my tattoos. My mom was the same way lol, but I attempted to feel free and never look back when I entered the navy. I got my first tattoo when I was 21 in my home town while on leave…a dark blue/teal crescent moon on my right upper thigh/hip…meaning: I will be a princess one day. When the tattoo artist told me this, I was like really? Well, that just rocks! lol I got my second tattoo in San Diego, CA…”an interpratation of the hand of fatima”. I showed him the picture and asked the guy to make it more feminine and detailed. It turned out nice, you would not know I brought the picture in unless I told you. Like my first tattoo, this one was spontaneous. A girlfriend called me and said, “Hey let’s go get another tattoo”. I didn’t know at the time how meaningful this tattoo would become to me. Because of the events that soon followed, it became a symbol of protection. I got my third tattoo in Singapore…red and black words “To search for love” in Tibetan. While this one was also spontaneous, I knew it would be my favorite one yet, at least until I got my fourth one. I love this one, because love has many meanings, but is universal. My last tattoo (so far) is the only one I planned from the day that I got my third tattoo. The idea came to me while I was writing one day…Desire Faith Hope in dark, feminine, cursive coming down towards my right wrist…upside down to me. It holds alot of meaning pertaining to me and my life. Although, I got it in Vegas it holds the most spiritual meaning for me. I believe that you cannot have one without the other.
    Although, I haven’t been published yet, I too have thought about getting the title of my first manuscript tatted on my left wrist…Light into Darkness – Darkness into Light…with the words mirroring each other. My goal is to wait until I get published, but we’ll see if my patience holds out lol.
    I wish you luck in your tattoo adventure. I hope you love every one and never regret it. I think you’re on the right track as far as not regretting it once it is done. I look forward to reading more of your posts.

  238. Pingback: She’s got you high, and you don’t even know yet. « Diamonds in the dark

  239. Isn’t it a coincidence? I got bumped into a post by a fellow writer in our group in Facebook, Freelance Writers of the Philippines; and it’s none else but about THE WORD MADE FLESH tattoo website and about getting inked.

    I’m ain’t a punk or witty-wild lady. It might be shocking to my colleagues in a conservative campus like AUP and to my conservative family and friends but I was hiding a butterfly at my upper left shoulder…and that’s only for fun! it’s only a henna tattoo…yet I’m ain’t proud of it. I just tried one. It always make my heart thump-thump. I felt guilty.

    I asked my sick sister what’s her impression to those who get inked (I almost spilled the beans, planning to tell her…). She said that “they’re from the prison”, criminals or alleged criminals…whateva! LOL! But she knows tattoo also express love for art. What else, I tried to squeeze her more…”REBEL! that’s my first impression!” Then I held my peace and zipped my mouth. SIGH! If she only knew, it’s been a week now, and I used to wear cardigan whenever I wear sleeveless shirt or spaghetti top and she wonders…=(

  240. Great post! Like you, I am fascinated with them as well, and love hearing the stories behind each piece of art. The idea of literary tattoos is something that never even occurred to me, though the more I think of it, the more I wonder if it’s a better idea than just a picture. Words tend to have more staying power, and you’re likely to still appreciate the artwork and sentiment behind them at age 60 the same as you did at age 20.

  241. Interesting that I stumbled upon this. I just got my first tattoo yesterday. It reads “nineteen twenty-six,” the year my grandfather was born. I got it to remember him because he passed away recently. I love the idea of word tattoos. It’s more universally interpreted than an image or symbol.

  242. I have 4 tattoos and love them all, and want more! My mom is the opposite of most and got me my first one when I was 17… she also has more tattoos than I do! My first was done by a friend of hers at his house. (He was in between shops) I chose a faerie on a crescent moon to remind myself how much I liked fantasy as a kid and to always believe in magic. My faerie is red-headed, surrounded by 3 stars and wears a purple dress. She is kind of the ideal I had for myself and I kind of grew up to look like her with my long curly, usually dyed red hair! I plan on doing more with her in the future… my next tat was a red kanji meaning “destiny” I got a matching one with my then boyfriend, now gay ex-fiance… my next tat was a literary or rather a musical tattoo featuring an original drawing of a living and dead dandelion forming an Aries sign above lyrics to “And I Love Her” by the Beatles. It was inspired by a dream I had about dying in a car crash while that song was playing. My last tattoo was done in Colorado by a lovely lady (two of mine are by men, two by women) It is a half living, half dead tree taking up most of my inner right calf. It incorporates my second tattoo (also done by a lady) and was inspired by a tree I walked by everyday on campus on my way to work that only grew on one side. Here is a link to a picture of that one if anyone is interested: http://blastedgoat.wordpress.com/2011/07/22/treetatto/
    I’m always interested in talking about tattoos. It makes me wish I had more room on my body but at 26 I think 4 is just right. I can add more as I grow and collect more images/words I wish to imprint myself with! Thanks for this post, it made me think about why I got each of mine and the fact that I don’t regret a single one 😀 Good luck to all you who really want one, the pain isn’t too bad if you practice meditating… go for it!

  243. I have been thinking about a literary tattoo for awhile as well. While I’d love to get one, what to get and where are the burning questions I can’t seem to narrow down. Good to know I’m not alone!

  244. I (much like you) wanted a tat when I was 16. And 17. And 10 years later I still wanted one. So I screwed up my courage and got one, a dragonfly that sits right beneath my back of my neck. It’s beautiful, has purple and green in it and my dad hates it. My parents both used to say that we couldn’t get tattoos or piercings of any kind. My sister got her nose pierced last year and I got the money together and got it.
    I like it because most people would never guess me to get one. And I guess I’m sorta the good girl, but I wouldn’t trade my tat for anything. To me it means strength and beauty. I’m seriously considering another one, a word wrapped around my ankle, but that depends. 🙂

  245. Fantastic post.

    I’d love to get Pink Floyd’s ’75 “Wish You Were Here” album cover art tattooed on my arm or something (gravatar-related haha). I’m not going to do it, though, but I have definitely entertained the idea!

  246. I really don’t want to spam your post but I found some more pictures of my tattoos on my photoblog. Here are two entries about my dandelion tattoo:

    This entry shows my tree tattoo a bit better!

    Sorry to leave so many links but I swear that is all I have haha… I will check out the websites you mentioned and check back for your other posts 🙂 Looks like we are all a little obsessed with body modification, regardless of whether or not our mothers approve!

  247. Hello to all who read this…I can’t resist putting my 2 cents worth in here. I have been under the tattoo gun 22 times. I love ink. I do regret 2 of my tattoos. Why? Because they are done with a home made gun and all black. My first 2 actually.
    Think long and hard about what you get on your body. It is not a passing fancy. Tattoos are forever. DUHHHH…Good luck to you in your decision and take time to be sure you are going to be happy with your work at my age…51 and done getting tattoos. Not because I don’t like them! Simply because it hurts and I choose not to do the pain again.
    God Bless…Inspired Hippy

  248. I love literary tattoos. Ive been fascinated and Im also one of those kids whose mom’s couldnt DREAM of them getting one, so I understand where youre coming from. Over the 2 years that Ive been interested in tattoos, Ive gone through 5 or 6 ideas for what literary tattoo i want. I just worry that once ive got it on me, id wish i had gotten something else written. im still searching for that perfect something that means everything i need it to mean.

  249. My husband and I will be getting our first tattoos next week. Roman numerals for our wedding date. For me, ink is as permanent as our relationship. A ring can be taken on and off but ink is (for the most part) forever. Also, symbols communicating ideas (Letters, Numbers, Numerals, etc.) I find to be quite beautiful.

    Congrats on FP!


  250. My first and only tattoo I got in my twenty’s. It’s a pride flag and speaks to my truth. It was the first time they had ever worked on a client with a disability ( I have cerebral palsy) and also the first time they had ever made the colors hot pink and purple. Every time the needle touched my skin I kicked poor Jeff, it was a reflex I couldn’t control, April his wife who handled the piercings had to sit on my legs just for this small tatt.

    It was quite the experience. I wish I had another one. 🙂

  251. i can relate to this. i am 38 and i have been mulling for two decades before getting inked, finally. in less than a year, i got two! (or three since the 2nd design was split and tattooed in 2 diff body parts). been getting henna versions for the past 8 years though, so since tatt artists and people who see my design complement it and encourage me to get it permanent, i finally did. i’m one of those people who also have to muster enough courage to do something like this, but it’s freaking worth it when it’s done… kinda like when i tried bungee jumping. same experience 🙂 good luck with yours! i’m a literary writer and i’ve also been thinking of getting literary tatts for my next one. still choosing text 🙂

  252. I love your post! I love words and I love tattoos. I have (hold on and let me think about it) eight tattoos and counting. I remember almost the moment when I decided to go full tilt boogie with it. I’ve only worked as a hairdresser or a server and realized that I can get visible tattoos without messing with my chances of working at the White House. I was twenty eight years old and decided to get a half sleeve. I haven’t looked back. Soon after I got my wrists done…on the left it says “create” and the right says “defend”. We have to be prepared to defend that which we create – art, relationships, famillies, love…. Please check in with me at my blog, I’m gonna subscribe to you, I really enjoyed your post. Very excited for you about your first tattoo. That’s always a biggie. Hugs!

  253. Look in Montorse area on the main road where they do the gay pride parade. I lived down there in the 90s with my ex wife and got alot of tattoos, from a guy named jody, but I cant remember the name of the place besides he doesnt do new art like the younger guys. I wrote a whole message and screwed up and erased it but The shot version is ask for new needles, they wil try to convience you different and tell you that they staralize them but say you will pay for new ones,and also barrels some places reuse them also, but some give new ones. Also ask if they take steps to not dubble dip into the vaseline jar, but you should also be aware that your questions willl piss them off if they think your talking down to them. Also give them a tip if the tattoo is 300 give them 50-60 you should know that they pay a large amount of the tattoos cost to the parlor, and tips really make them want to try that extra bit harder. you also want to be the second one to be tattood for that day, the first is a warm up and the last is a race to go get some beers. Also clean up real good before you go the area that you want done and the area around it should be preped. Also Take in drafts of your idea they hate people who dont know what the hell they want so give them an idea even if its not that good just do your best they are artist so they will know exactly how to draw it up. And last if you feel uneasy at all LEAVE, GO TO ANOTHER PLACE UNTIL YOU FEEL RIGHT. good luck artpiecmalpasso check out my blogs on DIMENSIONS AND THE UNIVERSE. space time matter

  254. For me, my tattoo design(s) have been based around my love of writing. My most likely design is a peacock feather pen with a rose and honeysuckle (my birth month flowers: the rose will be a green and purple swirl [alexandrite] and the honeysuckle will represent a pearl- both stones are my birthstones). I’m also going to include “Jeremiah 29:11-14″ (the reference) and possibly my motto: “Beautiful, Loved, Worthy, Free: Regardless” (or just “Regardless”).

  255. I’ve been dying to get a literary tattoo for ages. Words on skin are so beautiful in so many different ways! I currently have 1 tattoo, but it’s not words. Deciding on that tattoo took me long enough – words are harder I think because the message can be so much more plainly stated than with a pictorial one.

  256. It’s actually funny – I was Googling different blogs and just came across this post after just receiving my third tattoo!

    I have three tattoos; I’m nineteen. My Mom disagrees with them as well, however her boyfriend has his whole back tattooed so I have practically told her to shove it. Ha!

    My first tattoo I got when I was 16, it is the Virgo symbol on the back of my neck – I found it a safe first tattoo, and I was always spending about $80 a year at events getting it Henna’d on me, so I figured might as well save $80 a year!

    So now for the literary tattoos:

    My second tattoo is the word “forever” on my left wrist. It has two meanings;

    meaning #1 (the most important meaning): I was never allowed pets as a child, however at the daycare that my brother and I attended, the owner had a dog. My Mom and Maurese (the owner of the daycare) were very good friends, and so when I was young Maurese started letting me take her dog – Tinkerbell – out for walks. Now don’t think that Tink was some tiny dog; she was a medium-sized dog. And my best friend. Tink had to be put down when I was 16 or 17, and I still cry about losing her. However, she will be “forever” in my heart.

    meaning #2: I went through a horribly abusive relationship, and when I finally figured out how to end it, I realized that I don’t need a guy to make me feel special and loved, because I will “forever” have myself.

    Tattoo #3 – just got it done today!

    The words “remain electric” written up my ribs (wow! that hurt like hell!) with a small lightning bolt at the end. It’s all in black. But it’s inspired by this song:

    I still act childish – many of you will say I still am a child – my Grandma says I’m “the biggest kid of them all!” And I love that. I love being electric, and I want everyone to keep that electricity that they had when they were kids.

    I hope you find the inspiration for a tattoo that you’re looking for! It will come to you; all I can say is don’t force inspiration.

  257. Love the Anne Sexton poem, but the scarification seems a little, well, scary!
    Also, tattooing a literary quote onto your skin is the most tactile connection to words.

  258. i’m a planner, too, and it took me ages to think about my tattoos. my favorite, and the first one i wanted (oddly, not the first one i got) is a watercolor painting of a fairy that i got as a birthday card for a friend at one of those new age/hippie shops when i was sixteen and then i loved it so much, i couldn’t give it to her. three years later, i wrote a poem on it to a boyfriend, thinking it proved how much i loved him. when we broke up, i found it in his things and kept it. finally, at age 24, i got it tattooed on my back. and i absolutely love it.

    i am contemplating a literary-themed tattoo also.

    anyway, congratulations on being freshly pressed – your blog is really interesting! 🙂

  259. Nice blog! I’ve always loved tattoos because they are sort of like permanent reminders of your life… I can look back at old tattoos and it’s like reading an old journal. I have my “I’m 18!” tattoo Dave Matthew’s Band’s firedancer, as well as “LoveLife” (Atmosphere reference) for my music tattoos. I have a rose on my shoulder in the same place as my mother’s tattoo, elephants on my wrist to remind me of my safari and volunteer work in Uganda, a Maori symbol on my lower back to remind me of studying abroad in New Zealand, and a large woman/tree who has dreadlock-looking roots, to commemorate my 6 years of dreadlocks!
    This October, I will go to Thailand and hopefully get a traditional tattoo there with bamboo, rather than a needle, created by a Buddhist monk rather than a tattoo artist.
    Welcome to the Ink Club!

  260. I’ve toyed with the idea of getting a tattoo, but never really got to it. There’s always something about spotting one on a person, and you can get so much from that image/word.

    But anw, guess the idea of it being so permanent is what’s holding me back. But yeah I’d say go for it! 🙂

  261. Désolé, je ne m’exprime pas dans la langue de Shakespeare mais je peux vous avouer que j’ai pris un réel plaisir à vous lire. Et que j’ai moi même 4 tatouages. Mais les vôtres sont tout bonnement magnifique. Thx 🙂

  262. Hi there,

    I think literary tattoos are lovely. If I was to get words though, they would probably be from a song that really spoke to me.

    I have 2 tattoos – The first one on the top of my back is a celtic/tribal dragonfly that I designed & got when i was 21. The second is on my right forearm and I had the ink watered down a lot so the colours are almost like a watercolour painting. that’s a dragonfly too, but far more realistic. There are also a couple of banksia leaves and the line from The Crow “It can’t rain all the time”. the Crow was the movie my husband and I were watching when we had our first kiss.

    I can see that the white ink tattoos you’ve posted are fairly new (you can tell due to the swelling). After a while the white ink fades away, almost back to skin colour or it can look a little yellowish so I’d have a good think and ask to see photos of white ink tattoos say a year or two down the track before you decide.

    When you get one, remember it’s essentially biological art and it will look better the healthier you are. My husbands look brand new as he drinks lots of fluids, moisturises them daily and works out… mine aren’t as nice in comparison! But that’s the trick. they look awesome under oil like Palmers skin oil.

    Anyway, just my two cents. Hope you find something you love!

    Kell =)

  263. I got a white ink tattoo a few years ago of the fibonacci spiral, and I still love it! It was an argument with my tattoo artist, though, because he kept trying to convince me to at least get some light grey on there as well, since the white will kind of fade over time. I told him that was what I wanted. Be prepared to answer the following questions, repeatedly:
    1. Why did you get a white tatoo?
    2. Is that a scar?/Were you branded?
    3. Does it glow in the dark.in a blacklight?

    I’m not even joking. I’m glad you’re looking into a white tattoo. Your mother might not even notice it;) Win win?

  264. I have also always wanted a tattoo, and after years of planning on it then backing out I finally got one on my 19th birthday. Its one I designed myself, a ghekko like animal with the words LOVE inside it, drawn in such a way that it looks like tribal drawings and isn’t directly obvious what it says – I didn’t want to be too korny! I got it to remind me that the love of your friends can get you through anything, as I had just come out of a difficult stage in my life.

    I do love the idea of literary tattoos as well! I have wanted another tattoo for a long time. I wanted to get “Don’t cry because its over, smile because it happened” – half of it on the arch of one foot, half on the other, so that when you put your feet together it forms a sort of circle…hard to picture maybe. But I haven’t got it yet, mainly because it think on that spot it will hurt like hell…

    I just think that we might regret tattoos when we are older, but we will have so many years of enjoyment from them first that it wont matter by then.

    Good luck with yours!
    Emma http://ideasofawanderingmind.wordpress.com/

  265. Two weeks ago I’ve got my first tattoo on my left shoulder blade, saying “Don’t regret anything you do – ’cause in the end it makes you who you are” in my own handwriting. Just like you I really adore literary tattoos and I’m sure this one on my shoulder definitely won’t be the last, but I’m just 18 years old so there’s plenty of time to get more :).
    In december I’m going to get an “M” on the right side below my navel for my sisters name, so to say as a christmas present.
    Please go on writing about your tattoo-plans, I’m really curious. A picture of my own tattoo will soon be published in my blog “stadtfluestern” for everyone who wants to see :).

  266. There was a great art project a few years ago to inscribe a book on people’s bodies – you could write into the artist and be assigned a word, which you would then have tattooed on you. I never did it (my mother sounds just like yours!) but a friend of mine did and received the word “therefore” which she tattooed on her hip. Only people who were a “part” of the book could read it…she never told me what it was about! I loved the idea though.

    Just came across this blog by the way and really enjoyed it – looking forward to hearing more!

  267. God, with the risk of sounding like your mother: Don’t do it! Tattoos are so… permanent! How do you know that you won’t feel different in a couple of years? Have you thought how your body would change in 30 years? What is now a stretched skin, in 30 years it may have wrinkles that would ruin the tattoo. Have you ever thought that your grandchildren may laugh at you?
    I am too harsh, I know. Sorry for that! Still… your tastes may change in time… Think of that, too. And if you still do it… I hope you never regret it.

    • I guess getting older and maybe regretting the tattoo in a few years is the argument most people who dislike tattoos use as a deterrence and I really thought about this “problem” a lot. But if the tattoo means something to you, then you probably won’t regret it I think. The tattoo is a part of you and it’s still a part of you when you’re 68 years old, it belongs to your body.
      You don’t know how life will be in a few days, so sure you can’t know what’s in a few years, but I think it’s important to enjoy the moment we live in (even if this sounds a bit “childish”) and so if you decide to have a tattoo – have it.

  268. Pingback: Literary tattoos | Lola Blue Blog

  269. I Got my first tattoo at the age of 18, reading ‘labore et honore’ meaning work and honor in latin and have since been obsessed with tattoos especially literary tattoos. I am always looking for new ideas but always seem to come back to literary pieces.

  270. Pingback: Text in Art…Tatts « Research Journal

  271. Love the Blog. I have a 1/2 Sleeve dedicated to Salvador Dali’s art. Including pieces from the Tempation of St. Anthony and The Persistence of Memory. Also, some text down my Forearm; CONSILIO ET ANIMIS. Which is the Latin for Wisdom and Courage

  272. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed, first of all. You deserve it.
    I noticed you’re a bit inundated with comments. Thought I might add one to it.

    I have one tattoo, a wolf’s paw print, on the inside of my left arm. I have a list of other tattoos I want, but as money has been tight for quite awhile, I haven’t gotten any yet.

    I believe I have finally decided what I want for my back piece.
    The poem Invictus, by William Ernest Henley. (The entire poem.)

  273. So great to hear from other people and their ink stories and inspirations! I myself absolutely love them and have 5, all small and fairly inconspicuous. My only “wordy” one is an Italian proverb that originated in a part of Italy that part of my family come from – it translates to “do no harm and have no fear.” I absolutely love it and my only regret is not getting it done bigger! Good luck with your first one 🙂

  274. I am 26 yrs old too!

    Anyway I got 2 tattoos & by the time I was 18, I have done everything your mum said you are not supposed to. haha…

    First one I got it when I was 18. Its a butterfly, it signify metamorphosis. About change & the pains of growing up & how I will become a stronger & better person ultimately.

    Second one when I was 25. Its a snowflake, its about being unique. Like human beings, each snowflake is different. Its about coming to terms with who I am & being proud & loving myself for who I am & whatever I represent.

    Go get one!!!

  275. I think Literary tats are really attractive. I love the idea of white ink but I wouldn’t have one myself as its not for me. However I do see the beauty in some of the wonderful artwork that is available and feel very bad for the people who have had disasters like miss spelling and crappy artistry. If you plan everything like you say you are going to then I’m sure yours will be successful and beautiful. Good luck. (PS I love Watership Down)

  276. To all those who are worried about the pain or your parents threats – don’t be!! I am a chicken shit and get really freaked out at the sight of needles. But I had my tat done 15 years ago and don’t regret it one bit. Yes it’s a bit faded now but I still love it. It didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would either. I had it placed on my (very) lower stomach so only my bf gets to see the whole thing. I like mine to be hidden so they don’t look awful when I am old and wrinkled! It also adds to the mystery as people know I have a tat, but they don’t know what it looks like. I do really want a lierary one next tho!
    My bf also wanted a tat but was scared of the way his mum would react (this from a 30 something year old man)! I told him to just pick something he has always loved that would represnt him. Then one year as a birthday present to me, he had a beautiful dragon done on his shoulder. It’s strong, unique and colourful just like him. He hid it from his mum for 6 months until I squeeled on him. And his mum’s reaction? She loves it and thinks it really suits him 🙂
    It’s your body and your life so go for it. But always plan well in advance, don’t do it when drunk and always, always pick something that will represent you. Something that will tell your story!

  277. How about a literary tattoo about tattoos? In Walden Pond, Thoreau made fun of fashions which change by the year and wrote that “Comparatively, tattooing is not the hideous custom which it is called. It is not barbarous merely because the printing is skin-deep and unalterable.” That way the tattoo would also be its own answer to your mum!

  278. I got my first (and at this stage, my only) tattoo almost two years ago, when I was 28. It took me six months to design it, and then the wait for the tattoo artist I wanted was three months, so I had time to really make sure it was a design I wanted, and if I really really wanted it done in the first place.

    In the end, it’s a quite large lower back tattoo symbolising the meaning of my last name – a fawn (my maiden name translated is a baby deer) sitting within the inside of roman number V (I have a blood disorder that changed my life called Factor V Leiden).

    I have no regrets, and the artist did an AMAZING job. I suppose it symbolised getting over my fear of needles too, because of all the medicine I was taking, I was at a point where I could inject myself so sitting for three hours getting the tattoo was a milestone for me.

    Getting a tat is all good and well, but I don’t understand people who get a tattoo just because “oh, yeah, I reckon tigers are cool, so I got a tiger”. Definitely get something meaningful, because it’s on your skin for the rest of your life and becomes a part of your personality.


  279. Really enojyed the post, here I though I was one in few who used literary references for tattoo ideas. I am glad to know that I am not alone and I would love to meet more people with lit tats. I myself have 23 tattoos (been tatted over 27 times) and as I am a writer and a poet I have various tattoos related to poetry and rhyme, and have as much letters as anything else I got going on. As for the white ink, as an avid tattoo enthusiast I wouldn’t reccomend it, as it does look cool freshly pressed but soon fades,

  280. The canvas that is you is complete without a tattoo. You don’t need to use your body as if it were a sheet of paper. You can be different today and express yourself without putting something on your body that you might wish to change later. But, since this is something that you feel that you have to do you’ll probably do it so pick out something good. Remember: no matter what you look like you’re already beautiful the way you are.

  281. kind of the same experience.. 🙂 and am also 26 years old fascinated with tattoos but doesn’t have one.. Can’t have one yet but I promise to myself before I turn 30.. I’ll definitely get inked..

  282. I don’t have any tattoos but I have been thinking about it for a couple of years now. This seems like a good time to do it.

    As far as finding a good tattoo parlor or artist, I have just been walking up to people with tattoos I like and asking where they had it done. Most people are happy to get the compliment and share the name of their favorite artist, or parlor. I have been doing this a lot this summer and I think I know where I will go when the time is right.

  283. Like yours, my parents too have wrong beliefs about tatoo culture. But, I shall have one anyhow if not sooner than later. Let me put that in my bucket list.

  284. Great subject and great links, I’ll be checking out the blogs you linked to later when I get a chance to spend the time to go through them.

    I currently have five tattoos and have at least my next four already in mind, I just need the money. hahaha My first was a purple rose one my left ankle with my husbands name on a banner through it, although I like it and don’t regret it I really only got it to get one. I never recommend just getting one to get one, always have thought and meaning behind it. My second was a yin-yang with a sun burst around it on the back of my neck, I love this one because I love the meaning in general. My third is a huge fairy sitting on a giant water bubble with a lot of little bubbles floating around her and it takes up most of my upper left arm. The meaning of it is we all have dreams, some big some small (hence the many different size bubbles) and at any moment our dreams can burst or come true but we create our own destiny. This one is very personal to me for more reasons than I’ll explain here but you get the point. My fourth is a butterfly on the inside of my right wrist with the word “believe” below it. This represents my beloved grandmother who passed two years ago and after her funeral I visited her grave before heading back home (she lived eight hours north of me) and a butterfly landed on my arm and wouldn’t fly away no matter how hard I tried to shoo it away when I was leaving. And finally my fifth is Tibetan script and it says “ohm mani padme hum” which is a Buddhist prayer that represents the Buddha of compassion (the actual description is too long to share here but it can be googled). This is on the inside of my left forearm, where I can see it everyday and apply on a constant basis when I’m down or stressed.

    Sorry I went on so long here but my tattoos have great meaning to me as all tattoos should. Be sure you know exactly what you want and where you want it before you get it.

  285. I would never get a tattoo (I’m a bit like your mother in terms of intolerance of them), but they still fascinate me. Interesting post!

  286. I have the word “Believe.” tattooed on my right foot. I love words too and find that they have an amazing amount of power. Maya Angelou says that words are things and we should be careful with them because they become a part of us as we absorb them just like food, so what better way then with a tattoo!

  287. I have four tattoos. They all a meaning for and was given much thought as to where they were going to be located on my body. My last tattoo was 4 years ago and is mine and my husband’s initials (CRS). I had them shortly after a miscarriage. Having his “name” on me made me feel closer to him when I was feeling so alone.

  288. I am also 26 and covered in tattoos. My favorite though, is my right sleeve. It is nearly all text, with the exception of a beautiful portrait of Edgar Allan Poe and another of a woman inspired by one of his tales. All of the text is different and blocked out much like the text in first photo of your blog post. I say go for it! However, make sure everything is free of errors… spelling, grammar etc. as I have seen a few too many that aren’t!

  289. I’m probably from your mom’s generation because I’ve said or thought all of those things. Maybe my thoughts on motorcycles comes from having 3 friends killed on motorcycles while in 9th grade, even though I did ride in high school. I have a son who is about your age and has several tatts. Recently he posted in his facebook interview that his mom was right about him changing his mind when he got older. That’s the thing…experiences change us and what fits at 17, or 26, may not fit at 40 or even 30. I think I might try a wall tattoo.

  290. Hey Amanda,
    I couldn’t resist commenting on this. Mostly because, my mom is one of “those” people too. That said, I have 3 tattoos, dated a guy with a motorcycle, had my nose pierced, and she survived it all. 🙂 When I got my first tattoo, I was so scared to tell her, but after all of the things she guessed I did, she was actually relieved to see it was just a cute little outline of an elephant on my shoulder. “That’s so you!” she said. My second one is on my wrist and says, “no regrets.” I hid that from her for about a year actually… mostly because I was afraid of what she would say about my possibility of getting into grad school, getting a job, etc with a visible tattoo. (I currently have a full time job and am 2 semesters away from finishing a master’s degree). The third one, a peace sign on my foot, was too difficult to hide, so she knew pretty quickly. I think at this point though she’s given up on having a problem with them. I plan to get a third shortly, a big cherry blossom tree on my back. I’m sure that will freak her out, just because of the size, but I know she’ll get over it. And I’m sure your mom will too. Also, keep in mind, it’s your body, you’re 26 years old, and you can do what you want. Harder said than done, I know. But if it’s something you feel really strongly about, you definitely won’t regret it.

  291. I got my first tat when my kids were a little older (and I knew I was done having children). It’s a total tramp stamp and I’m regretting that one. However, the one on my left ankle is all about me. There is a heart on the inside ankle with the words “My Boys” in the banner in the middle with a yellow rose on top of the heart. My son’s names are in green with yellow rose buds coming off of the heart around my ankle. The outside ankle is the outline of the state of Texas with the flag colored inside the outline. (The yellow rose is for the Yellow Rose of Texas). I was born in Texas and a piece of me is still there though I only lived there for 4 years of my 38. Take your time picking your tattoo and choose carefully where you put it. Have fun with it! Can’t wait to see pics!

  292. you might be particularly interested in writer michael phillips’ reflections about his tattoos — most of which are personally meaningful lines from poetry or lyrics — on his blog, _my whole expanse i cannot see_. here’s a link to the posts in his “tattoos” tagstream: http://www.lithiumcreations.com/tag/tattoos/

    besides his tattoos, michael’s a very interesting writer and person. i highly recommend his work.

  293. hahahaha, I think your mother will not like me at all, I have two piercings in each ear besides a cartilage on one, I have a belly piercing, I married a guy with a motorcycle and got mine and died my hair sparkling orange (now is back to its natural color) I am only missing the tatoo, I’ve wante one for very long time, but I can not decide what to do, I know I want something small, a symbol or words, but not yet what.. I had some though of an egyptian cross, or a ying yang, but the bonsai sounds good, and well I keep changing where I want it, the back, the arm, the cheeks =P, so until I figure it out I will decide. I had not though of words, but I just wrote a poem to my husband Romeo and it might be a good idea, thanks for your post.

  294. wow, so many responses! ha, good for you! (sorry if im repeating, i really need to stop goofing off at work, so didnt take the time to read them all!)

    i also love word tattoos. i only have one, but and plotting on another (they told me, and its true, tattoos are addictive!)

    especially if you get somethign sort of abstract, like not completely obvious the meaning with something like “seize the day” you will be asked over and over again what the tattoo is about. and you will have to be able to explain it, but explain it in like 15 seconds, because thats about how interested the average person really is.

    mine is on my foot, and it says “for the least of these” which is from a parable of jesus, he says when i was hungry you feed me, when i was thirsty you gave me somethign to drink, when i was sick you cared for me….” and the people say to him, when did we see you? and he says, “whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me” so its a reminder to me how i want to live, serving the least of these…the people our society thinks of as nothing…, but jesus is living in them as welll…


  295. i have 3 ink designs.
    1 is a blue daisy the size of a half dollar that i got when i was 18 with my best friend in college. i love it, still.
    the last two were at the same session last fall… one is a whisk behind my ear as i love to bake and the other are the words: Some Mad Hope in white ink on my left wrist. it’s a matt nathanson album title.

    i am now obsessed with these literary ink blogs and ITCHING for yet another tattoo.

  296. I have four tattoos: one on each wrist which collectively states “Free Spirit”, one on my upper left arm that says “Si quires paz, lucha por la justicia” (If you want peace, work for justice), and two skulls on my back.

    I’m thinking of making the skulls more “Day of the Dead” like and putting marigolds/lotuses around the wrist tattoos. I really like Diego Rivera’s painting “Retrato de Ignacio Sanchez” and would like that tattoo on my other upper arm.

    Thanks for sharing and congrats on getting Freshly Pressed!

  297. This was so awesome to read~ and exactly the topic I’ve been thinking about lately. I’m 32-no tatts, but have thought about certain words.

  298. I have an appointment to get my Watership Down/Alice in Wonderland inspired tattoo in September it’s the Black Rabbit and the White Rabbit on either shoulder with: “…but first they must catch you.” between them.

  299. Hola there,
    nice blog – and especially a wonderful entry. Since you asked so nicely, I thought I’d give you an answer: Two tattoos, both of which hold memories, thoughts and ideals I never want to forget and need for myself like the air I breath – and both in Mexican Script, as it is called here in Germany (a very delicate, ornamental script):
    The first, reading “Ataraxia” and finished by a quill not unlike the one on my profile, is on my left wrist. “Ataraxia” is a term in Ancient Greek philosophy (I’m a nerd, sorry 😉 ) meaning inner calm and detachment, freedom by not depending on things, not loosing yourself to something unimportant, being independent from inner and outer forces. It’s accompanied me for nearly two years and many transformations, i.e. new ways of thinking about these things, and I hope it’ll continue to do so. My mental freedom is the one most important thing in my life, something no-one and nothing should ever dare try and take away.
    The second tattoo, reading “Amicitia” (Latin for friendship) with a finely drawn compass underneath, is a fairly recent addition on my right ankle – only a month old, but already a part of me. 🙂 For me, friendship is the compass I use to orientate myself on my journey to myself and my life, the one constant that keeps me on track. I have many people in mind when I look at this tattoo, past and present, and in a way I can honour them and keep them permanently in my life, even though they may have moved on – its about past remembrance as much as about present and future. And since I am going to spend a semester abroad in Canada, I got it in a perfect moment.
    So that’s it from me. Good luck finding a motive you want as well as a good artist. My tip: In this case, the price (neither exaggeratingly high, nor (especially important!) too cheap) and the reputation are indeed good indicators for finding a good artist, as well as experience. With regard to the motive, just keep in mind that it’s going to be under your skin for forever – it’s what I love about tattoos, that they’re practically indelible, but it’s also a reason to consider who you are and what you want – because in a way, that’s what they express.
    I hope I could be of some help, somehow. Best wishes, bis dahin

    Mylady Phoenix

  300. Pingback: under the bridge « alienation

  301. My mom was also a no-tatts person, and she wouldn’t even let me get the regular single ear piercing either. Being 18 now, I thought I’d ditch all those rules, but I’m quite glad I didn’t and don’t plan to either. Personally, I find tattoos to be quite a turn-off, but you seem to really know why you want one, so there’s no issue there! Different things for different people =).

  302. Being new to the tattoo world (i just got my first a few months ago) I understand completely waiting and planning. I did the exact same thing always waiting and planning what my tattoo would be, where it would be, what would life be like when I got it, if its visible will people treat me differently. Then one day I got the opportunity to get it for free and I just had to jump in. Now I have a large celtic cross down my forearm and love it. There is only one problem, once you dive in you don’t want to come back out. Its been 2 months and I already have three more tattoo ideas that I am saving to get, and dare I utter the word sleeves?

  303. I really identified with your description of wanting a tattoo for a long time and then loving the idea of a literary tattoo.

    I am still pondering my tattoo choices, and I am excited to hear how you decide upon a tattoo artist to work with, and how the process works.

  304. My mom was lenient with my first tattoo, which I gathered the courage to get for my twentieth birthday. I had stared at this star-gazer lilly picture drawn by a good friend for two years, and decided it was time to get it on my body. Now that I want a 2nd tattoo she isn’t so willing to just let me do whatever I want… it isn’t the money, and it isn’t the fact that i’m returning to school, but that I still have a chance of moving back home for the third time in between life changes. It just isn’t allowed.. ha ha I will get it eventually just maybe once i’m established.

  305. it reminds me of an old “national review” cartoon, “abandon all hope, ye who enter here” ” tattooed on the lower lumbar of a man’s back

    where i live i see tweety birds tattoos on the sagging shoulders of women with beer bellys and without teeth

    the prerequisite of getting a tatto is that one must be buff not to be ick

  306. Tattoos are so intriguing. My mother is EXACTLY the type of person you described. Literally everything on your mother’s list is on mine. However, once I started living on my own, I took to piercings. I think tattoos require a lot more courage but I’d love to get one as well… I applaud you for your decision to plan out your tattoo so that it is exactly what you want 🙂

  307. Pingback: Beauty in Art: Tattoos « Amy's Corner

  308. The white ink tattoo looks pretty cool. My mom was the same way with me so I never got a tattoo either, but I’ve been thinking about it and I definitely think I would love to get a literary tattoo. I’m thinking of getting the word love or a symbol of love…I’ve always been fascinated with love and how it drives people crazy. Thanks for the good read. 🙂


  309. Woooooooooow awesome tatoos
    Gr8, kindly suggest one for me
    something inspirational and motivational !
    I wish I could get it made from same artist you got em from !
    Thanks and Regards
    Greetings and Best wishes
    from – New Delhi – India !
    Namaste 🙂

  310. My view on tattoos is that it is something permanent. I wouldn’t want to get a tattoo, I wouldn’t want to look at it years later and think to myself “What was I thinking?” Plus, if you have too many tattoos, it’ll ruin your looks.

  311. A young friend of mine got a beautiful tattoo called ‘Fey Wing’ done across her shoulder blades last year. It took two sessions to complete. I remember her posting pics of the first round and thinking how lovely it was on her, she was such a beautiful girl, and it suited her perfectly. … A little too perfectly, as she became ill and passed away shortly after the second session completing the tattoo. I am wondering if her skin was even totallly healed. I never did get to see the finished product. Her husband of less than two years is going to get the same tattoo across his shoulder blades in memory of her.

    It’s alsmost like she knew she was going to need those wings.

    I have the words “Not So Manic Now” in a circle on my side. It’s only there for me, and represents some big changes I made on my outlook on life, way back when I was 19. I printed it out and pinned it to my bedroom mirror for over a year and looked at the paper every day and said to myself: “is this something that wil still represent you when you are 90?” and it still does. Our pasts make up who we are, and for good or for bad, they are a permanent part of us, — just as permanent as a tattoo. I often forget it’s even there, until one of my kids sees it and says “Mommy…you’ve got some dirt on you”!!….and then I smile and remember it and think, Thank God I am where I am – with my babies trying to pick off my past like bits of dirt:)

    • Not so manic now … love it! My next tattoo (in keeping with being a chronic depressive) is a Bruce Springsteen line “It’s a sad man my friend who’s living in his own skin, and can’t stand the company”, although I may shorten it to “…can’t stand the company”

  312. First off. LOVE this post. I have a few tattoos and have always wanted to get up the courage to get a literary tattoo. There is something more scary about them than my other tattoos. It shows anyone that looks at me what I like to read, what catches my eye. ugh. There goes my own low self confidence again!
    I have the word “freedom” on my wrist with a dove above it. The dove has white in it. It is about a year old now and the white has since faded. I am a “tanner” skinned person and I was warned that it may not last past the healing process by my tattoo artist. It lasted, but just a bit longer. I wouldn’t get a full white tattoo because of this. It’s an awful lot of money to spend on something that will fade faster than black or color ink. But I have to admit, they look badass.
    As for the pain… it’s kind of the same mindset as childbirth. Yeah this hurts but only for a short amount of time and I am going to have this awesome prize at the end (feet tattoos SUCK btw…)!

  313. While I have no tattoos of my own, I’ve always been interested in those of others and have been toying with the idea of getting one myself. But my mother, like yours, is also one of THOSE people. I would probably get a variation on a moon with a star charm I have on a necklace, it’s something important to me.

    In discussion with others who have tattoos or have been considering getting one, I’ve come to the conclusion that the most important thing with a tattoo is that it’s something meaningful to you. You’re getting it for you more than for anyone else. So I think your ideas are very good ones. Placement is also an important factor in getting a tattoo. While most professions are more tattoo-friendly now, there are still some cases where you would not want to flaunt your ink.

    A couple of very interesting literary tattoos that I know about are from my well-read friends. My best friend toyed with the idea of getting a quote from either Chuck Palahnuik or the book ‘House of Leaves’ down her ribs. Another friend, who excels in poetry, actually has two words from his very first piece that he was actually proud of on one of his biceps. He’s also built up that tattoo, adding a sun around it and on his other arm is a moon reflecting over water. I’ve seen him do it a couple times, but he pairs a few lines from one of our favorite poets, Buddy Wakefield, with his moon tattoo, “And the answer comes in the form of a hand written letter from the moon. It says, ‘This is brutally beautiful. So are we. This is endless. So are we. We can heal this.'” A third friend also has a poetic tattoo. She has the words “Come Closer” on her side, along her ribs, in reference to the poem “Come Closer” by Anis Mojgani.

    Props for a fantastic post. Thanks.

  314. I have a tattoo based on a video game, which also has the double meaning of “Power, Wisdom, and Courage”. I think you should definitely get a literary tattoo, because having ink that MEANS something to you is much better than just getting a random tat. Good luck!

  315. I really enjoyed reading this entry. I, too am fascinated by tattoos and words. Whenever I do art, it’s not only a picture, but some phrase or quote that inspired it is incorporated.

  316. I’ve thought about getting some ever since I was like 12 or 13. I am 29 and I STILL haven’t done it. I just want to make sure I get something that I know I’ll never regret getting. i have a few simple little ones that I’ve drawn up a while back, come to & revise every now and then….that I am still debating on getting. But, a cool thing with that is I know if I ever do get one …. I know mine will be one I designed and that’s meaningful to me. Less likely to regret getting one like that, right? ha ha ha Hope so.

    Anyway. Some of the word tats in those photos are cool. Never saw or even heard of the white ink tattoos. Those are pretty neat. Thanks for posting this! 🙂

  317. Yea!!!! Okay, I don’t have time to read all the comments, so please forgive me if I mention something someone above has already gone over.

    First, I caution people about getting tattoos with words. If you get a phrase, people will continuously crane their heads to read it. Case in point, I have a friend with a beautiful phrase done in script from shoulder to shoulder along her collar bone. She hates it. People are always reading it, muttering it under their breath or getting her to adjust her clothing so they can read it all. For some people this can be annoying.

    I always, always, always,caution people to give the idea of a tattoo time to marinate. Pick a design, phrase, color, whatever and doodle it on yourself. Think about it. If you want it for a while without any alterations, get it. If you keep changing and changing and changing it, you might not like it once you get it.

    As far as picking a shop or an artist. Research sterilization requirements in Houston for shops and don’t be afraid to ask a shop manager to see their bill of health, or whatever it’s called. Go in, talk to the artists. Tell them what you’re thinking and ask their opinions. Look at their portfolios. Artists aren’t all the same and you want to pick someone with skills that will translate your tattoo idea well. If someone is an ass hole, feel free to walk away and work with someone who isn’t a jerk. I always ask for my artists input on something. Choosing color and positions and meshing styles, they’re going to be far more interested and excited about doing your tattoo if you involve them, and in my opinion you can tell when someone just picked a piece off the wall or walked in with something for an artist to do as opposed to a creative project they were really into.

    As far as picking where you want the tattoo, think about how you handle pain. Various parts of the body are more sensitive than others. Chose accordingly!

    Lastly, and I’ll shut up after this, research white ink. When I first looked into it, yeah the ink looked cool for a few years but then it begins to yellow with age so you’ll end up with a – excuse the descriptive – urine yellow tattoo rather than the nifty, edgy white tattoo. I really like doing script in deep, dark colors, like crimson or navy. I wish to God I’d done my Hebrew in navy because I don’t hold black ink well, but I hold the abnormal colors like yellow and orange really well.

    Okay, I’m done! Feel free to ping me on twitter, but give me a little bit to get back to you cuz, ya know, in Europe and all that 😛

  318. I have a tattoo in latin on my right wrist, it says “Non Sum Qualis Eram”. I have 2 others as well. Each of them means something to me. I think that is the key, make it meaningful. It’s permanent. Also, find a good artist. It took me 3 years to take the leap. Finding a great artist is a huge deal. People will think what they will think about you regardless of what you do or don’t have/say/do/think. I get judged because I have tattoos, I know that. But the meaning behind the ones I have is beautiful. It’s my banner. If someone doesn’t like me for something I have on my body then they are the ones that are missing out, I’m a great person.

  319. I’ve often toyed with the idea of getting a Vonnegut quote on my shoulder: “Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.” So far I’ve only been brave enough to get one tattoo – an image of flying birds.

    Thanks for the article, and for the pictures!

    • Tattoo removal is not as expensive/ineffective as it used to be. Or at least, as everyone used to tell me it was. I looked into it before I got mine, because I had the same concerns. Apparently black ink is the easiest to remove, and yellow is the hardest. Or something like that.

      – Jill

  320. OK, I’m repeating myself here, but…. careful to not choose anything too fine or detailed. Tattoo lines soften over time. And spread.

    Also, given the heat in the Houston area right now (personally I am staying indoors as much as I can), it might be best to consider how much weather you will be getting afterwards. They must be covered and dry and protected from sun for the whole healing time. Easier in cool weather.

    Pain should not be a major consideration unless you are getting a really large one in which case a good artist will schedule a max of about and hour or an hour and a half at a time.

    Would LOVE to see the result! Bonne chance!

  321. Pingback: Too Many Words for a Title | The Newest Dawn

  322. The most awkward thing about tatoos is criticizing them . . . It’s like admonishing a depressed person for comitting suicide.

    The most depressing thing about tatoos is seeing an extraordinarily beautiful woman, like the one in the photo above . . .

    A man is usually proud of his scars . . . a woman should be protected from any injury causing one . . .

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  325. I think Tattos are absolutely awesome, and much much more common place now then 5 yrs ago. I had been wanting to get one for the last 13 yrs, and i knew exactly what i wanted. Only thing that kept me from getting one was the fear of the disease ! But now I am finally over it and have my tattoo on my right forearm…right where everyone can see. I am so proud and so glad i did it……having said that i don’t know if i would get another one tho … i don’t know if there is anything else that i feel so strongly about. YOU HAVE TO GET YOURS, you will feel good about your self. beautiful way of expressing yourself !

  326. Pingback: A Permanent Relationship With Words: Literary Tattoos (via Amanda Rudd’s Blog) « RaineyRain's Blog

  327. I got my first tattoo in March. I’ve been interested in tattoos since I was about ten, but my mom is very anti-tattoo and says they “make women look cheap.” So I feel like it’s been instilled in me since I was young that I’m just not the type of person to get a tattoo. Even though every time I saw someone with a really gorgeous tattoo, I would think, “That’s so awesome, I wish I could get one.” Even on older women, I think they look good. It finally occurred to me that if I want to be the “type of person” who has a tattoo, all I have to do is…get a tattoo. So I got inked in March. I’d settled on what I wanted about two years ago, just had to work up the guts to go get it done. And I absolutely love it. I’m planning to get my next one in January. It’s on my ankle, and my mom has no idea it’s there. Didn’t hurt a bit, by the way.

    PS – Sephora hooked me up with makeup that covers it up perfectly. Laura Mercier something or other. If your mom is like my mom, you might want to look into it.

    PPS – I also have a motorcycle. =P

    – Jill

  328. i love the idea of literay tattoos! i have a string of words inked around my foot of everything that i stand for. it’s a REAL conversation starter can’t go anywhere without people asking me about it and i love it because it reminds me of who i am when i’m telling them each word…. 🙂

  329. I have five tattoos and two of them are semi-literary based. I say this because they were initially inspired by film adaptations. The first is actor Elijah Wood’s eyes with an inscription in Sindarin Elvish written in One Ring script for Lord of The Rings. The second is my Lock & Co. trilby with the word “Elementary” in Baskerville font for Sherlock Holmes. The hat is the same style actor Robert Downey Jr. wears in character at one point.

    My mother was not crazy about my tattoos at first either. However she recognized that I am an adult who doesn’t require her approval or consent. I think she also understands that it suits my personality. Now she’s even considered getting one of her own. 🙂

    Whatever you do, make sure the design is something you can live with. Also it doesn’t matter where you place it on your body. It is going to hurt. How much simply depends on your tolerance of pain. I have four on my ankle and I thought they hurt much less than the one on my back.

  330. I’m a wedding photographer and I did a tattoo engagement shoot the other day where the bride to be had their wedding motif and the date of the wedding tatooed on her arm. Sweet.

    I have five myself. I’d love a tattoo sleeve. Maybe one day.

  331. I always wanted a tattoo (or two!) but was concerned too about what my Mom would think… My eldest brother got one, so I gated Moms reaction: she loved it, so much so she now has one of her very own! I have 4, and counting… !

    My Dad just shakes his head, usually smiling at the same time, and my Mom is always keen to see the next one!

    I’m currently preparing for no.s 5 and 6, and can’t wait!

    Why do I have them? Well, firstly as an art form I think they’re amazing, but for me, it’s largely because I think it’s not expected of me, and i like the reaction I get when people notice them for the first time… and I think there’s also a little bit of an addiction element, the excitement of choosing the design, prep and the act of the inking itself. Wonderful…

    • Definitely an addiction! Your first tattoo is going to be your favorite. Your second tattoo will take precedence over the first (simply because it’s newer. If you end up with a third, it’s game on. You may as well start planning full sleeves up and down your arms because you are only going to want more.

  332. I have a stylized blue rose on my left arm with the word Cariad, Welsh for sweetheart, above it. Both the rose and the word are nicknames given to me by a dear friend. I’m considering getting a tattoo of a compass with the L

  333. I loved reading this so much. You should really consider getting a Tumblr. or posting it up here if you do have one. =) I’d love to read more posts

  334. I love tattoos, it’s art on the skin. The idea of having a literary tattoo is something that has captured my heart as well. Right now, I don’t have any tattoos, but definitely plan to get more than one.

    Some time in the future, I plan on getting the words “I go to seek a Great Perhaps.” A quote from the book Looking for Alaska, by John Green.

    For my 18th birthday, which is at the end of this year, I’m getting a tattoo with the words “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.” A verse from the Bible that resonates with me very much.

    I’m definitely subscribing to your blog now by the way, I guess that the “Freshly Pressed” page does have some awesome posts…once in a while haha

  335. “All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies, and whenever they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you” i do have to say that this would be my pick!
    i can’t blame you for waiting and thinking of what you want on your body since it is permanent, i myself have 3 and waiting for 4-5 by the end of the year, the first one i wanted since i was 15 when my grandfather passed but did not get it done until i was 25, and then it took my 5 more years to get my two others done and i love them and cannot wait for the next 2, its funny because it took me 5 years to think of this motif of art on my body but only one year to get it done and all by the same artist. Yes I did care what my mother thought and at first she hated it and then she hated the other 2 as well, but she has gotten used to them now and is ok with them.

  336. I’ve always been very fascinated with Egyptian history. I am planning on getting a tattoo of Anubis in the very near future. Funny I was just about to write a blog about getting a tattoo and then I found your post. Great minds think alike I guess. 🙂

  337. I am also obsessed with the idea of getting a literary tattoo. I love the way you described it, as a permanent relationship with words. I feel like that alone would be a good enough quote to have on your body! I don’t have any tattoos yet. I have been contemplating where I would want one (the places I like are too difficult to cover up for work) & what quote to use. I think I would want to pick a quote and wait a year or two to make sure that quote never loses it’s meaning to me.

  338. Hmm..I have lots of tattoos, my first was angel wings (10 years ago, they weren’t quite so prevalent 😛 ), followed by peace in three languages. My literary tatoo is “curiouser & curiouser”…so yeah. I think your white ink idea sounds smashing!

  339. I remember hearing that getting words tattooed defeats the purpose, or something, because they should be about images telling a story… It might have been Ami or someone from Miami Ink. I can’t recall. Also, I don’t really agree. I have 8 tattoos, four of which are words and a fifth that is totally literary. 1) “DARE” across the abs, because it’s a great verb. 2) “Whither should I fly?” (with drumsticks) from Faustus. 3) “Come What May” in flames up left forearm. 4) “Know Not Fear” in water up right forearm. The fifth is an entire backpiece based on a part of Tolstoy’s “Confessions” where he rips apart the Buddhist story about the man in a dry well… it’s complicated, ha. I’m always planning more but I have it in my head that tattoos shouldn’t be words for some reason. Thanks for reassuring me! The next ink I want is either “Words, words, they’re all we have to go on” (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead) or a silhouette of a boy standing on a desk ala Dead Poet’s Society, in negative space.

  340. I’ve dyed my hair purple, I have my navel pierced, 7 holes in my ears (combined) and 2 small tattoos. On my left hip is a strawberry and strawberry blossom, commemorating my grandmother. On my right hip is a purple crescent moon, honoring my mother. I’ve though about adding to them, but haven’t been able to justify spending the money, haha. Each tattoo is about the size of a quarter. The one on my left stung like a mild sunburn, the one on my left hurt, simply because the tattoo artist was heavy-handed. My advice is to find a tattoo artist you trust and one whose work you LOVE. Ask for a portfolio, and find one online. Ask other people who have great tattoos.
    I’ve often thought that, now that I have tats for the two most important women in my life, I should get one for myself. I’ve toyed with lots of literary references. One of my best friends has an infinity symbol on the inside of her wrist, a reference to “The Perks of Being A Wallflower.” 🙂

  341. I’ve been toying with getting “Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt” from Slaughterhouse Five for awhile now. Just haven’t found a reason to make the leap.

    That white ink is pretty awesome… something I hadn’t considered before.

  342. I find it interesting that our mothers both had similar views on our lives. Although, since I turned 18, mine has been a lot more liberal with me. She actually wants a tattoo now and wasn’t completely freaked out when I came home with one (a triangle on my thumb). Still, she doesn’t completely condone these things, but she knows there’s nothing she can do about it.

    As far as literary tattoos go, I’m not a big fan. Possibly because most of the ones I have seen are just done so terribly. It’s really difficult to tattoo text because the ink bleeds when not done absolutely perfectly or in the right places. Some turn out quite nicely; some of the examples you posted are absolutely beautiful.

    Tattoos are amazing, beautiful pieces of art. I can’t wait to get more, but I don’t think I’ll be getting much text -just the text on the two memorial tattoos I’m getting.

  343. I love this idea for a tattoo! You know what would be an awesome tat is to have the cover of your favorite book tattooed on you and then underneath a passage from the book…. or even a tattoo of a page from your favorite book… I have so many tattoos, I have 11 on my foot (to one day make like a sleeve) 3 on my back and 4 down my neck. Each signifying an important part of my life, you can read more about my tattoos on my blog here: http://hippiechicjewelz.wordpress.com/2011/03/14/to-tattoo-or-not-to-tattoo/

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  345. Congratualtions on being Freshly Pressed 🙂 This is a great blog!

    ahhh your mom sounds like mine even though we come from completely different backgrounds and continents! I also love literary tattoos – though I doubt I’d ever get a tattoo for religious reasons. Good luck on choosing something. It would take me MONTHS to decide.

    Must find a copy of Watership Down…

  346. From the movie Network, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore” – that’s the only tattoo I’ve ever seriously considered having. Does this count as literary even though it’s from a movie?

  347. I have four black/grey stars from the top of my neck to half way down my back. Inside each star I have my husband’s eye and my three kids’ eyes. They’re life-like and look exactly like their eyes. They’re the stars of my life who are always watching my back.

    Soon I want to get the Celtic calendar wheel in colour below the stars taking up my entire lower back. Instead of calendar events I want eight images that represent me withthe Latin names for each representation. The eight ‘things’ are Christmas (holy to represent my birthday), family (my family crest), motherhood (adult hand holding a child’s hand), travel (road heading into sunset), learning (an owl), friendship (two little kids with their arms around one another – the tattoo sees them from the back), teaching (an apple) and books because I love literature. Originally I was going for a pile of books for the image but I’m thinking I’d like something more symbolic. It’s the one image I can’t finalize. This blog post is giving me great ideas though 😉

    PS It hurts but it’s worth it.

  348. At 24 yrs old I decided I wanted a tattoo of a a maple leaf with the right corner flipped up, so it looked like it was blowing in the wind, with the colours green fading to yellow fading to orange fading to red. I grew up in Nova Scotia Canada and I love the colours of the leaves in the autumn.
    It took me 10 years to decide where I wanted to put it on my body. I like to be different, but since tattoos are a fashion accessory there was no stand out place I could put it. I also wanted it some where I didn’t have to undress to show it off.
    My step-dad passed away in 2008 and that gave me a reason to get it done. In April of 2009 I got my first (and ONLY) tattoo. I was 34 yrs old. I have it on the outside of my left leg about 5 inches above my ankle bone. It looks like the leaf is being blown off my leg and it has his lifespan dates underneath. I love it!
    I would love to get the word LOVE on the outside of my right leg from knee to ankle with ivy and purple flowers wrapped around the letters, but I was such a wimp for the first one that I don’t think I could do it again.

    When you do get yours done it will be amazing. I look forward to the blog and pictures about it.

  349. I am a WordPress newbie, so any visits to my humble page is very much appreciated. To answer your question, I have three tattoos, am 46 yoa, and my advice would be that a tattoo needs to be personal to you. My first tat is a fairly standard celtic circle with a clover leaf inside it, as my partner had the ID of clover bear on eBay help boards, where we met. My nickname is Bear, or big fat polar bear to be more precise, so my second tat is of a polar bear paw print and ‘polar bear’ written in Inuktitut, the written language of the Inuit. The third tat, and by far the biggest, is a tribal-esque band around my upper arm which links in to a stylised figure of death, scythe and all. Underneath is the chinese symbols for ‘despair’. This is the most personal, and reminds me of my ongoing battle with depression and the fact that it very nearly took my life six years ago. I have already planned my next tat. It is a quote, such as you seem to favour. Actually it is a lyric from Bruce Springsteen which goes “It’s a sad man my friend who’s living in his own skin, and can’t stand the company”. Again this is a reminder of the way I often feel with the depression. This might sound morbid, but these reminders are my armour against it. Proof I am winning. So, you are doing the right thing. Go get a tat. Make it personal to you. Design it well. And so far as finding the right parlour is concerned, word of mouth is best. As a rule of thumb, if they can fit you in that afternoon don’t bother. The good ones have a waiting list. I waited 6 months for my death tat, but it was well worth it and let me fiddle with the design in the meantime. Good luck, and keep in touch :o)