As a rule of thumb, in seminars and classrooms and from agents to editors, writers are often warned not to use clichés. And while I can certainly understand the fallacy, there lurks within me an infrequent bout of Contrary Mary.
I could argue till the cows come home that we’ve heard phrases our entire lives, many from beloved family members, many more from respected mentors; an indelible arrangement of words that happen to precisely define your own thoughts and take up roots in your heart to boot. In which case, the occasional sharing of said phrase could be considered an imitation; the most sincere form of flattery, or could quite possibly, low and behold, be the most profound combination of words your readers have ever read.
That being said, a certain amount of jurisprudence must be employed so as to never give the devil a ride for he’ll always want to drive and your manuscript could be dropped like a hotcake! But if a particular phrase defines you, explains the mindset of your character, or perhaps describes a setting or event, by all means, use it!
As long as your work isn’t riddled with clichés (as I’ve demonstrated here), a good book praises itself and that’s just right as rain, isn’t it?
I suppose I’ve tortured the Literary Police long enough, but does anyone know how many phrases I’ve coined? Do you have a favorite or least-favorite saying?
Incidentally, in the course of this I learned the meaning behind the phrase SwanSong, which I didn’t know was a phrase, and found it to be both lovely and tragic. But I’ll let you decide.