Remember and organize useful information and ideas before they’re gone! You think you’ll remember, but with 1000s of things coming at you every day, you won’t.
For centuries, bright minds and educated people have kept commonplace books where they would note quotes, observations, musings, anecdotes or bits of conversations from books, poems, songs, letters, newspapers and magazines. Today we might add movies, podcasts and social media.
Although traditionally, people had a devoted commonplace book, nowadays, you could insert all these tidbits in your daily journal, a separate notebook, on your smartphone or index cards. It does make sense to use technology as it is easier to organize and re-organize items in topics and folders. Please feel free to adapt the idea to suit you. Notebooks and index cards have the advantage of working without an internet connection and they don’t run out of battery. Of course, a mix of both could be the perfect solution.
Why Keep a Modern Version Of a Commonplace Book?
Have you ever come across a quote that really spoke to you while scrolling on social media, liked it and completely forgot about it? Maybe you saw it a year later, had the same aha moment and wished you had used it back then to change something in your life.
If there is a particular topic you are interested in, keeping a commonplace book devoted to it might become a fantastic tool, full of useful information, observations, reflection, notes, questions to ponder, pictures or diagrams.
Writers tend to keep one in one form or another. This is a gold mine when it comes to gathering ideas for a novel or non-fiction piece.
“That is one of the worst feelings I can think of, to have had a wonderful moment or insight or vision or phrase, to know you had it, and then to lose it. So now I use index cards.”
— Anne Lamott, Bird By Bird
The word itself sums up the purpose of a commonplace book: it keeps all this in one common (central) place. This ensures that you can easily find all these insights and delights as they all are in this book or system. It also makes a great read once in a while…