The Why’s of a Common Place Book

Recently, I was up one night Google-ing (c’mon, you do it too) and I saw this article on ThoughtCatalog on common place books. “A common place book,” the article writes, is “a central resource or depository for ideas, quotes, anecdotes, observations and information you come across during your life and didactic pursuits. The purpose of the book is to record and organize these gems for later use in your life, in your business, in your writing, speaking or whatever it is that you do.”

Wow. Because…well, I have been doing this for years. Even in middle school I can remember doing this: coping passages of books I liked, poems, and writing down other things I liked. Now, it actually has a name. I never called my collection of antedotes a ‘common place book.’ Matter of fact, I never called it anything, just my notebook. Inside this notebook I’d always hand write song lyrics, quotes, lists, general observations, notes, and attempts at poetry. It is not a journal/diary and I’ve never used it for that purpose–my journal is a separate thing altogether and kept in another notebook. I’ve always used moleskines for common placing because they’re inconspicuous (no one is looking over your shoulder while you’re writing in a small black book), sleek, and easily portable. The paper is high quality and doesn’t bleed through with gel pens, which is what I prefer to write with.

Down below I will show you pics of my current common place book. However, I want to make some distinctions here between a common place book and a journal/diary, because in my opinion they are not one in the same.

  1. Journals generally consist of narrative entries, may be typed, and can be kept online. Common place books are not narrative, are usually handwritten, and are not kept online.
  2. Entries are not random, but rather, placed with premeditation. A nice pen and an attempt at neat handwriting may be used, because chances are the writer will want to come back to it later.
  3. Common place books are not scrapbooks, which are usually made and created for an audience. A common place book is only for the reader, and the items inside put there for specific interest and use for the reader alone.

A couple of shots of my current common place book. I tried to pick some of my neater pages, because my cursive can be hard to read while I’m in the “moment”:

Some notes I was taking on sci-fi genres.

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A list of animal collective nouns. Why did I write this? I’m not sure.

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In this case, whole quotes copied out of a novel I was reading. This was Ethan Hawke’s “Ash Wednesday.” A very good book, btw.

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A list of albums I like for a music Tumblr I was thinking of doing. It never came to fruition.

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Some Radiohead lyrics I was too lazy to write, so I printed them out, cut and pasted them. Yup.

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Does anyone else out there have a common place book? Inquiring minds here would like to know…

[Note: It occurred to me just now that a Pinterest board is kinda the electronic equivalent of a common place book. I whole-heartedly agree with this.]

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