What is a commonplace book, you ask?

Once upon a time, when there was no internet and when books were far too expensive for most people to own, people had commonplace books to record the things they liked or needed to know, so they would always have access to it. It’s basically a quick-reference notebook filled with the things you want it to be filled with, in whatever format works for you.

Now, I have the luxury of both access to the internet and a collection of books that I enjoy, but I still find keeping a commonplace book helpful for a few reasons.

My commonplace book is comprised mostly of sentences that I like from books that I’m reading, but I also sometimes take note of lyrics or lines from a show. Usually I jot down a few notes about why I liked it or what it made me think of – some kind of quick analysis.

For me, the pieces that demand to be recorded in my commonplace book are the ones that are really strong in sentence structure – I think the sentences that sound beautiful. This kind of thing is really helpful in determining the style that want to achieve in my own writing. It also helps me understand the things I’m reading (or whichever verb is applicable for the medium) on a deeper and more satisfying level.

Besides, with a commonplace book, I’m much less likely to try to tell someone about something I read that sang in my heart, and then garble up the conversation by completely forgetting what the thing was. I remember better when I write it down, and if I still manage to forget, I have it written down (although that second part only works if you take it with you everywhere you go).

Sometimes I do write down things I disliked or think could be done better, just to see if I can do it in a way that I like more, or so that I can pore over it later and grumble about it again to some passerby.

And soon, that passerby could be you! Because I am going to be typing up and posting pieces of my commonplace book at the end of each month from here on out. Only, I will not be only grumbling, but also praising. Mostly praising, in fact.

I will say that if you decide to keep your own commonplace book, you might want to stick to the handwritten kind. Mine is handwritten too, partly because I like to write with pens in actual notebooks, but also because SCIENCE says that your brain tends to retain handwritten information better than not-handwritten information (this is something I learned from my teachers at my university, but admittedly, I haven’t done much research into the subject myself). It’s also really satisfying to be able to look through the paper copy of my commonplace book, and do things like change up the colors of my pens and whatnot. Finally, you can use it to show how nerdy and archaic you are.

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