My Commonplace

“He who rides the sea of the Nile must have sails woven of patience.” –William Golding

“He who rides the sea of the Nile must have sails woven of patience.” –William Golding

Jessica Prouty, Staff Writer

Everyone has that one quote they will never forget. Whether it is from a movie, a book, or even something their best friend said in a crisis situation that made things seem just a little better, it is something that person will cling to when they need words of comfort. But why stop at just one? A Commonplace Book (often just called “commonplace”) is the perfect place to keep anything from quotes and lyrics, to random facts about the world. It is a central depository for ideas, quotes, anecdotes, observations, and information one runs across and finds important or interesting. Comparable to a scrapbook, a commonplace is a compilation of things that the creator deems necessary to record for future reference.

Many of the greatest writers in the world kept commonplace books to jot down important items (such as words of wisdom to get through tough times, reference of their own writings, or just as a place to store things that spoke to the heart). Today, commonplace books are mainly used as a way to record important things for future reference (a way to look back on things once held dear but now forgotten) and for use in life’s situations. Commonplace books, like scrapbooks, take time to build. Some books have been known to last anywhere from a few years to a lifetime.

Keeping this book is not an easy and short-lived feat when done correctly. It takes time and commitment. You never know when it may come in handy. So, if one is dedicated to keeping a commonplace, below are three of the greatest tips and tricks given by those who successfully finished a book of their own.


Read. Reading is essential to creating a commonplace. Read a large variety of things such as books, articles, poems, etc. Even if it barely seems like it is worth reading, read it! Do remember though, there have been many people before who were not huge fans of reading and still successfully put together a commonplace book. This was done through watching things in the media such as movies or television series, or through listening to music and speeches.  Beyond this, many great commonplace creators suggest that one should watch the world around them, listen to the people around them, and record what speaks to them. Many authors even include photos and paper clippings with interesting content. After all, it is personal book of things the author deems important.

Actually write it down. Whether reading, watching, or listening, one will need to write down the important stuff. Some may feel tempted to simply write it in the “Notes” application on their phone or to type it into a word document on the computer. However it is oriven that when one writes something down, they tend to remember it better. Writing may also it make the little snippet a little more personal when looking back on it. Some commonplace authors state that one may be able to tell what was going on when the quote was written by the handwriting. The handwriting will be different depending on the mood; maybe something was doodled to go along with it. Perhaps one could even remember the very moment the entry was recorded.

Anything Goes. Whatever one feels is necessary should go in the book. It would benefit the creator to mark down things that stick out as they read or watch, whatever the medium may be. Write down passages, certain words or phrases, anecdotes, stories, or simple information that seems important. If the author is artistic, doodles and other art pieces should be a part of the book. There should never be a question of “to write, or not to write”. If it has value to the author, it is meant to be in the commonplace.

If a commonplace seems interesting, grab any type of journal and start recording. Make it personal, stay dedicated, and it will never be a disappointment.