How often have you come across a line while reading a book, and felt a sudden surge of… something?
Something that makes your heart pulse a little more fervently, something that heats your chest, something that sparks a little fire in your soul. How often do you turn to whatever journal, book, or writing device you have nearby just to write it down, to remember it because it meant something to you?
Odds are, particularly if you’re a creative type, that’s happened quite a bit. It’s been a commonplace thing for many creatives throughout history, so much so, there’s even a name for the style of journaling. It’s called a commonplace book, and you should totally start one.
What is a commonplace book?
Simply put, a commonplace book is a journal in which phrases of note are copied or recorded for one’s own personal use. This could be passages from books, quotes seen on Pinterest, things overheard, and even things you’ve thought.
How do you start a commonplace book?
Starting a commonplace book is simple. All you need is a journal, a pen/pencil, and a bunch of things you want to record.
Five tips for your commonplace book
Starting any kind of creative task can be daunting, so here are my tips for compiling your commonplace book.
1. Ignore the temptation to strive for perfection
A commonplace book isn’t designed to be a beautiful thing placed on display. It’s simply a place to record things you love. You can, of course, work hard to make it aesthetically pleasing, or filled with adorable drawings, but don’t let the idea of creating something perfect stop you from starting. A messy commonplace book is better than none at all.
2. Don’t worry about having things in order
Fill your commonplace book with passages as you find them. You don’t have to work out a table of contents before you begin and proceed to categorise your work as you go. That will simply take time and cause confusion. The theme of this book is ‘Things that Inspire Me,’ resist the temptation to further divide that into subcategories.
3. Allow yourself creative free reign
Your commonplace book doesn’t have to be solely reserved for quotes, or other written media. Mix things up a little with drawings, doodles, photographs, magazine cut-outs, or even pressed flowers. You can even write passages on different papers and glue or sellotape them into your book.
4. Make the experience an event
I understand that sometimes you don’t have a spare moment to sit down and artistically add something to a notebook, but sitting down and recording things you love is such a relaxing experience. When I come across a passage I want to add to my commonplace book, I take note of it on my phone. Then, once I’ve compiled quite a list of things, I’ll make myself some tea, sit in the sunlight, or cosy up with a blanket and a crackling candle on a rainy day, grab my pen or pencil and have a calm moment or two while I write. It’s a form of self-care. Enjoy it.
5. Find inspiration everywhere
I have a list of things on my phone that inspire me. Strange things that I probably shouldn’t reveal. Things like ants, climbing the gaps in cobblestones while carrying a crumb twice their size. Include strange little lists like these in your commonplace book, and seek inspiration everywhere you go. You can find it in nature, in books, in lyrics of songs, dialogue of movies, words of your best friend. If it inspires you, include it.
Stationary I love to use
I use a little journal for my commonplace book, which allows me to put it in my handbag and take it with me if I feel like I’m going to wind up somewhere that I’ll be able to write. I picked up this blank book by seeso graphics at TK Maxx, in the discount section for around $2. If you’re looking for something bigger, I thoroughly recommend Rhodia journals – their pages are some of the softest I’ve ever felt. As for writing utensils, I either use pencil (the pages in my journal are fairy see-through), or in my Rhodia journal, I use nothing but Stabilo Fineliners. I somehow scored a pack of 30 for $10, so keep your eyes peeled for discounts.
Thanks for reading! You can find other creative articles, tips and tricks right here! Happy commonplacing!
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