Creating a Commonplace Book for my Writing

With school looming around the corner, I’ve been busy reading syllabi and collecting the materials I need for my classes. One of the things I encountered, which would be an understatement to say I’m excited about is, keeping a commonplace book for one of my history classes.

If you are like me, you don’t know what a commonplace book is. From the small amount of research I did, I would define it as information and knowledge collected in a single place. It is different from a journal or memoir in its content. Where a journal is quite chronological and introspective, a commonplace book is more like a collection of facts and figures pertaining to a common subject.

This idea has been around for quite some time and I think we’ve seen a sort of modern revival and revolution of commonplace books in the new form of bullet journaling.

Interestingly enough, I believe the reason the concept of a commonplace book is so appealing to me is because of the writer’s book/idea journal I currently keep. This is exactly how a commonplace book relates back to my writing life and not just my excitement as a student.

I always strive to have a place to put unique ideas, names, conversations and quotes as I hear and encounter them in the world. (I have a note on my phone titled “Things to add to Books”). I have names, quotes, titles, worldbuilding pieces, random facts about culture, psychology, and science, but I thought it might be an interesting experiment to compile these notes I have collected from various spots and put them into a common place—A commonplace book! I would like to create a journal that is brimming with ideas, concepts, characters, names, quotes, and anything else that I might want to add to a book one day.

I currently have a drawer filled with paper scraps, journals, and odds and ends that have all sorts of scenes, character designs, drawings, outlines, maps and stories scattered throughout. My desire would be to gather these pieces together in my writer’s commonplace book.

I will keep the form of the book loose and informal. I won’t organize it according to sections. I don’t want it to be neat and tidy, I want it to be well of inspiration and ideas fueled by my years of collecting such inspirations. I’m really excited to get started on this project and I’m very interested to see how it will vary from the other commonplace book I will be working on throughout the semester.

As I embark on this adventure, I would like to share my progress on this book as its aim is not meant to private (though of course personal), but rather it is a collection of the facts and information I’ve gathered in the form of raw research and idea material from my time as a writer and general curious person.

I am quite interested to know if you keep any sort of commonplace book that is separate from a writer’s journal. What kinds of things do you find fill its pages? When did you first start keeping a commonplace book?

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