Brenda Nicholson

What is a Commonplace Book and Do You Need One?

I have a stack of journals.

I like to compartmentalize my life. I have journals for writing, morning pages, gratitude, shadow work, and even art journals. I start a new journal every time I take a new class.

But one that I don’t have is what is called a commonplace journal or notebook.

A commonplace book is a place to keep collections of quotes, ideas, or other information that you think is useful.

Maybe it’s an idea that you want to try one day, or a great quote you want to remember.

I highlighted a quote by Joan Didion today that I loved. I would have put it in a commonplace book if I had one.

Commonplace books are said to be valuable tools for writers, but I know a lot of people who keep them who are not.

Some of the most famous people in history from Marcus Aurelius to Bill Gates have kept commonplace books. Ronald Reagan kept a form of commonplace books on index cards.

Index cards are a much better idea. One card, one quote, or one idea. You can even add a category so that you can file them together.

This is one of the reasons that I never started a commonplace book. How could you begin to organize it or find what you want if you just add things as you come across them?

If you still have your doubts about commonplace books, consider this:

Many people consider Pinterest to be a digital version of a commonplace book.

After all, it isn’t just writers who need a good quote or piece of advice now and then. We could all use that.

Consider that the next time you find something useful. Maybe you could start a notebook or a new Pinterest board.

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