Recently I was inspired by the following article on ThoughtCatalog, titled “How and Why to Keep a Commonplace Book.”
(Read the fantastic article here: http://thoughtcatalog.com/2013/how-and-why-to-keep-a-commonplace-book/)
I realized that for many years, I have indeed been keeping a Commonplace Book, one scattered around in one of the several agendas that I have kept. You know, the ones that begin with a single purpose (budget tracking) and slowly morph into a fantastically interesting but disastrously unorganized collection of notes, lists, dates to remember, phone numbers to call, and the occasional quote.
My New Year’s resolution, therefore, is to create a true Commonplace Book, one that I take the time to craft and tend to, whether by writing fragments of interest down on post-its to come across later, or typing out quick stickies on my desktop.
I think that the integral part of the Commonplace book is that, just like a writer’s notebook or a bookshelf, it’s organized with the creator in mind. Until my junior year of high school, I never understood why the method of carrying around one huge binder with all my class notes and papers didn’t work for me. Not until one of my teachers, bewildered at how long it took me to flip through my notes each day, gifted me with a plain manila folder and a $0.99 notebook. With these tools, I realized that the binder method, which seemed to work for everyone else at school but me, didn’t work for my learning style. It was more valuable for me to have things spread out into different physical locations, with my notes in one area and the teacher’s notes in another, than to have everything in one convenient place.
Therefore, for my Commonplace book, I’ve decided to use the format of index cards. Separable, fibrous little pads that can be folded, bent, but most importantly, organized and reorganized as the collection of wisdom and intrigue from my book list grows. They’ll be handwritten, in one shade of pen (a fragment of OCD developed a years ago that pairs specific notebooks with specific pens) and stuffed into a cheap card organizer picked up at Target.
Consolidating all of the wisdom I’ve picked up through the years, wisdom taken from my favorite novels, random magazines (yes, there is even an anecdote from People magazine in June 2011 stuck in there), and random conversations with others, I hope the Commonplace book to serve as a source of inspiration in the future, but also something to guide my writing now.
Noticing the most powerful passages of prose and what stands out to me (particularly in a 700 page tome like The Goldfinch that is currently underway.
Perhaps after a year or two there will come a time when I need to organize the quotes into categories, sections like “people watching” or “thoughts for the nighttime,” but for now, I want to focus on the raw material that inspires me, so that one day it might creep into a project or venture.
For now, I’ll begin writing my first index card:
“He would have to stop writing and quit playing chess, and instead he would have to join some sort of a boxing team, or an ultimate fighting club. He would dream of getting even… his whole life would turn into an ultimate fighting competition, and for what? For whom?!” – Marina and Sergey Dyachenko