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Baby steps to a commonplace books

Last fall, I decided I wanted to start a commonplace book. Very simply, a commonplace book is a place where you collect quotes, selections from books, poetry, etc. It’s a good way to keep and meditate on the wisdom we come across through our reading.  George Washington’s “Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior” is the most well-known example of an entry in a commonplace book.

But despite my good intentions, it took three months to actually get around to buying a notebook to use for my commonplace book. In early January I finally bought one, then I stuck it in my purse and let it tag along with me for a while. You can’t go too fast with these things. Baby steps.

Finally, I actually started to write in my book last week. And I’m gathering steam! It only took me three months to get the book and another month to write in it, and I actually wrote two consecutive days. Baby steps! (Should I include that quote in my book? Probably not. Maybe.) My biggest challenge is to copy from sources other than C.S. Lewis. So far I’ve got six quotes, only two of which are Lewis. I’d say that’s pretty good.

commonplace collage

The beginnings of my commonplace book:

“Nothing now remains for us seven by to go back to Stable Hill, proclaim the truth, and take the adventure that Aslan sends us.” The Last Battle, C.S. Lewis. (This is the closest thing I came to a New Year’s Resolution. You gotta do what works for you.)

“Let us make way for grace.” The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence

“What one generation tolerates, the next generation will embrace.” John Wesley

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“We are so busy doing things with the work that we give it too little chance to work on us. Thus, increasingly we meet only ourselves.” An Experiment in Criticism, C.S. Lewis

“The soul that God gave us is made to harmonize things.” Andrew Kern

That last one is something I wrote down from a workshop at the homeschool convention I’m attending this weekend, illustrating that it’s not printed material only that you can collect in a commonplace book. Of course, your friend might look at you sidelong if you whip out your book and start copying down their words. Just remember, weird looks are the price of wisdom!

For more on commonplace books:

“How and Why to Keep a Commonplace Book.”

“Why It’s Time Revive the Commonplace Book”


3 responses to “Baby steps to a commonplace books”

  1. Cindy Watson Avatar
    Cindy Watson

    I kept one for years, in many different forms. I haven’t for the past few years, I don’t know why. I never knew they had a name or other people did this. It was just something I did to keep close quotes or humor I did not want to forget.

    1. April Avatar

      That’s probably why they’re called “commonplace”: A bright idea, shared by many people. I hope you start up again!

  2. Suzana Sandoval Avatar
    Suzana Sandoval

    I came across Commonplace journals in Pinterest. I researched them and found that in Ancient Greece is how they recorded their day. I enjoyed your article Baby Steps. I plan to start a Commonplace book. What a great idea. Thanks for sharing. I love journaling and this will enhance my writing.

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