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What will you fill yours with? - Starting a Commonplace book

Updated: Apr 1

Life is funny. Sometimes something new comes into your life and it feels more meaningful – grabbing your attention in a more urgent fashion – sort of gently, but by the scruff of the neck. Discovering the idea of a Commonplace book appeared to me in this way.

I did some writing with a friend last week. We were writing - and gushing - about illustrated books - something I've got into in the last few months after picking up a beautifully illustrated little James Herriot book in a charity shop.

We got onto the subject of a 'Commonplace book,' a place (a ‘common place’) to keep ideas, experiences, dreams, thoughts, things of interest, noteworthy things or happenings, quotes etc.

I was thrilled by this idea which was new to me. I then excitedly told a friend who said it was familiar but he couldn’t place quite how. Later he pinged me to say the book he is currently reading refers to a Commonplace book and that’s why it had been familiar. It was a new concept to him too. Spooky – and also a clear message – start one Claire!

Here’s a Masterclass article on the subject if you’d like to read a bit more about the history. If, however, you’re lazy like me and it’s enough to know it can be traced back at least as far as Marcus Aurelius and Mark Twain who both used one, then you can just get started.

Isn’t it just journaling Claire?

Not really, though you could combine the two if you’re someone who keeps your journals (I’m a destroyer - once I’ve skimmed my journal sometime later – normally at least a year.)

It’s more of a place to capture things and even learn. A place of reference should you need inspiration. Some use index cards to allow for easier reference, and some keep things online.

However, if it’s in a book, you can doodle, draw and even stick things in if you fancy. And there’s something so much more pleasing, comforting and visceral about having a little book that’s capturing what interests you – essentially capturing yourself. Seeing yourself reflected back on the page, either through journaling or starting a book like this makes you more mindful and strengthens your indentity so you can feel more confident and even feel better (or hopefully, even better) about yourself.

So far in mine I’ve listed the co-incidence mentioned above. I drew a little sketch of the headdress someone was wearing in ‘What we do in the shadows’ (BBC) simply because I thought it was beautiful. It’s not a great drawing but that’s not the point, so don’t let your content be the subject of judgement. I also drew some autumn leaves next to an entry saying I’d been to Virginia Water Lake and it didn’t look anything like I’d remembered (I was last there in the early 90s.)

I share this with you to show that there’s no expectation for what you note. I don’t know why I’ve captured these things, but they were noteworthy to me and that’s enough. It’s also making me more present and I’ve found I’m paying more attention to what’s going on around me.

Let me know how you get on!

As a quick PS - Keri Smith's books are fantastic for ideas for keeping, capturing, creating etc. Wreck this Journal and How to be an Explorer are two of my favourites.. they're full of inspiration.

A small update. Since discovering a Commonplace book I have since learned that I prefer to share my thoughts and capturings. I currently use Twitter for this (am waiting for the next new thing now that it has become 'X'). Essentially Twitter and other social media are modern commonplace books, for people who need to share.

However you capture or share your thoughts, revelations, creations, just do it, there is only now.

Go to to find out how I can help you live a more creative and fulfilled life or give me a shout at CP

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