Commonplace Books

Reading is a portal to a new world, and quotes are the items we bring back for ourselves to use and live by in our own all too real reality. Sometimes you may read something in a book you think, “Hey that’s interesting, I should come back and write that down.” But you always forget and end up never finding the quote again. Though this does not always happen in books, this may happen in poems, songs, movies, television shows, cookbooks,¬† etc. This analyzing strategy can help you understand things more and learn from everything in life instead of walking through without anything behind you to help you along the way.


A commonplace book is a place for expressing ideas and writing down thoughts for the future. There are many other uses for a commonplace book too such as keeping a journal, or drawing. But to me a commonplace book is a place for your life to unfold, to write everything you feel and learn and that you never want to forget.

Now this is not a new thing, many people throughout history have kept books such as these. This type of book has helped humanity learn what happened in the past. For example James Madison had kept a extensive journal writing daily on what was taking place at the meeting of the 13 colonies creating the Constitution. If he had not written down everything happening, we would have no recollection of the event and history would not be known as vastly as it is today. Not only presidents or “famous” people took part in this, soldiers have kept journals and books such as these recording battles and wars. We would not know much of the Revolutionary War and its battles if not for the soldiers writing in these journals or to their families. These books have written our history for us…

All these people kept books such as these not only to keep track of history but also to learn and be delighted to do so. Knowledge is power, and the more knowledge you collect, the mightier you shall be.


There is no set way of keeping a commonplace book, many people use a multitude of different forms to write this personal masterpiece. Personally I use four journals to keep myself organized, one book for journaling, one for book reviews and vocabulary etc., one for famous quotes and quotes I come across during reading that I come to love, and one for drawing and sketching out paintings and artwork for expressing my imagination. These four suit my own needs and I use them as regularly as I can.

Here are some examples and explanations behind ways to keep your own commonplace book:

-Have at least one journal to write in. Here in this journal you will be writing quotes, journal entries, reviews, drawing and other things. Make sure you have it with you at all times to write down any form of inspiration you may encounter. Now if you keep these journals separate such as myself, I highly recommend having one journal for each category so you can organize yourself and not get lost in your own work. For quotes I have nine different categories to arrange them, they are as follows: Discovery, Fear, Truth, Life, Light, Knowledge, Love, and Bliss, they may seem random, but the system I keep works for me. These are just my own, I would suggest finding whatever fits you best and using it as your own, whatever pertains to your own book and life, what gives you inspiration to help in life. At the beginning of each section I keep a section description on why i chose that as a section and what meaning it has for me as a writer and human-being. (I also keep an index at the end of the book to cite the pages these sections are on and what books the quotes are from)

-There is also the ability to keep index cards as your commonplace book. This was a choice I had to make between my commonplace book options, I was at a deadlock between index cards and books. I ended up choosing books because I thought I could personalize them easier and put real creativity into them. Now the reason I had index cards  at a deadlock with books was because they were easy to organize and add to. They could be kept in a box with tabs in between to be added to whenever necessary, while books could not. Index cards could be colored or written on much easier, and there was more space, there was no limit to what I could write.

-Another way to keep a commonplace book is to write it online. I would not recommend this to many people only because I think the internet is not as easily saved and cherished as other ways of using this method. There are some positives to this choice, you have infinite space to write, endless ways to organize, and the ability to save, share and copy. Some negative effects can be no personalization, and no ability to draw or sketch out ideas. These can be small to some, and huge to others, but I recommend you do what you prefer.


Other than just having a place to write you need things to write.

-Write daily in your journal about what happened that day, interesting stories and just everyday thoughts.

-Pour out your feelings into this book and let your true self write instead of the person you let out into the world we call reality, don’t let anything stop you from writing everything down, no one will see this if you don’t want them to.

-Write poetry, short stories, songs, even novels, everything that comes to mind write until you can write no more. There is no limit to human creativity except for those we put on ourselves, so let everything out.

-Write reviews for movies and television shows and books. Write summaries and categorize them. Write if you would every watch the movie or read the book again, if you would recommend it to a friend. Give it a rating out of 5 to remind yourself how you felt as you read it.

-Write inspiring quotes, quotes you think you can use for school, in essays or stories, remember to always cite where you found these quotes so you can go back and reread them to use again.

-Draw, paint, anything to let out your inner artist. Who cares if you suck at art, everyone starts as a beginner, there is no such thing as being born with a talent, just passions that you need to strive toward and practice.

In the end I can not tell you what to write, but only inspire you to continue writing. Thank you for reading this post, comment how you keep your commonplace book and if this has helped you.

I was inspired by Ryan Holiday and his post on “How and Why to Keep a ‘Commonplace Book'” to start my own book. Here is a link to his post.




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