Commonplace book

The first time I heard of the notion ‘commonplace book’ was in my rhetoric and argumentation class in my second semester of undergrad. For a while I kept it neatly going, amassing my favourite quotes in a nice overview. When I look back at them now, I smile, because they are still relevant to me today. That is what I think the true purpose of a commonplace book is: not just to amass everything neatly in one big overview as a stock for debates, but also to teach oneself about life, purpose and content. Unfortunately, over the years the Moleskine I used to house the commonplace book has housed lecture notes, ideas for papers, to-do lists, an interview with a Barcelona representative of UCLG, an overview for my French exam, my mother’s account of our 2013 Andalusian holiday, a list of what my potential partner should be like (yes, really, I think I jotted it down because some ThoughtCatalog article suggested I meet that person not too long after that – ironic how stupid things like this actually seem to work out) and a thesis overview. In short, it is a microcosm of my life the past few years. The last thing written in it was a quote again:

Every North-Korean company can design a stainless steel coffee mug

– On why design is not hard, heard during my 2014 summer school in Copenhagen. For some reason I did not write down who spoke this truth. I wish now I had.

As another step in my personal productivity challenge, I have decided to start another commonplace book. From now on, I will again start writing down everything I can which I find interesting whilst reading, listening to music, talking to people or even some of my own insights. I recently stumbled upon a nice explanation of the commonplace book and its merits – Ryan Holiday is a personal favourite of mine on ThoughtCatalog (he also talks about the importance of reading and how important it is to pick up the main messages behind the facts, for instance). I will probably occasionally be sharing some excerpts of the commonplace book here.

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2 thoughts on “Commonplace book”

  1. Great idea. I came across a good term the other day from a 2010 blog by Steven Johnson, which talks about this kind of thing. Some of the great insights from looking at historical commonplaces is seeing how they combine seemingly random snippets to come up with new ideas & perspectives.

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