Inside my commonplace diary
3 years of quotes piling up and talking to each other
3 years ago, I bought a 5 year diary. Instead of writing about my life, I copy a quote or something I overheard into it, like an old-fashioned commonplace book. (I got the idea from Dan Pink.) It’s become one of my favorite notebooks and I wanted to show a little bit of it to you.
There’s a long history of commonplace books which you can read about in various places. A good start is Dwight Garner’s piece on “his Stash of Other Writers’ Words,” some of which I cut and pasted into the inside cover of my mine:
Last year, Charley Locke published “Commonplace Books Are Like a Diary Without the Risk of Annoying Yourself.” If you have trouble keeping a regular diary, it might appeal to you. (I find that annoying myself is part of the whole project of keeping a diary, but different strokes for different folks.)
Here are the entries from Jan 13-14 to give you an idea of what my commonplace diary looks like:
Many people will wonder, “What is the point of this?”
In the beginning I didn’t know!
The first year was a very pure one: I simply wrote down the best line I heard or read.
The second year there was something already on the page, so it became more fun and more challenging to select a quote that worked well (or not well) underneath it. (A quote that hasn’t found a place yet in the book: “Where there is selection there is art.” —BH Liddell Hart.)
The third year has been even more interesting, as some pages already have themes, sometimes enough to start a new piece of writing.
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