Mining My Commonplace Books

August 16, 2013

My work table in our upstairs bedroom

My work table in our upstairs bedroom

Mining my commonplace books for future blog posts and projects

Mining my commonplace books for future blog posts and projects

I seem to think better with a pen in my hand.

I seem to think better with a pen in my hand.

Last week I took advantage of a back-to-school door-buster sale to purchase three new spiral notebooks for 19 cents each.  How small an investment to bring so much joy to my life!  I use these ordinary notebooks as commonplace books, repositories for lists, interesting newspaper and magazine clippings, ticket stubs from museum visits, and most importantly, interesting quotes from the books I read.  I now have quite a pile going back years, and like a cabinet of curiosities, these collections of my jottings are something of a reflection of my Self.

I like that these analog notebooks are hand written.  I seem to think better with a pen or pencil in my hand, and copying out quotes by hand slows me down and I feel closer to the author in some weird way.  And then, I just like the look of cursive handwriting.  Years ago when I was in school, I used to have a huge callus on my middle finger from where I held my pen or pencil.  These days, there’s hardly a discernible bump.  We have so few occasions to handwrite anything anymore.  My notebooks still provide that pleasure for me.

From time to time I like re-reading my notebooks.  Right now I plan to go through them slowly to mine them for ideas for future blog posts or larger projects.  That means copying out useful passages (again) onto loose-leaf notepaper so that I can organize these random writings into categories.  For me, this is a labor of love.

I do get satisfaction from knowing how little money it takes for me to quest for purpose and meaning in my life.  The public library provides an endless supply of reading material that is so often the springboard for my thoughts.  Add to those free books a simple pen and notebook, and I am a happy camper.

“Much in the marketplace urges us toward safety, comfort, and luxury — they can be bought — but purpose and meaning are less commodifiable phenomena . . .”
— Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell










9 Responses to “Mining My Commonplace Books”

  1. camilla wells paynter Says:

    I still have my writer’s callous, though like yours it’s significantly diminished. I like your thoughts about what it takes to make life meaningful for you, and the quote. It’s funny to think of it, that we can be in a state of perfect comfort, even luxury, and still not have what we really need. For all our seeking of comfort, the opposite is also implied: we can have what we need most, what is most gratifying to our souls, and not be in a state of perfect comfort. Something to remind myself of the next time I wish to blame unhappiness on circumstance.

  2. Judy Says:

    I can no longer write anything that would be discernible. Arthritis, has taken that pleasure away–but I do type a whole lot of things like that–notes, thoughts, ideas and have them at the ready. I did recently go through and read some of my journals from the mid ’70’s–when I had teenagers. YOWSER–glad that time in my life is past, LOL.

    • Rosemary Says:

      I’m sorry about your arthritis. I have some arthritis in my back and hip, but so far my hands seem clear of it. Modern tools are really appreciated when coping with physical losses.

  3. shoreacres Says:

    Do you know I hadn’t heard the phrase “commonplace book” until this year? Amazing.

    What you count as a virtue, I experience as an impediment – the slowing down that takes place when I write by hand. I’m much more productive at the keyboard, as I can keep up with my thoughts.

    Not only that, very often I’ll have a thought that belongs there rather than here. With computer files and drafts, I can change screens, add my thought and be back at work in minutes – not to mention being able to move text around as I please.

    I do have a discernible bump/callus on my finger, though – from my varnish brush!

    • Rosemary Says:

      ‘t would be fun to compare calluses — like comparing scars. I bet you think things through while you are at work, so that by the time you sit down at the keyboard, you’ve already composed massive sections in your mind. That’s why your fingers fly. I’m not quite that quick, so handwriting is more my pace.

      • shoreacres Says:

        You’re right. In my about page, I say my dock is my version of Virginia Woolfe’s “room of one’s own”. It provides both money, and time to think and think and think….

  4. […] Mining My Commonplace Books, August 16, 2013 […]

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