Ad for the Commonplace Book

Attention: All writers.
Announcing a “must-have” item now available to stimulate thoughts and generate the flow of ideas. It’s been available for centuries, but I was only recently introduced to this fabulous item. And frankly, I can’t believe I’ve lived so long without it! Now that I’m paying attention, I find that a substantial majority of well-respected writers I’ve encountered in the last few months—modern, classical, or ancient and from all economical situations—keep/kept this item or it’s equivalent with them at all times.

Commonplace Book
The “must-have” for any writer or conscious thinker is the commonplace book—a pocket-sized (or purse-sized) notebook carried with you at all times in order to record what is uppermost on your mind at any given moment.

See if this sounds familiar: you’re driving down the road, or in the dentist’s chair, or suddenly awakened in the night with a brilliant, or at least interesting, idea, but you’ve no place to jot it down! By the time you get your hands on paper and pen, the thought has long since faded into the far recesses of your mind. Lost forever.

Don’t ya hate that?!

The commonplace book defeats the above scenario. That never has to happen again! The moment a thought hits, you whip it out, and write it down. Voile! The thought is saved from certain death. (Although, if you’re driving, I recommend taking the time to pull off the road before recording your thought.)

How To
A few things to keep in mind while getting used to your commonplace book:

  • The thought itself is important and should not be prejudged for quality.
  • The trigger and the idea it promotes don’t necessarily have to reflect one another.
  • Trust your instincts. Editing as you write may destroy the beauty of the original thought. So write it first, that way it’s safely preserved, and then hack it to pieces.

Also, among your jotted thoughts, please include thoughts from the following categories:

  • Dumb
  • Stupid
  • Obvious
  • Irrelevant

Any thoughts from the above may be, or lead to, your best ideas. In particular, obvious thoughts actually hold a fair amount of value, because they usually resonate well with the masses.

Give it a try. If you’re not in the habit already, pick up an inexpensive, small notebook the next time you’re at the store, and see if this works for you. I’d love to hear how it goes.

4 responses to this post.

  1. Hi! I love this post. It is so true that imagination knows no bounds, and it can be provoked at any given moment. Sometimes a song will inspire a short story, or maybe an idea comes from seeing someone, or something, unusual. It’s really fun to record “blacktop thoughts” as I call them…especially if the little notebook is artsy.


    • Are you yet another writer that’s doing this? I’m beginning to think note taking is a necessity and not a luxury. Apparently it’s a key component of learning to write! Perhaps that’s the reason I have struggled before now? Ah well, I’m converted now. Thanks for visiting!


      • I think your right it is a key and a necessity. People have little bursts of inspiration all the time. There’s a line from Stranger Than Fiction about this principle that I like:

        Kay Eiffel: I went out… to buy cigarettes and I figured out how to kill Harold Crick.
        Penny Escher: Buying cigarettes?
        Kay Eiffel: As I was… when I came out of the store I… it came to me.
        Penny Escher: How?
        Kay Eiffel: Well, Penny, like anything worth writing, it came inexplicably and without method.

        It’s not magic, or a skill only writers have. Anyone can do it, though it is work. I’m not really sure how it’s done. My brain is just chugging away then bam! It’s like fitting together two puzzle pieces. Your not really sure how you figured out they fit together but they do and that’s that. I think the difference between writers and non writers is that writers keep working on the same puzzle until the picture is whole. Non writers keep moving on to new puzzles.

        But unless we keep track of those thoughts they disappear. This kept happening to me and later after I’d forgotten what ever it was, I thought to myself, “Man that was a really great idea.” I had no clue what it was other than it was a really great idea. (maybe it was only great because it was forgotten and didn’t have to live up to reality. After going through that a dozen or more times I wised up and started keeping track of those little flashes of eureka.

        I would like to toss in some advice on this. When writing down those thoughts give yourself some context. Why your writing it, what inspired it, what the thought pertains to. I have gone through my notes on occasion only to find a cryptic messages like “Make him change his mind about the big decision, you know the one I’m talking about.” But I don’t know the one I was talking about. I don’t even know what character this is supposed to be, or what story it’s meant for. I can tell by my hand writing that I was really excited about this idea. Must have been profound, but I’ll never know what it was about now.

  2. Lyn:

    I just wanted to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I cannot believe how quickly Christmas got here. It seems to me that it should only be the end of November!

    Be safe if you travel…enjoy your family and friends. 🙂

    Take care,
    God Bless,



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