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Consider Creating a ‘Commonplace Book’ to Inspire, Remind, and Refresh You and Your Writing

A Commonplace Book is a way to compile knowledge important to you. It can become a valued snapshot of you and your interests as you grow in your life and career. I was keeping a Commonplace Book for decades and didn’t realize I was doing it!

Commonplace Books might include quotations, connections to important literature or sources, meaningful articles, key data, journals (personal or professional), your curriculum vitae, and any other centralized information. They are often informal and may sit on your desktop, in the cloud, in your notes program, or maybe even in your In Box.

They have been around since antiquity but became more popular during the Renaissance and later in the nineteenth century. They are similar to scrapbooks filled with items of many kinds: quotations, notes, adages, maxims, letters, or more. In the past (pre Information Age), they may have included items such as tables of weights and measures, formulas, recipes or even prayers. They were always print-based and may have been handwritten.

I’ve kept since I was in college a list of quotations that are meaningful to me. I am happy (or chagrined) to say it now runs to over 30 pages. Yikes. I have added to this document lists of my favorite books, movies, and music as well as eulogies I have given, and my family genealogy. The file folder has grown into a snapshot of me. It tells who I am.

Here are some links to some intriguing and historical Commonplace Books.

· W. H. Auden’s A Certain World.

· And read the Wikipedia article on Commonplace Books

How does all this relate to academic authoring?

Some TAA members may keep a journal. Most of us keep a list (or bookmark) of important articles. Others may keep documents or notes of writing or research ideas. Maybe you are like me a keep a list of quotations you like (let’s swap!). Or facts that are important to remember. Or many other items. Start to think about keeping these items in a more formal one. What you call this collection/document doesn’t matter (but I do like Commonplace Book).

This can be personal, or professional, or (my preference) both. It can represent you as a whole person. Keep it safe and backed up. Use it to inspire, remind, and refresh you and your writing.

Reprinted from the TAA Blog:


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