What is a Commonplace Book – Why They’re Amazing and How to Start One

Journaling is a habit that has many benefits for mental wellness. Some ways of journaling offer improvement in creative writing, a boost in clarity, and can become a catalog you refer to when needed. This is where a commonplace book comes in.

Commonplace is a type of journaling – source

Learn just what a commonplace book is, why everyone needs to have one, and how to start one now! Commonplace books can enrich your life in ways you cannot even imagine. Find out everything you need to know to create your very own book today.

What is a Commonplace Book

A commonplace book, also known as commonplaces, is a collection of knowledge kept in the pages of a book. This can be anything from quotes you like, observations, letters, poems, lyrics, notes, self-reflections, and much more.

Commonplace books have been used for centuries, gaining popularity during the Renaissance and 19th century. Many influential individuals in history had a book to sort through their thoughts and collect information.

English philosopher John Locke had a commonplace notebook and wrote books on how to keep one, Issaic Newton developed calculus in a commonplace he called a waste book, Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote in one, the novelist Virginia Wolf kept many notebooks of which many are held in Smith College, Massachusetts. The list goes on; journaling, particularly commonplace journaling, is a common trait of notable figures, no matter their discipline or career.


In essence, a commonplace book offers a sort of catalog for your personal use. It is a compilation of knowledge you yourself have hand-selected. This makes it vital for everyone, whether you are into creative writing, art, science, or anything else. This is because a commonplace book becomes a record of things you find important, one that you can look back on, reminisce, appreciate, and grow from.

Why Start One?

A commonplace journal becomes a treasure trove of information personalized to you and your experience. It allows you to have a future reference of things you find important, inspirational, or informational. In the future, it allows you to look back on nuggets of information you stumbled upon, reflect on them, expand on them, and more.


You can collect anything, from conversations, observations, anecdotes, quotes from books, song lyrics, etc., in a commonplace journal. A commonplace book becomes your one-stop shop for all the resources that matter to you, the wisdom you gained, and things you want to remember.

It allows you to remember things that matter to you and things that inspire you. Form speeches to book passages, to phrases your friends said late at night tipsy. A commonplace book can hold these memories and allow you to look back on them, sparking the feelings up again every time. These journals are also great for storing research information and observations. You can sort through an idea, expanding with your thoughts. 

Commonplace books also lead to connections you had no idea could occur. Maybe a song lyric is written right now to that poem from the 18th century. Connections across space and time can lead to your own source of inspiration.

How to Start a Commonplace Book

Here is how to start your very own commonplace book. Spoiler alert, there’s no right way to commonplace. Some people use notecards, some use a notebook, and some keep a digital copy. Each method is detailed below. Remember that commonplace book methods can change and evolve. While there are basic methods, you do not have to stick to one way of sorting, organizing, or commonplacing.


For this, all you’ll need is something to write in like a journal or notebook, a writing utensil like a pen or pencil, and any other extra you want like stickers, paint, etc. Leave a couple of pages at the beginning for a table of contents. Here you can choose your own adventure. You can either write out sections (quotes, lyrics, movies, etc.), leaving some pages for each, or you can just write in what is on each page as you fill in different pages with random tidbits.


Notecards are a popular method for commonplacing. You’ll need notecards, a writing utensil like a pen or pencil, and somewhere to store it. You can write the information you want to store on a single notecard, then start a filing method for that topic. This allows you to categorize in a neat, organized way. Plus, you can start color coding with the notecards, further organizing information.


With this method, you don’t need any physical material besides the technological device you are using. You can download a program, in which you can tag entries, and write down themes, sources, etc.

Quick Tips for Any Journaling

Starting and maintaining a journaling habit can be intimidating. Here are some tips to help you get started, no matter what type of journal you want!

  • Do it Daily – journaling is a habit you develop over time. To try to make the habit stick to it daily! This can be easy if your journal is morning pages style, but harder for a commonplace notebook though.
  • Try Different Types – different types of journals can work for different people. Maybe you prefer journal prompts daily, or maybe you need a nighttime journal session to think about your day. No matter what, know there is a journal type for you!
  • Same Time, Same Place – another great way to make journaling a habit is to do it in consistent areas, around the same hour. That way you start to associate journaling with a specific time and place.
  • Personalize it – one of the best parts of journaling is making the notebook and pages your own. I used a bunch of media, from paints and colorful pens to stickers and pressed flowers, to really bring the journal to life. It makes the activity much more fun, but this is definitely optional!
  • Have Fun – journaling should leave you feeling better than when you started. If journaling becomes a chore, take a step back and think about why you started in the first place.

The Takeaway

A commonplace book is a notebook containing worlds of information of your choosing. This can be your own observations, movie quotes, book passages, poems, lyrics, stories, conversations, speeches, and more. These notebooks can be used by everyone, from artists, writers, and musicians to finance advisors, mathematicians, and CEOs. Commonplace journaling allows you to complete information important to you that you can reference back to at a later date.

Health starts from within, so eat nutritious food, work out daily, and take care of your mental wellbeing. Don’t forget about microbiota health too! The microbiota affects the entire body, from metabolism, muscles, and immune system to digestion and more! Get all the resources you need about microbiota health for free here!

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