Friday Speak Out!: Bookmaking--Commonplace!, Guest Post by Patricia Anne McGoldrick

Friday, September 24, 2010

by Patricia Anne McGoldrick

Earlier this year, I contributed a column for the Friday Speak Out: Bookmaking—For You, For Me!

Lately, I have read several posts by writers blogging about the challenges of writing on a full-time basis, staying up-to-date on the latest, being swept into a vortex of social media drains on their time. Overwhelmed, many of us are unable to process that barrage of information, to sift out the wheat from the chaff, so to speak.

I have found a strategy to retain some of the more important content from the frequent Tweets, blogging, Facebook interactions. Compile a commonplace book. Let me explain.

Recently, I read British writer Oliver Burkeman’s article, "This column will change your life: Make a Book of your own." He suggests that we can benefit from some “commonplacing,” whereby we get involved with "internalising that information: engaging deeply, processing it so that it becomes part of you…. If the web is a wild, furiously creative ecosystem–a rainforest, say–the commonplace book is a private vegetable patch. Different things grow best in each."

What a refreshing, manageable, metaphor to use for a commonplace book—a vegetable garden! Amateur gardener that I am (see my blog at PM_Poet Writer), I realize that I can make a commonplace book, a container garden for these “vegetables” of information, even one that is sustainable!

In the midst of this information age, we can re-invent the commonplace book concept of poets, politicians, and women of the past, by selecting and copying choice quotes, comments, to file for later consideration.

On a personal note, I have to say that I was unaware of commonplace books until I read this article. Afterwards, I realized that although I did not know the term, I had actually kept such a book in the 70s through senior high school year and university. I have included a few pictures of this small green book, measuring about 3” x 4” (7cm x 10cm). (Figures 1, 2, 3) It is filled with quotes from Thoreau and Shakespeare and Camus, lines from the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, even The Bible. I often flipped through this pocket-sized book when I needed a bit of inspiration.

Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 3

Today, the thought of starting fresh, to make a commonplace book appeals to me. This time I will first draw on my bookmaking passion to make a book from reused materials. Fortunately, I have found the perfect item in a recycled notebook that I will use for recording observations, quotes, even some images as I wish. (Figure 4)

Figure 4

Formats vary from hard copy notebooks to online versions. Along with a paper copy, I have started to make a computer file in MS Word for Mac, using the Notebook Layout view. (Figure 5)

Figure 5

This 2010 Commonplace Book is a starting point for me to integrate bookmaking, social media, and writing in a creative and sustainable format. It is time to harvest some of the wheat in the whirlwind of social media.

* * *

Patricia Anne McGoldrick writes poetry, essays and reviews. Living in Kitchener, Ontario, Patricia has been published in the Christian Science Monitor, the Irish American Post plus several titles at

W E B: P-A-McGoldrick BLOG: PM_Poet Writer


Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!



Sheila said...

I've never heard of the term "common place book" either. But like you have kept one. In fact I have kept several.

On my computer -Mac- I use my sticky notes to keep quotes. Then I organize them into a folder.

It does help settle the whirlwind of social media.

Unknown said...

Ironic that the concept of a commonplace book has lasted so through centuries.
Glad you shared how you are keeping a Mac version; me too, as you saw in the post, only I am using the Notebook view--I like how I can customize it.
Think I'll look at the sticky notes & folder too!
One way or another, on paper or computer, it is great to capture a few items to focus on later, in months or years!
PM_Poet Writer

Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top