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Journal Vs Commonplace Book


Greebe

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I have kept journals on and off for many years. However they have been something that I do sporadically and not continuously. I find that I write about daily life or thoughts I am having. Basic journal stuff I suppose, but I find that I always feel to regimented to express more than that.

 

Today I came across the idea of a commonplace book and I am intrigued to say the least. However a commonplace book seems a lot like a journal and it got me to wondering what the real differences are between the two.

 

I have often struggled with a journal because I feel like it should be structured. However the most enjoyable times writing have been on loose leaf paper about anything ranging from new theoretical ideas, to free association. To me this is where I can be creative and really enjoy my unique writing style. The loose leaf paper writings(LLPW)contain stories, poems, ideas, drawings, etc.

 

So would my LLPW's be more like a commonplace book? How are commonplace books organized? Do you just keep putting in information page after page or do you categorize things a bit and have sections you can bounce around to? What all is contained in a commonplace book that would not be in a journal?

 

Any thoughts or opinions would be greatly appreciated.

 

Thanks,

Greebe

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My journals have always been a collection of random thoughts. No nonsense — no "dear diary", no addressing the diary as a person, nothing. Actually mine's probably more like a handwritten blog.

I've always done loose-leaf journals so I suppose my way is what you call a LLPW. I sort all my stuff by date.

 

Anything that's only to be read by me will contain whatever I want it to.

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I think the difference is this: the journal is written by the owner of the journal. A commonplace book is a collection of things written by others that interest the person who compiles it. A good example is W. H. Auden's A Certain World. Since this was for publication, he organized it alphabetically if I recall correctly..

 

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Time will say nothing but I told you so.

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Have done journaling since my attendance at a Journal Workshop in the 80's.

 

Primarily use it for my own thoughts, ideas, insights, world comments, OMGs and OPMs and such. Occasionally, if I read something I REALLY like I will copy it into my journal. From time to time I have also kept a "daily workings& thoughts" book. This contains everything from sketches, business ideas, to do stuff, things to remember, just about everything.

 

I think I was inspired to do that by seeing the images of Da Vinci's notebooks and thought that I would like to keep that kind of information. That turned out to be an off again, on again activity (I think I am heading for an on again phase very soon :-))) ). For those I use the black/blue/red 400 page books (lined or quad ruled) from Barnes & Noble. They run $9.95 and seem able to take some real use and abuse.

 

The journal can be anything you want it to be and you are free to change it anytime you want.

 

The only ground rule that I have adopted is that I write only for myself (I don't edit it or say, what if so and so should read this). On very rare occasions I have shared some things I have written but almost always by reading them to someone rather than letting someone else read from my journal.

 

One final thought for me - I truly enjoy the process of writing cursive and so sometime I write just to write saying whatever comes to mind.

 

-S-

“Don't put off till tomorrow what you can do today, because if you do it today and like it, you can do again tomorrow!”

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My journals contain stories about my everyday life. They usually go through an editing process before they are entered into the actual journal book.

 

My commonplace book contains collections of facts, words, quotations, formulas, constants, passwords, etc. These entries are put into the book in a haphazard fashion on numbered pages. Subject titles are referenced in an index, based on the first letter and the first vowel in the first word of the title.

If a subject spans more than one page, the pages are linked by page number: previous page at the top, next page at the bottom. Only the first page appears in the index. It sounds awkward, but it works well.

Can a calculator understand a cash register?

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  • 1 month later...

My journals have always been a collection of random thoughts. No nonsense — no "dear diary", no addressing the diary as a person, nothing. Actually mine's probably more like a handwritten blog.

I've always done loose-leaf journals so I suppose my way is what you call a LLPW. I sort all my stuff by date.

 

Anything that's only to be read by me will contain whatever I want it to.

 

That's kind of how I approach it too. I'm trying to get thoughts out, not make things more complicated by worrying about what is supposed to go into it. I just write what ever comes to mine.

All I want is 1 more pen, and 1 more bottle of ink, and maybe 1 more pad of paper. Well, at least until tomorrow. Oh yeah, and throw in that bottle of single malt. Is that asking for too much?

 

thanks Chris.

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I keep a pocket notebook where I put all of my everyday thoughts. It's probably easier for you to write on loose leaf because it's as far from structured as you can get. You don't feel restricted by what a stereotypical journal is like. There's just less pressure to write.

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Right now I am writing in two different books. One's a journal—I've kept a journal for quite some years now, and it's where I write longer narratives and some more well–thought out ideas. My other one was inspired more by Pascal's Pensées, which I had browsed through and enjoyed in its unfinished glory, is a more random collection of short thoughts. The way I see it, the former is more like a blog, the latter like a collection of Facebook statuses.

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Sir, I think this thread might have been answered but I wanted to say that as a collector of 'commonplace books' there seems to be no hard and fast rule regarding indices nor organisation. Most of my books contain poetry, quotations and, on rare occasion, sketches. One thing I have found is that a great many are bound as if they were novels (in some cases it appears the book in which the items are written is a book published by some press with inlaid cover and title but no print - I have no idea if these were test bindings, apprentice pieces or works bound post hoc.) My guess is that Pascal's 'Pensées' would be regarded as a journal (in the same vein as the journals of André Gide) ie thoughts in progress (potentially constitutive of another work) while a commonplace book essentially contains objets trouvés (noted in ones own hand and not clipped as in a scrapbook.)

In truth my sense is that one calls a book whatever seems most convenient and, despite the hopefully accurate 'exegesis' above, it is content that is important. I have had more than my ten cents and apologies for that.

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  • 6 months later...

Since around 1990 or so I've kept two journals. The first is a traditional journal regarding mostly my kids now, but originally I started it to write down every day events and such. In the second book, I record quotes that I like from all sources, usually books (I tend to read a lot!). Sometimes this is just an interesting twist of words (Churchill quotes for instance!). Other times it is a terrific metaphor, etc. I always annotate where I heard the quote. I later learned (around 10 years ago) that this second book was termed a "commonplace" journal.

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At this point I have several journals/notebooks.

The first is the morning pages journal -- or, as I refer to it, the daily "core dump". That one I've done for a few years (I think I'm on about journal volume 15 or 16, at this point -- some volumes are hardbound, some are spiralbound, depending on what seems to give me the most bang for my buck).

Thanks to FPN, I now also keep a commonplace book, which at the moment is in a sugarcane paper composition book from Staples. Like someone else said, that's info that I want to keep more or less at hand, random quotes, and so on. For example, most recently I copied a bunch of pangrams off of a Wikipedia article, but the previous entry was notes I took while watching a video about spinning cotton. The entries are labeled by date and I note what pen/ink I've used.

Another, similar composition book is my "writing" journal, for original poetry. Again, those entries have the pen and ink recorded, and sometimes the date; unlike the commonplace book, I start a new page for every new piece (fiction is currently being done on cheap leftover copy paper and stored in folders).

A third composition book (regular paper, as opposed to the sugarcane paper) is my ink combo record book. I have post-it flags every couple of pages for each pen, and I note whether a particular ink does well in it or not (unfortunately, I don't always have samples).

A fourth notebook (top-bound journal/sketchbook) is my "ink review" book. Each page gets a test done of a new ink (including rule lines, dry times, some sort of sketch) as well as general impressions of the color/behavior, and whether I like the ink enough to consider springing for a full bottle). I now have enough pens and inks to go back through and write comparisons sometimes (i.e., "how does it look in this pen vs the one I originally used?" or "this is what this other (color family) ink looks like next to this new one").

I also started a notebook for critical reading purposes, but that one got sidetracked (as well as the book I was reading) :rolleyes:. And over the years I've acquired a couple of little hard-bound memo books here and there, one of which may eventually become a "password" notebook (why buy one, when I already have them? :thumbup: -- especially when the commercial ones say "Passwords" on the cover :headsmack:), as well as some small spiralbound memo pads (for keeping track of expenses and such) and notebooks (for notes when I take classes or go to meetings).

Yes, even before I found FPs I wrote a lot.... :roflmho:

Ruth Morrisson aka inkstainedruth

"It's very nice, but frankly, when I signed that list for a P-51, what I had in mind was a fountain pen."

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My journals contain writings that have gone through several revisions or "drafts". I want to get the stories and words right before they go into the book. My commonplace book contains formulas, quotations, measurements, names, lists, word definitions, etc. that I may want to look up again. You can make an index, even though you make entries in a random way.

Can a calculator understand a cash register?

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  • 3 weeks later...

My notebook/journal is a collection of a variety of things. Notes from books I have read/am reading, thoughts, conversations I have had with people, personal history information, philosophical ramblings, poems and just scribbles.

 

For example, on Saturday, my wife and I went on a bit of a road trip. About a 2 hour drive, I was in the passenger seat. Started rambling about a similar trip taken some time ago. Once in January 1997, one more recent. Both of which ended up with a tow bill of $250. Each of those is a story in itself.

 

Some notes for a blog post I am planning about thank you notes.

 

Today was some information out of Peter F. Drucker's The Effective Executive which I am currently reading. Part of which may end up on my blog.

 

When I journal in my Franklin planner, it consists of phone conversations I have had, meeting notes, if I was between jobs and needed to keep track of what I was applying for I was cut them out of the newspaper and tape them to the page of the day in question, I have even taken course notes in that when I was in college.

Brad

"Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind" - Rudyard Kipling
"None of us can have as many virtues as the fountain-pen, or half its cussedness; but we can try." - Mark Twain

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  • 5 months later...

Love the question. For me the differences between journals and commonplaces are functional. My journals such as they are are divided in to work and personal in completely separate volumes. I do my work journal primarily as a record of what I did so that at the twice a year evaluation I can go back to my current work journal and make the lists of things done in the various categories of work stuff. I use the small Moleskine ® cross ruled hard cover notebook. Works well when I need the grid for sketches of equipment and schematics. I also start a new work notebook each year which simplifies the archiving.

 

My personal journal is mostly notes and outlines of things that I'm studying, sermons from church, and outlines and sermon ideas that I'm working on. It is pretty free form and I use a Moleskine ® ruled notebook the same size as the work one.

 

When I first heard about commonplace books - I think it was reading Scott's "Rob Roy," I got interested in the idea and started keeping one in MS Word on a thumb drive. It was (is?) a complete mix of work, and personal stuff. The nice thing about Word ® is that it is essentially self organizing and can be indexed at some point if I ever want to.

 

As I studied commonplacing more and more, I decided that what I wanted to do was to keep a more traditional one. My current common place uses the Locke style index and grows in fits and starts from my reading as I find things that I want to have written down. My philosophy on commonplace books is summed up by Dr. Henry Jones Sr. in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" "I wrote them down in my diary so that I wouldn't *have* to remember."

 

In case you're wondering the Locke indexing system is based on the initial letter and vowel pair of the key word. You then, just add the latest page number to the list. People describe it as complicatedk, but I'm not sure why it seems pretty brilliant to me. There is a page at the Online Library of Liberty with a woodcut (I think illustration of the concept) you'll have to scroll down a bit to see it. http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=762&chapter=80886&layout=html&Itemid=27

Edited by tigger23505

festina lente

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I have kept a journal for years, but it is in electronic form, as I started journaling when I was still barely a teenager and was still in the stage of "computers are the NEW FUTURE!". Over the years, it has transformed from "this is what happened to me today and it p!ssed me off!" to "This is puzzling for this and this reasons", It has become a little more abstract in its rants/musings.

 

The difference between commonplace and travelogue/diary is, according to John Locke, that commonplace books are "idea books"; they contain ideas that would be addressed to the outer world, and quite often have outer world as its topics. Diary/journal, on the other hand, are introspective and chronological. Things like reading notes, plot sketches, recipes and such would belong in "commonplace", while internal musings would be in a "diary".

 

Of course, this distinction is Locke's, and I'm sure other commonplace book keepers (Emerson, Thoreau) would burst out of their graves and interject, if they can be bothered to even do that.

 

I've seen E M Forster's commonplace book and it seemed quite random; people like Emerson, Thoreau, and H P Lovecraft also kept them, so perhaps you can take a gander? Here is John Milton's.

Edited by GabrielleDuVent

Tes rires retroussés comme à son bord la rose,


Effacent mon dépit de ta métamorphose;


Tu t'éveilles, alors le rêve est oublié.



-Jean Cocteau, from Plaint-Chant, 1923

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The Locke index! That is what I use for my commonplace book. It is not perfect, but it lets you make random entries and find them again without paging through the whole book.

 

Can a calculator understand a cash register?

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Apart from specific writer's notebooks for projects or Things (e.g., germs and ideas, memories, dreams, etc.) I have written more than 3,000 consecutive pages in the past eighteen years under the title, "Musings." (I came late to journaling.) I sometimes refer to it as my "journal"; and if I tell you I've written something in my "journal" or I've reviewed my "journal" and found such-and-such, I haven't lied or tried to mislead. Yet I prefer to leave the characterization of "Musings" hazy.

 

Everything and anything can go in there. From the start I've tried not to filter or sort what I write in "Musings." And I never wait. For instance, I would never wait till I had a sack full of gravitas. If I feel like writing, I write. There are no rules about what to include, what to write about. No rules!

 

I began with rollerball writing on 8½X11 filler paper and graduated to fountain pen writing on 3-hole-punched 24 lb HP Laserjet, then A4 Moleskine Folios, an A4 Levenger Ledgerdomain journal, a brief stint with an A5 soft-leather journal, and now back to the A4 Moleskine Folio.

 

Despite its various formats and paper sizes, I have always considered "Musings" to be a single work and I've numbered the pages accordingly. When something needs to go into one of those specific dedicated notebooks, that is where I write it. Otherwise, I go to where I left off in "Musings" and I just write. I don't hesistate, I don't discriminate, I don't oscillate. Whatever I feel like writing, I write it.

I love the smell of fountain pen ink in the morning.

 

 

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My journal, titled Random Thoughts, is my daily core dump, as someone else wrote. It is usually written at night. If something interesting happens and I have it handy then it would be written in right away. Work related stuff does not go in this journal.

 

I have a second book, Scratch Notes, that I take to work. I used to take notes on random pieces of paper or file cards but I had a tendency to loose them. My work involves a lot of client interaction. For privacy reasons, I have to make up names for the clients as they go in the Scratch Notes.

 

The third book, "Tales From The Office", is an expanded version of the Scratch Notes. The Scratch Notes are memory triggers so I can write fuller narratives in "Tales" at night at home. "Tales" is written as a first draft without much regard to spelling, punctuation or grammar. The "Tales" are kept separate from "Random Thoughts" since I might, way down the road, use the material for a book.

 

I have a fourth book which is my Commonplace Book. This is quotes and stuff I don't want to forget. The last entry is a few pages on the trigonometric functions (sin, cos, tan). It has been 43 years since I learned those and for some reason I felt a need to remember them. I found a useful video on YouTube and the notes went in the Commonplace Book.

 

I have a fifth book, which contains my notes about Grammar, another subject I decided to brush up on.

 

My sixth book is about writing. This is really a commonplace book but only about others thoughts about the writing life.

 

All of the books are marble composition books, bought at the big box store's summer sales for .50. I prefer college rules but some are wide ruled - I bought what was available.

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  • 2 years later...

There are two books out about Ronald Reagan and his years leading up to and being POTUS. One The Reagan Diaries are his personal reflections on the events of the day. The other called Notes contains excerpts from his commonplace book. He recorded quotes and ideas on index cards and organized them by topic. When he was working on a speech, he would look through the cards and pick an appropriate quote.

 

So in this particular instance, the journal was a personal reflection, and the commonplace book was a reference guide.

 

P.S. - sorry for the necro-post. I was searching for another topic when I found this one, and didn't realize it was a few years old. :unsure:

Edited by openionated
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  • 1 month later...

I keep a variety of journals and commonplace books.

 

My personal journal is just that my personal place to record my daily experiences, thoughts, reflections on family history, etc. I only share selected passages with close friends and family. It is written for my benefit and personal pleasure. Past volumes are kept in an out of sight place.

 

The visual journal is my sketchbook with written descriptions along with the sketches. This I share with family, friends, and even strangers who come up to chat when I am sketching. I keep my current and past visual journals on the bookcase in the kitchen where anyone can pick them up and look through them.

 

The four commonplace books:

1) Collection of favorite poems in English

2) Collection of favorite poems in French

3) A Lady's Commonplace Book which contains quotations, passages from books that I have read, jokes, etc. They tend to be arranged by subject.

4) Collection of poems from a dear family friend's poetry collection. This was done as a way of dealing with grief after his death. He and his wife were very close family friends who helped raise me.

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