In praise of commonplace books…

I’ve just had a tidy up and emptied some book shelves and dusted down some of my early commonplace books or writer’s journals or whatever you want to call them. I poured a coffee, sat down at the kitchen table and had a flick through and they were  like fascinating  little time capsules, jam packed full of quotes, thoughts about what I was reading and  lists of minutiae of my life over the last ten years or so.

Oddly quite a lot of sporting events are documented, there’s grumbles about watching the England football team’s performances ( rude words too), lists of horse choices for the Grand National and even a list of the gold medal winners for the UK from the 2012 Olympics… I must watch a lot of sport.

There’s Christmas lists with present ideas, lists of jobs, recipes, snapshots of domesticity which still crop up in my current books.

There’s germs of ideas for stories, little sketches for characters, lists of wonderful words like all the words I could think of for red like alizarin, magenta, titian, oxblood, vermilion, even haemoglobin red…

There’s lots of different types of handwriting, italic, attempts at calligraphy, sentences like, ‘ I’m writing this with my new ink pen…’ black and violet inks, coffee stains, crumbs  and wavy pages where books were dropped in water. There’s lists of childhood memories, family anecdotes, doodles, lots of snatches of dialogue, lists of films, sometimes ticket stubs for events and crazy dreams hurriedly recorded before they are forgotten.

Occasionally I can see that I’ve tried to organise them with little post-it stickers labelling sections for books, writing, thoughts, lists etc but mostly they are just a glorious jumble ( or a terrible mess) depending how you look at it. But I’m always on the lookout for a new notebook which I buy, put aside and wait to fill up in the same way.

I’m not sure how useful they are. I can never find what I want ( if I remember there might be something useful there) and end up flicking through them and often giving up. They take up space, present as a terrible hotchpotch pile of ill assorted sizes, covers and shapes.  But there main purpose seems to be for me to organise my thoughts make sense and reflect on them, thought journals really. And I wouldn’t be without them, they’re a sort of comfort blanket. I enjoyed choosing the notebooks, filling them up and you never know, I might just find the odd golden nugget amongst all the rubbish, a diamond in the dunghill maybe…


5 thoughts on “In praise of commonplace books…

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