Commonplace Book(s)

So, I used to do this thing: I had a notebook, usually cheap, and often unlined; it lived in my bag and went everywhere with me. I’d scribble down anything I found interesting or important – phrases, names, dreams, writing or art ideas, notes from books or about books (including my own or my friends’ WsIP), lists, words I liked the sound/spelling/meaning of, song lyrics that spoke to me…anything and everything. I also doodled in the margins and on the covers.

I called it my idea book. I had no idea that what I was doing was keeping a commonplace book, albeit a somewhat disorganized one.

Unfortunately, I fell out of the habit a few years ago. Just…things weren’t going well in my life, and I wasn’t doing many of the things I used to do, so when the notebook was full, I put it away and never started another. (I also stopped keeping  my journal, stopped writing, stopped socializing – like I said, it wasn’t a good period of time.)

But now, my head seems to be coming back online. I’ve suddenly found myself scribbling on anything handy, and then, well, losing the notes – so maybe not completely rebooted.

I’ve been exploring art journaling for the past year or so, and that seems to have broken down the dam*. But now I need to stretch. While I never stopped working on my novel, now I’ve embraced it again, and am enthusiastic about working on it (in my third round of revisions right now – so close to a good, complete manuscript!). I’ve been dreaming, and ideas pop up, germinated from anything and everything – hence the scribbling on whatever is handy.

I decided that I need a new idea book.

I did what I usually do; I grabbed up a blank, wirebound sketchbook, one of the $5 ones from Barnes & Noble that I had lying around, and started scribbling away.

But it felt wrong.

Then I remembered that Der Mann backed a kickstarter a year or two ago.  A kickstarter for a new type of notebook. And it got funded. And he received the notebook. And it was still in a box on my bedroom bookshelf.

So I got it out and looked it over. The notebook is bigger than the ones I’ve used before, being closer to 8.5 x 11 inches, but it’s thinner, so it evens out in terms of carrying.

Notebook 1
The cover is cloth, and feels nice in the hand.

The paper is glorious. It’s thick and creamy, and holds ink well. It’s a stone paper, meaning, from what I’ve googled, that the paper is made from actual stone; per their website, the paper is calcium carbonate “collected from waste material at existing limestone quarries and ground up into a fine white chalk powder”. It smells different than paper, perhaps a bit stronger, but not unpleasant. The paper itself is smooth and silky. It always seems to be cool and feels almost wet to the touch. The notebook is split; one half of the pages are lined, the other half are not, so I have the best of both worlds. There’s a pocket in the front for stashing all those scribbles I’ve lost so I can transcribe them later, two elastic bands (one on each side), and an attached ribbon bookmark. 

Of course, it’s such a nice book that I was leery about using it, until Der Mann also bought me a set of multicolored Frixion erasable gel pens and a set of Frixion erasable markers**. Now I can write and doodle in this notebook with impunity!

Frixion erasable gel pens and markers

So – that’s my new commonplace book. Does anyone out there keep a commonplace? If so, what do you collect? Tell me about your experiences!

*Also, researching art journaling led me to the phrase “commonplace book” and then I had to research that, and here we are.

**They do write and erase quite well. I recommend them, as long as you don’t overheat the notebook (that will erase everything) or put it in the freezer (getting it super cold brings back all the erased stuff). I use them for my planner and for my commonplace. I do not use them in my art journal; I prefer my alcohol markers because I’m usually working on gessoed, painted, or watercolor-crayoned backgrounds.


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