Commonplace Book

Christopher D. Sessums wrote an article, “A blog is more than a communication tool”, which I found very interesting. “People blog for a variety of reasons,” he said. And then he gave some reasons for bloggers he knows.

None of them seemed to fit, exactly, the reason I love my blog, though outboard brain is close. Fame may be the reason I started my blog. I wanted to know and be known when I started. But then I discovered that the things I wrote about and the way I wrote about them were not riveting to everyone or even many people. And yet I still blog.


I blog to think out loud on paper. It makes my thoughts be more coherent. (I recommend it to my students; most of whom ignore the suggestion.) I must structure them in order to write.

Then there is the crux of the matter. If I write it down in my blog, and I remember, I can look it up later. I don’t have to remember everything. I don’t even have to remember what I filed it under. I can do a search and POOF! there is my recorded memory.

I use it a lot for ideas for my book.

I use it for notes for homeschooling, for teaching at the college, for teaching at the coop.

It is my commonplace book.

Commonplace books have their origin in the Renaissance as one means of coping with the information overload of that era. They helped students select, organize, classify, and remember key moral precepts.

Can you imagine that the Renaissance had information overload? If they have that, what do we have?

Commonplace books sanction the selection of passages made significant by personal experience and conscience.

I have several old notebooks filled with quotes that I no longer refer to. But my notes on my computer are available, even through years and changes of OS’s and software.

…the commonplace book is like a record of what that memory might look like”. The commonplace book exists to serve the commonplace storehouse of the mind, to assist the learner to master knowledge and wisdom…

That’s where the outboard brain comes in.

Reading the commonplace books of historical figures like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, or any number of antebellum Southern ladies gives us an interior view of each person’s self-image and the words that motivated him or her.

We’ve already determined that we are all historical figures, thanks to American Digest.

And on the blogs we can read the blogger’s interior life.

I write what I think about. I write what is important in some way. I write things I want to remember. I don’t only quote, as commonplace books do. I go farther. I quote and show you where my thoughts went after that.

If you are not interested, that is okay. I am interested. And I will be interested later on, too. Sometimes, reading over my stuff, I am amazed at my banality. Other times I am in awe of my command of language.

Such is the life of a homeschooling mother who loves to read, likes history, and has written/is writing not-yet-accepted-much-less-published novels.

1 thought on “Commonplace Book

  1. exactly! I agree and, in fact, wrote something similar once a long time ago on my own blog… and, luckily, I could do a search and find what I wrote if I really wanted to! haha. I’m a historian, and so I like your comparison with the commonplace books of the 18th century… I very much connect with that idea.

    I actually have two blogs – one devoted to homeschooling and one general life and history and writing… – so in case you were wondering, yes, I’m the same person who just commented on two different posts using two different blog URL’s. 🙂

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