A commonplace book is a record of things we have read or heard and want to remember: a proverb, a remark by a writer of unusual sensibility, a witty or a wise saying, or even something silly or foolish or crass:
Sincerity always hits me something like sleep. I mean, if you try to get it too hard, you won't. w. H. Auden
Women have served all these centuries as looking glasses possessing the . . . power of reflecting the figure of a man at twice its natural size. Virginia Woolf
I hate music—especially when it's played. jimmy Durante
Shrouds have no pockets. English proverb
All this—and perhaps. Yiddish proverb
To keep a commonplace book, set aside a looseleaf binder. When you hear or read something that strikes you, copy it, identifying the source. Leave space to add thoughts of your own. If you accumulate a lot of entries, you may want to make an index or to group passages according to subject.
A commonplace book will help your writing in several ways. It will be a storehouse of topics, of those elusive "things to write about." It will provide a body of quotations (occasional quotations add interest to your writing). It will improve your prose. (Simply copying well-expressed sentences is one way of learning to write.) Most important, keeping a commonplace book will give you new perceptions and ideas and feelings. It will help you grow.
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