The Commonplace Book Project

An Experiment.

I’m fascinated by the idea of a Commonplace Book — which is basically a collection of learned things. Almost the inverse of a journal, a Commonplace Book is a place to record knowledge, rather than to reflect on it.

Wikipedia says, “Such books are essentially scrapbooks filled with items of every kind: recipes, quotes, letters, poems, tables of weights and measures, proverbs, prayers, legal formulas.”

People have been keeping Commonplace Books, in one form or another, practically since people have been reading. Today, they take forms that would probably not even be recognizable to John Locke (who published a book called A New Method of Making Common-Place Books in 1706.)

Today we have Goodreads lists and the bits we highlight on our Kindle books and blogs and Facebook posts.

I love the idea of paying attention to what we read and what we learn from the people who write what we read. I’ve never been much of a journaler, but a book full of quotes and ideas and connections? Yes. I would love that.

So, I have I’m going to try something in 2019. I’m going to keep a Commonplace Book, in a notebook. But that’s for me. I’m also going to keep one here on Medium to share. Every day, here in the 1000 Day MFA publication, I’ll post a quote and a few links to more learning that the quote leads me to.

There’s no need to read the posts in order. They each stand on their own. Besides being my online Commonplace Book, they’re also a good start toward working on your own 1000 Day MFA. If you’d like to follow along, be sure to follow this publication.

I hope you enjoy it, as much as I know I’m going to enjoy curating it. If it goes well, I think 1000 entries for the 1000 Day MFA would be amazing.

For more information on Commonplace Books:

Ryan Holiday’s awesome article on his method.

You can download A Commonplace Book of Thoughts, Memories, and Fancies by Mrs. Anna Jameson, written in 1855, for free for Kindle.

The Bullet Journal is a modern take on the concept of keeping a notebook of information. It’s not quite the same as a Commonplace Book, but the technique certainly applies. Ryder Carroll, who developed The Bullet Journal, has a new book out on the subject.


Here’s my secret weapon for sticking with whatever your thing is.

Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She is an out-of-place Nevadan living in Northwestern PA with her husband, three superstar kids, two dementia patients, a good friend, Alfred the cat, and a yellow rescue dog named Maybelline Scout. She’s on Twitter @shauntagrimes and is the author of Viral Nation and Rebel Nation and the upcoming novel The Astonishing Maybe. She is the original Ninja Writer.