The commonplace book, or zibaldone to the Italians, came into vogue in 15th century Europe as a way to collect and compile information. Both scraps of learning on a variety of subjects, as well as the product of one’s own mind and creative endeavors were included. One part data and one part diary, these books were essentially the original scrapbooks, filled with the various bits and bobs of their owner’s lives.
I’ve always wanted to keep a diary, and a few years ago I dabbled in scrapbooking for about five minutes, but neither of those activities ever really turned into anything. I finally had to give myself permission to not write everyday, to not always have to write about my own life, before I could manage to keep any kind of journal-like book. A few months ago I stmubled across the term “comonplace book” and the definition, from Wikipedia, and I realized that this has been what I’ve been keeping all these years.
Back in 2008 I was considering participating in my first NaNoWriMo challenge, and I was working a job I absolutely hated. I needed an outlet, to be working toward a dream, anything to keep my mind off how much I hated the position I’d found myself in. As a child, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was always, unwaveringly, an author. I’d had a small blank journal sitting around for ages, waiting for something of appropriate weight to deserve how gorgeous a book it is. Here’s the first page of that notebook:
Since then, I’ve written intermittently. Sometimes I just include interesting quotes as I stumble across them. Sometimes it’s details of my actual life that I feel are important enough to be worth noting, or just that I need to find some structure around. For the most part it’s story ideas and themes I find interesting, scenes I want to write one day, or situations I’d like to develop a character for. Overall, while I don’t write as often as many daily diary-keepers, what I do write has importance to me. I often think about this book, and those that will come after it, and the legacy they’ll be for my children. I do most of my actual fiction writing online, through Yarny, but there is something eminently satisfying about putting pen to paper, and this is my outlet for that desire.