Commonplacing has been a habitual, formative, meaningful part of my intellectual life for many years now.
❓ What is It?
It is the practice of taking personal possession of ideas, revived in early modern Europe from the ancient, classical tradition.
Far from being Mason’s idea, much of our modern understanding of the practice is the result of Milton’s famous Commonplace kept in the 1600’s, and John Locke’s formalization of the method in the posthumously published “A New Method of Making Commonplace Books”.
Borrowing from this tradition, Mason encouraged a “Book of Mottoes”, in which a reader would take possession of ideas from his reading.
❓ Is it a Journal?
It is not.
Journaling is also an important intellectual tool, but it is different than a commonplace. The former is a place for one’s own thoughts and ideas and the latter is a place for the ideas and thoughts of others.
❓ When Do You Write in It?
I schedule “Keeping” as part of my weekly Schole.
This includes my Commonplace, Nature Journal, Book of Centuries, and Journals.
I aim to complete each once a week, although my commonplace is most likely to be picked up more often.
❓ What is Your Process?
I mark passages from my daily reading that I’d like to revisit, and when it’s time to commonplace, I pull a stack of books and copy some passages.
Sometimes I save a book’s commonplacing until I’m finished with it, so that I can stay immersed in its ideas for longer.
❓ How Do You Organize It?
I keep a topical index in the back, and mark each page accordingly which you can see in my Keeping Highlight over on the Delightfully Feasting Instagram.
💡 If you’re new to keeping, be sure to check out the Delightfully Feasting Keeping Journal.