In a Common Place

A Commonplace Book

A Commonplace Book

As if I don’t have enough projects on my list, I’ve added another. This one is open ended and self assigned. I’m creating a commonplace book. Originally commonplace books were repositories for ideas, quotes, information unique to the collector of said info. My version is different. I’m gleaning material from the bulky journals stored in the closet near my office. My goal is to preserve and to prune, reduce the bulk but keep the essence of my morning pages and meanderings from the past couple of years. I take as my guide a phrase from Denise Levertov’s poem “The Five Day Rain”: “I don’t want to forget who I am . . . .” Reading the journals and copying whatever seems worth keeping is more than a guard against forgetting. I’m actually learning who I am. I’m more thoughtful than what the bulk of my scribbling would suggest.

I write often about my concern for people less fortunate than I in terms of material comfort. I write about those comforts, especially what faces me first in the morning,  luxuries like tea, warmth, quiet, privacy, a faithful dog, almost limitless ink and paper. I write about not being more productive, conversely that I have so much writing on backlog that I’ll never see most of it in print.

Transferring the pieces worth keeping is not as tedious as it might have been. I’m trying hard not to edit but to save just what was fresh on a given day. Some days yield nothing worth copying. I do keep quotes and the tiny reviews of what I read. If I cut, the cuttings are redundancies, flaccid passages, daily plans that mean nothing to anyone but me.

What use this commonplace book will have is yet to be seen. I imagine it outliving me as a succinct scrapbook of my mind for anyone who might want to know what another writer thinks about, what processes work, what topics recur, what worries hound me. If not, it’s just one more thing for the family to stash or trash as they see fit when I’m not around to defend it.

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