Blogs as Modern Commonplace Books, and the Pleasures Thereof

A recent encounter with the term “commonplace book” took me down a Wikipedia rabbit hole about the history of the term and the practice. Turns out, there is a long tradition of folks not only writing such “commonplace books”, but also of publishing them.

There is an entire tradition around of compiling books with quotes, recipes, scraps and other useful tidbits. Very much like modern blogs like this one, and especially like the types of blogs that are in the micro-blog or tumble-blog style.

We humans are such collecting creatures. We love creating sets of things, hoarding what we know or what we have, maybe arranging it all carefully for display. We’re constantly building out our own little histories, assembling evidence of things we’ve seen, thought about, done, read, experienced.

Like beavers or magpies, we collect a quote here, a link there, constructing little dams or nests to show what we’re doing with our time and our lives, to remind ourselves and others what we’re here, and not entirely inconsequential.

Keeping a blog, the modern commonplace book, is a good way to see our own progress. It makes our endeavors have a more tangible manifestation. The process of collecting, transcribing, reflecting and archiving, is in itself a helpful method to cement the things in memory, and also to make them easier to find and revisit in the future. A lovely tradition.