Commonplace Books as a Source . . . | Farnam Street

Found this interesting book review and round-up of thoughts on the practice of commonplacing at Farnam Street.

There is an old saying that the truest form of poverty is “when if you have occasion for any thing, you can’t use it, because you know not where it is laid.”

The flood of information is nothing new.

“In fact,” the Harvard historian Ann Blair writes in her book Too Much to Know: Managing Scholarly Information Before the Modern Age, “many of our current ways of thinking about and handling information descend from patterns of thought and practices that extent back for centuries.” Her book explores “the history of one of the longest-running traditions of information management— the collection and arrangement of textual excerpts designed for consultation.” She calls them reference books.

And we call them commonplace books.

The complete title of the post—Commonplace Books As a Source for Networked Knowledge and Combinatorial Creativity—admittedly calls up thoughts of Dilbert, but don’t let that deter you!  There are some interesting thoughts on memory and creativity here as well. In fact, the entire blog is quite intriguing. From his About page:

My goal is to help you go to bed each night smarter than when you woke up. I’ll do this by giving you tools, ideas, and frameworks for thinking.

I’m not smart enough to figure all of this out myself. I try to master the best of what other people have already figured out. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

The best way to do this is to read a lot. And so I make friends with the eminent dead.

And we call that imitation!

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