What Commonplace Books Can Teach Us About Our Past | Evernote Blog

From Lewis Carroll’s Commonplace Book

More on the practice of commonplacing:

As much as the mobile device has changed the way we connect to content today, the printing press abruptly thrust all manner of religious publications, periodicals, satire into the public discourse, accessible in ways that had never been previously imagined. That brought a wave of fear, not just related to the dizzying array of subject matter, but mainly from the overwhelming flood of information. Never before had so much written knowledge been so widely available. This period essentially ushered in the modern introduction to information overload. Order was restored as industrious folks from a plethora of educational backgrounds and social circles sought to create a system for managing the influx of content. Their solution was the commonplace book. Printing made paper and notebooks readily available which served as a tangible catch-all record designed to collect knowledge and ideas as a source of self-reflection and lifelong learning.

The article goes on to name quite a few notable commonplacers through the ages, and details some of their systems. Erasmus is quoted:

This method . . . will also have the effect of imprinting what you read more deeply on your mind, as well as accustoming you to utilizing the riches of your reading. ~ Erasmus, De Copia

Evernote addresses the benefit of a commonplace book in today’s information overload world.

Today, we are bombarded with content, much of it lacking in depth and quality. Despite having unprecedented access to apps, mobile devices, products, services, and tools to get work done, many people feel more disconnected and digitally disheveled than before. Sort of harkens back to the informational disarray that brought commonplace to the forefront. It may seem an esoteric practice, but commonplace has re-emerged among digital explorers as a modern solution to information overload. Like letterpress, typewriters, and writing by hand, a new creative class of authors and knowledge workers are employing commonplace as a way to find deeper connections to their work and life.

Some suggestions for using digital technology to harness the power of a commonplace book round out the offering. The article ends with the promise of a follow-up, which you can find here, for creating a commonplace book in Evernote. I do use some of these methods, and find them very helpful for keeping track of quotes I want to use in my writing. But a digital commonplace book, helpful though it it, should never take the place of actually putting pen to paper!

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