How does one go about collecting words? You know, quotes from this and that. Snippets. Sentences you need to remember and hold onto. Paragraphs that are life-altering and never to be let go of. Words you simply must collect.

Anybody else do this? I know you do. Tell me how you’ve done it. The nuts and bolts. Tell me everything.

Anybody else wish they did this, but have rather a scarring collection of failures, and not much of a collection of words? No? Really? I don’t think I believe you. If you’d just admit it, maybe we could work together to crack the code, to figure it out.

I’ll go first…

Right after just a couple of snowy cat pics. Because 21 is a lot of inches of snow out there for a kitty quite small of stature.

Hello out there?
Good LORD don’t set me down in that.

There. Now that we’re grounded…

I’ll go first…

I have, for as long as I can remember, gotten overly excited at a good turn of phrase, whether it was the idea or the beauty behind the words, that the author enlivened in such a way Some Truth that it reached out to me like never before; or even just the beauty of the words themselves, they way the author brought them together and somehow made me smile or gawk.

Over the years I’ve tried here and there at the ‘commonplace book’ approach, but it never has stuck for me. I just can’t keep it going. I think it’s the lack of organization, or inability to recall what I’m looking for that always turns me off. No, that’s not it. Well, that’s not all of it. Those are frustrations, to be sure. But what the problem actually is, I think, has more to do with frustrations with myself than the system.

That’s her, there. The on again off again wholly illegible commonplace book of yours truly. Sigh.

Always, always, I want to retrieve the last 17,000 amazing things that I’ve read. I want them recorded, and the sad fact is that I didn’t record them. It seems to follow the wisdom of the trees. You know the adage… when’s the best time to plant a tree? Twenty years ago is great, but I didn’t, and that just doesn’t help me now. And that frustration alone keeps me from starting at the second best time, now. Which, I realize, is dumb. But there we are.

Also, now that I’m thinking about it, there’s another impediment that is mine, and not the system’s. Whenever I happen to find myself in a season of trying this thing, I get carried away. There’s something great on every page. It’s everywhere. It’s too much. This is a great thing, to be overwhelmed by the beauty of the words flowing all around you, but I’m not so good about discernment, and judging what is worth my time, and what I should just leave.

I know, I know… It’s my book, and I can write whatever I want in it, and it only need be special to me, not anyone else. And furthermore, I can cross out whatever I later berate myself for recording. Cross it out, tear it out, burn it if I really want to. That’s not the problem. The problem is that without the tiniest bit of discernment, just any scrap of ability to filter through to the true gems, one spends a whole lot of their precious reading time transcribing. Is that really how I want to spend my time? I just don’t know. It gets a bit much.

When I’m not utilizing the commonplace book (read: attempting), it’s very clear what I wish I was writing down, but am not. Crystal clear. Not a problem. The gems practically beg to be recorded, puppydog eyes and everything. But when I am en attempte (I’m sure it’s a thing), I get all twitterpated and trigger-happy. This sets me up for inevitable burnout and failure. Sigh.

Now that we’ve delineated the me problems, well, maybe you just can’t help me with those. Fine. Those are, I suppose, just mine to push through, or not. Big girl panties and all that. Let’s go back to those first frustrations, the systemic ones. Maybe those you can help me with.

What stumps me, in the end, I think are the practicalities. The system itself. Someone help me to work with the imperfections in the system.

Once you’ve started, or started over, or continued—once you’ve begun amassing excellent words, how to you find them again later when you want them?

I’m sure that the ability to recall is only half (or less) of the value in writing these things down. I know that just the act of writing them down does something to me. Several somethings. Somethings having to do with gratitude, and awe, and seed-planting, complete with a little glug and tamp. But also, I kinda want to be able to find them again. Is that so much to ask?

I’ve tried categorizing them. That’s a disaster. Too much overlap, and I am NOT writing that 84-word beauty out in two, or five, different places. That’s a non-starter.

I once opened my frustrating little Commomplace Book and started digitizing it, transcribing it into Evernote, where I can tag things. Seemed so perfect.

But not really. For one, I’ll never really look there when I want to find something, so what the heck is the point? I want paper, dammit.

And for two, as MONSTROUS a fan I am of typing versus paper-and-pencil writing, this is different. When I am writing, writing, my fingers work faster than my brain, or they at least have a chance at keeping up. There is no flow if my hand is cramped three paragraphs behind my mind.

And also, now this may just be me, but when I am writing, I like to be able to read my writing, and for anyone who’s been deprived of every having to decipher my henscratches, just know that it’s a task best left to the WWII codebreakers. They’d have had a time. Writing must happen with a keyboard.

If I’m transcribing something, I’m doing it for an entirely different reason than regular writing. Back to that seed-planting. And somehow that has to happen on paper. With an analog implement, regardless of how awfully it’s done. So no Evernote. This is not a digital endeavor. Not for me.

So, What??? Help!

Chime in anytime here.

Maybe the answer is in the implementation itself. I like things to kind of follow suit. I’ve always had a form to the pages. Written in the same medium, so they all look the same. Following the same format. Containing the same identifying information. Dated. I kid you not, I liked my quotations to all look the same, and my authors to be indented the same, and also preceded with the same little tilde (why the tilde? I haven’t a clue). Perhaps this is the problem. I’ve been creating a homogenized and lifeless thing, not that much different than my Evernote archive, though significantly less legible.

I just looked up commonplace book, mostly because I wasn’t sure I remembered the term right—I didn’t. The only image I saw flash across the screen before I found the right term was an image of a page out of some old guy’s book, handwritten (obviously), and… erratic. Like 5 different writing instruments, in a time when the variety was not nearly so wild in it’s possibilities as now. Many different sized fonts (were they called fonts before typeset?). Some horizontal. Some vertical. Some scribbled in the margin. Some circled, boxed, or underlined. A few random personal exclamations. Like the nature journals I’ve always drooled over. You know the ones. Chock-a-block full pages, crammed to bursting, no two entries looking alike. Willy. Nilly. No homogenization whatsoever.

Maybe this is the answer.

Hmm… That’s all well and fine, but my crystal ball is screaming, and she tells me a sad tale, that I could very easily slip into a different form of perfectionism here. Could… so silly. WILL. That I will take Willy Nilly and domesticize it, bullet-journal-style. That what I’m actually about to do here is going to fail miserably. Again. Because I’m about to turn this into some sort of an artistic endeavor which is far beyond me, going for the DaVinci notebooks while possessing before me the average five-year-old’s imitation of mommy’s notebook.

Sadness. Truth. Sigh.

Wait… There it is.

I ROCK the Mom Book world. I care NOT what that thing looks like, and it is insanely messy and disorganized and containing precisely every thought to go through my head on any given day, for my head is sort of kept in the mom-book. And yet, despite all of that messiness, if I want to find that one doctor’s number that that guy recommended back when I was directing that one Shakespeare play… Guess what? I can find it. It’ll take a bit, but there are signposts along the way, and while it looks a little like a one-man game of Warmer/Colder, I generally get there. I know it was around the time of Merry Wives, which gives me some temporal clues, and allows me to home in a little bit. I remember it was in the left margin, inexplicably in that one kind of pen that I HATE, the one with the ink that gets everywhere. Left page, opposite a particularly populated to-do list, in the days when I thought the grocery list should live there with the to-do list. I think there were some Rubik’s cube algorithms on the same page.

That doctor has no hope. I’m onto him.

A one-page Mom Book sampling, from Spring 2017: We’ve got the figuring of cell phone agonies, the sale of defunct homeschool curriculum, the building of a Pascha basket, questions concerning a visit with Warren Buffett, a week’s to-do list (caulking the sink still hasn’t happened, not to mention a *few* other things), the launching of the firstborn into the world bum shoulder and all, the management of swollen toes and concussions and further patriarchal shoulder problems and no less than five vehicular repairs, camping reservation notes and woefully incomplete lists of trip necessities, a minimum of three unidentified phone numbers, dinner plans involving strawberries and gyro meat, a handful of ignored homeschooling edicts, and inexplicably, HAY BALES. Your guess is as good as mine.
Mom Books Through Time.
No, they didn’t start as soon as I became a mom, but they DID start the very moment I went, overnight, from three kiddos to seven. Like that very moment, the brain was supplemented with a bound paper sidekick. Possibly one of the bigger reasons all seven made it through to adulthood.
The Mom Book Archives

Good gravy, folks, I think this is the answer. To use the one place were I have, through the harsh taskmaster of time, given up on every shred of perfection as a model. Who on earth would ever think that that’s where I’d find the best organization?

Organic, that’s what it is. Mind Blown.

OK, see how you’ve helped me to figure out my next stab at this? You’re brilliant. Thank you.

Let me state for the record, and in some cringing attempt to convince myself, that I will NOT be transcribing all previous quotations into this new commonplace book. At least not now, not all at once, not, you know, before I add anything new. Because I am reformed, and newly cognizant of so many of my own methods self-sabotage, thanks to all your wise council. You are the best.

There she is, folks, the reincarnation. It’s a brave new world.

Now, help me to figure out how to not put 50% of my next book in there.

One more, for the road. He’s been out there for four hours already. 21 inches is a lot for the snow blower as well.
(Check the beardsicles.)

9 thoughts on “Collections

Add yours

  1. First… the snowed in cat picture. Priceless!
    Second… I don’t know if I should be impressed or horrified at your notebooks. Part of me wants to say, to what end? And another part says, hey whatever makes you happy.
    As for the icicled husband, I feel for him. We were supposed to get a foot but only ended up with a few inches.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 🤣 The notebooks were simply a necessary adjunct to my brain while raising kids. Like an ongoing to do list and landing zone for all notes, important or not, you know?
      Why I kept them? Well, I always wound up looking for that one doctors number…
      It was kind of nice having part of my brain archived. 🧐 (Incidentally, the inside of my brain closely resembles the inside of those notebooks… Chaos.)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a darling cat. A brave feline it is. Our cat has never been outside except for rides to the vet. I cannot imagine what she would make of snow.

    Journals hold my “quotable quotes”. In the early years they were recorded in my “best handwriting.” It’s interesting how that changed over the years. These days they are more often jotted in short hand or dashed in print. LOL. The cartoons are just as priceless though.

    I admire your collection.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Best handwriting… Ha! Even that is all but illegible for me! The gradient from best to scrawl is still fun to watch though.

      That cat has never seen inside. Farm cat all the way, one of a bunch… She’s just the only one who will come near us. She yowls like she’s being tortured every time it snows, which is kind of a lot. First winter for kitty. 🥶

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love all your notebooks! I have a collection that looks almost like yours myself. Also the cat is adorable. My thought is that notebooks like these will be great info for any descendants 100 years from now, who might be looking to find out what life was like in your day. I’d love to find something like that from my great grandparents, but most likely it would have been written in Swedish and I couldn’t read it LOL. I do know how those notebooks can become a wealth of knowledge that is hard to find, since mine are the same way. But as my dad used to say, “You always find it in the last place you look!”

    Liked by 1 person

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