2019-12-05 Commonplace Books

On Mastodon, @chrisod recently mentioned the commonplace book, a scrapbook where people collected quotes, listed books to read, took notes. I myself love wikis but my life is full of little notebooks. My wife has one for holiday plans, for plants, for bills; I have them for my role-playing game campaigns: whether I’m a player or a referee, each campaign has a notebook.

For my day to day todo lists, I’ve tried bullet journals but I lack the discipline to make it a ritual. I use it as a todo list for a few days and then it lays fallow for weeks. But I do keep notes for my role-playing games with great discipline. I keep my prep in little notebooks.

The prep notebooks are mostly chronological, but then there are two or three pages of notes on a particular adventure, I tape some printout onto a page, I draw a map... you have seen examples before: 2019-10-06 How to Prep, 2019-01-31 Game Prep, 2015-11-15 Prep, 2014-10-15 Adventure Prep, and so on.

printouts stuck in a notebook

I mean, I do write session reports Campaign Wiki for players after the game, but when I’m not writing about something I know, like the game that we had a few days ago, then I can’t just sit down and write. I need to jot down an idea here and there, I need to spend time doodling maps and pictures in order to give my brain opportunities for new ideas. They take time to develop and I can’t get up and simply do something else. Doodling is my way of staying focused on the topic.

Somehow that doesn’t work with a wiki. Perhaps if I had a larger wiki, separate from the one for my players, where I wouldn’t feel bad writing just two or three sentences for each idea that strikes me? It might work. But right now my problem is that it isn’t easy to doodle on my phone or at the laptop. Pen and paper still are the best medium for that.



Are you an Apple product user Alex? (I think maybe not?) If you are then you may like the Apple Pencil and iPad with GoodNotes or Notability. I mention them because, after years of being a commonplace book user and firmly in the ’pen and paper are irreplaceable’ camp, I have recently converted and have found it a very easy and useful transition. Being able to add handwritten notes and doodles to images, PDFs etc. has expanded my imagination and productivity in ways I couldn’t have imagined. And having a bullet journal/campaign notebook/art journal/diary/sketchpad/garden notebook - my ’one book to rule them all’ is a beautiful thing.

– VickyR 2020-02-14 07:24 UTC

Do you have some screenshots? I do have a big iPad and an Apple pencil but I just use them for drawing stuff.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-02-14 09:44 UTC

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