A commonplace book

The other day I was reading a book and I came across a little anecdote. It was about the great Athenian general Themistocles. Before the battle of Salamis, he was locked in a vigorous debate with a Spartan general about potential strategies for defeating the Persians. Themistocles was clearly in the minority with his views (but which ultimately turned out to be right and saved Western Civilization). He continued to interrupt and contradict the other generals. Finally, the Spartan general threatened to strike Themistocles if he didn’t shut up and stop. “Strike!” Themistocles shouted back, “But listen!”

When I read this, I immediately began a ritual that I have practiced for many years–and that others have done for centuries before me–I marked down the passage and later transferred it to my “commonplace book.” Why? Because it’s a great line and it stood out to me. I wrote it down I’ll want to have it around for later reference, for potentially using it in my writing or work, or for possible inspiration at some point in the future.

There were two reasons I started my blog. Firstly, to have a space to deposit papers, presentations and resources I had created. Secondly, and what I have lately been using it more and more for, is as a place to share articles and links of note. It turns out that what I am creating has been called a ‘commonplace book’ (or ‘commonplace blog’ in this case)

The beauty of a commonplace blog is that you can have your notes, musings, articles etc. ready and available anywhere that has internet access. There are other methods to do this of course, Evernote or OneNote etc. but the blog format is working well for me at the moment. Is anyone else out there using their blog for similar?

Have a read of the full article on the topic of commonplace books written by Ryan Holiday here.


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