Commonplace Book: A Year of Learning While Reading
For those of us living the writing life, whether we realize it or not, we are constantly learning as we read. Often I’ll find myself engrossed in a book where the author’s voice becomes so familiar I swear I’ll never forget its rhythms and style. And while I sometimes can hold onto a general sense of these things, I’m finding I need to be more intentional with my reading if I want these impressions to last.
Here are a few similes and metaphors I’ve collected these last few months:
“Alice’s stomach was rumbling like an empty garbage can rolling down a hill…” PIE, Sarah Weeks
“I try to stuff myself between the seats, like coins.” EMILY’S DRESS AND OTHER MISSING THINGS, Kathryn Burak
“Majid had a family network as complex and secretive as a walnut shell.” THE RUINS OF US, Keija Parssinen
“Her voice sounds as hollow as the empty wasp’s nests.” CROSSED, Ally Condie
“The day is collapsing into dusk. The Gypsies in their white shirts are the only lamps. The moon is coming in like a pan on fire.” SMALL DAMAGES, Beth Kephart
And some darn beautiful truths:
“I lay my hand on my heart. Our parents teach us the very first things we learn. They teach us about hearts. What if I could be treated as though I were small again? What if I were mothered all over again? Might I get my heart back?
My heart is unfolding.” CHIME, Franny Billingsley
“That taste is still in my mouth. I know what it is. It’s the taste of pretending. It’s the taste of lying. It’s the taste of a game that is over.” LIAR AND SPY, Rebecca Stead
“In spring, Amherst changes into a storybook. The students grow wings from their heels and run through town spinning and singing. You get the idea that some parts of life are pure happiness, as least for a while. The toy store in the center of town puts all its kites outside, on display, so that the tails and whirligigs can illustrate the wind.” EMILY’S DRESS AND OTHER MISSING THINGS, Kathryn Burak
What helps you process what you learn as you read?
I haven’t been purposeful about learning as I read. I do make it a point to talk about the books when I finish them, especially if something really worked for me, or really didn’t. But this journaling idea is a good one.
I love those quotes!
Caroline Starr Rose says
I’ve really loved collecting sentences and scenes this way. It’s been a great learning experience and is a bit like a scrapbook, too.
Kimberley Griffiths Little says
For years I’ve thought about doing this, but am too lazy or distracted to actually DO it. I’m impressed, Caroline. And I love the quotes you chose, too. And your pretty notebook!
Caroline Starr Rose says
I don’t do it as often as I could, but every time I have, I’ve benefitted.