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How To Create A Commonplace Book For Quotes + Inspiration

by Ambassador Team 24 Mar 2023 0 Comments

Shawna Clingerman here (@shawnaclingerman on IG and YouTube) and I am so excited to introduce you to one of my very favorite journals in my collection: my commonplace book!

I don’t know about you, but as soon as I opened the gorgeous velvet journal in the Archer & Olive Forest Heirloom Subscription Box I just KNEW I wanted to give it a very special purpose.

Then, I saw my friend Brandi Kincaid share about her commonplace book practice on her Instagram account and I knew exactly what I’d be using this special journal for!

Commonplace Book Title Page

This journal filled with quotes and inspiration is such a gift! Not only does it give me a space to save quotes and inspiration that I want to hold on to, but it also has given me a sweet, calming practice. Every time I pick up my commonplace journal to add to it, it absolutely soothes my soul!

What is a Commonplace Book?

The concept of keeping a commonplace book is not at all my own. As I mentioned above, it was introduced to me by my friend and fellow artist Brandi Kincaid - and if you want to know more I highly recommend checking out this lovely article all about how she has been keeping her own commonplace books for years!

The practice of keeping a book like this is something that people have been doing for centuries, and the term “commonplace book” is something that has been around for just as long!

According to Wikipedia: “Commonplace books (or commonplaces) are a way to compile knowledge, usually by writing information into books.”

Similar to scrapbooks, historically these books have been filled with many different types of items: sayings, notes, proverbs, quotes, letters, poems, and prayers. People even included technical things in their commonplace books: like tables of weights and measures, legal formulas, recipes, notes from lessons, etc.

How I Use My Commonplace Book

If you are in as deep as I am with accumulating and starting new journals you probably understand: I have SO MANY JOURNALS. Journals for course notes, journals for work and content planning, journals for art ideas, journals for planning, and journals for collecting my own thoughts…. But what I didn’t have was a dedicated home for all of the quotes and inspiration I had been collecting for years. I was drowning over here in piles of sticky notes and little bits of torn paper with notes and quotes jotted down on them. Not to mention the random bits of ephemera and pretty paper scraps that I didn’t want to go of! It was a lot, and allll of that needed a home! SO, this special journal became dedicated specifically to those things. 

Inside my commonplace book

Basically, this is my quotes and inspiration journal, but call it what you want: My commonplace journal is now the main home for all of the words and images that inspire me.

What I Love About my Quotes and Inspiration Journal

An Inspiration Journal Is A Place To Put All Of The Things:

What I love the most about my commonplace book is that it gives me somewhere to put all of the things.  As I mentioned above, I have been accumulating bits of inspiration for years over here and I have never quite known what to do with it all!

Often times I would hear a thing or see a quote and quickly grab a sticky note to jot it down so I wouldn’t forget it…. But eventually, all of those notes ended up just floating around, they would end up in piles on my desk, in my bedside dresser drawer, or stuck somewhere random to be eventually forgotten - Oh how my heart hurts thinking about all of the homeless inspiration-filled post-its that I will never find again!

Now I know that I always have a home for these things. When I jot something down or save a screenshot on my phone, I know that it has a place to land and live for all time. SUCH a relief for this sentimental soul that never wants to let something meaningful go!

Inside my commonplace book

My Commonplace Book Doesn’t Take Any Planning Or Perfection:

I find my commonplace book sessions to be rather soothing, because of trying to create beautiful coordinating layouts - I can just add bits in without overthinking about it!

It is wonderful to plan out and create something beautiful, but it is also wonderful to just release all of that pressure, and just start adding little bits to my book, one step at a time.

A Journal Filled With Inspiration Is A Wonderful Resource:

As an artist, I am always looking for my next idea; for the idea that will spark my next piece of artwork or my next collection. So having a book filled with things that inspire me means that inspiration is easy to find! When I’m seeking a spark, I can simply sit down with this gorgeous book and flip through the pages, because there is nothing but inspiration inside!

Inside my commonplace book

How to Start Your Own Quotes and Inspiration Journal

Friends, this practice is SO easy that there is no reason why you can’t start your own commonplace book today! Follow along below and I’ll give you everything you need to get started!

The beautiful thing about starting this practice is that, seriously, the only thing you REALLY need is a journal! I love using my Archer & Olive B5 dot grid journal for this practice, but you can pick whatever journal is calling your name!  (I’m willing to bet that if you are reading this right now, you probably already have a journal sitting on a shelf somewhere, waiting for the perfect purpose - break that puppy open, friend! You officially have a perfect purpose for it now!)

However - there are a few other things that I use regularly in my own commonplace book, feel free to pick and choose what you need as you get started with your own inspiration journal.


  • A Journal - any size or style will do! - I am using the Velvet B5 journal from the Archer & Olive Forest Heirloom Quarterly Subscription Box (from fall 2022)
  • Markers and Pens to write with: I love to use my Caliograph Markers as well as a few other writing utensils I have on hand.
  • Washi Tape: Everything is more fun with washi, and this journal is no exception! I love pulling from my Archer & Olive washi collection - I also like to keep some neutral black and white washi on hand.
  • A Glue Stick - Right now I am using the PIT Gluestick from Tombow, but any type of adhesive will do - just be sure that it is PERMANENT because you don’t want your inspiration falling off or your pages somewhere down the line!
  • Scissors -  9 times out of 10 I just tear my inspiration pieces to add them to my book, but sometimes you will need a more precise cut! The beautiful Gold Scissors I used below are from the Archer & Olive Cozy Cafe Sub Box (December 2022)

Don’t forget! You can save 10% on your purchase at Archer & Olive using coupon code Shawna10!

Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links - this means if you go through them to make a purchase, I might earn a small commission at no cost to you!

Gathering Inspiration for your Journal

Arguably, the most important supplies you will need for your quotes and inspiration journal is, of course, QUOTES AND INSPIRATION!

Little container of collected inspiration

What works best for me, is to have a little container sitting in my studio where I can drop little bits and bobs that I want to eventually place in my commonplace journal! That way I don’t have to overthink about what to save and where to put it. Basically, if I love it and I don’t know what else to do with it, it goes in the commonplace bin. No decision making necessary.

What To Put In Your Inspiration Journal

If you aren’t quite sure where to start when it comes to gathering inspiration here are a few ideas:

Quotes That Inspire You

This can be anything from a line you heard on your favorite podcast, to a quote graphic from Pinterest. Basically, ANYTHING that makes you feel inspired is fair game! 

I like to jot down things I find/hear/read on random scraps of paper - I mainly use sticky notes, but sometimes my notes look more like receipts with a little note of brilliance, or a torn piece of cardboard where I captured something lovely to remember.

Inside my commonplace book

Visual Inspiration

Sometimes I see a magazine page with a color scheme that I am obsessed with. Sometimes it is a little bit of painted paper left over from my most recent mixed media project. Sometimes it is just a scrap of wrapping paper I want to remember, or a vintage ticket or tag - I love simply collecting things that visually inspire me for my book.

Other Ephemera

I also set aside little bits of ephemera and stickers that I adore but haven’t found a home in any of my projects. If I feel inspired by it, and it makes me feel feelings - I will put it in my Commonplace book stash and reach for it when I am ready to add to my book.

Inside my commonplace book

Art Prints/Postcards/Notes

One of my favorite things to put in my own journal is bits and pieces from my happy mail! I am especially fond of the Extravagant Hope Mailer that I subscribe to (from the above-mentioned Brandi Kincaid) This envelope of goodness comes to my mailbox every month, and it is ALWAYS filled with artwork, quotes, and stickers that are perfect for my book!

Free Printable Quotes For Your Journal

I know not everybody has been collecting little pieces of ephemera and quotes for years like I have, so I put together this printable collection of quotes for you! This free download could be the perfect resource to help get you started on your own inspiration journal or commonplace book!

Free Printable Quotes Download

Adding Inspiration to Your Journal

Before I give you any tips for creating your own commonplace journal - PLEASE keep in mind that this practice is actually all about YOU. As you build your own journal, remember that you can add inspiration to your journal in any way you choose!

The way I choose to add to my own commonplace book is not complicated. Each of the pages in my book didn't come together in one single setting. Instead, I just let my pages build up slowly, placing quotes and inspiration pieces one bit at a time.

Inside my commonplace book

With this particular practice, I really believe there just are no rules. This is about what makes you feel good, what makes you happy, what you want to save, and how YOU want to save it. So there's no rule that you have to fill every single square inch of your pages. There is also no rule that you have to add more than one image or quote to any given page!

I have found that if I just start adding items to my pages, eventually I find the quote or the little sticker or scrap or card that will fit in any empty spaces. So I really don't have to overthink about where I'm putting things as I go.

If you want to watch me walk through the process I go through during one of my little “commonplace book sessions”, follow along with the video below to see exactly what I mean!

Now, as you are getting ready to create your own quote and inspiration book, here are some tips to help you get started…

Tips For Creating Your Own Inspiration Journal:

Give yourself a spot to gather all of your inspiration - You never know when inspiration will strike! Set aside a container or a folder or a bin of some sort, so that you can simply pick up that piece of inspiration and save it until you are ready to add it to your book.
    Inspiration Pile
    Place your inspiration pieces in your book one bit at a time - Flip through the pages and find the spot that feels right to you. 

      Inside my commonplace book

      Start by placing bigger pieces in your book first - If you start with bigger items, then you can nestle smaller pieces of paper and ephemera in between. 
        Inside my commonplace book
        Group by colors - If you want your pages to feel somewhat cohesive, let the colors on your items be your guide. Place little bits next to other bits that have a similar color scheme. This doesn’t mean that all of my pages are one single color - but instead that each page ends up with a color pallet that feels good to me. Don’t feel pressure to put something down on a page that it doesn’t match, but also, don’t feel pressure to be super matchy! These pages are eclectic, so just follow your eye and your heart.
          Inside my commonplace book
          Start a new page if you need to - Full permission to start a fresh page, any time you want to! If you are filling your journal bit by bit, moving onto a new page before the previous page is not a problem! 
            Inside my commonplace book
            Write, write, write - Fill empty spaces with a handwritten note or quote. You don’t have to be fancy - The visual inspiration can take center stage, so that you don’t have to stress about your writing. Let your own imperfect, quirky, and messy handwriting show up in this book because this book is just for YOU.

              Inside my commonplace book

              Use your notepads and journaling cards - If you want to add a little bit of color or fun to your page, write out your quote on one of those cute notepads, or a journaling card that you have lying around. Sometimes I’ll even get really fancy and pull out my typewriter to add a little bit of a vintage feel.

                Inside my commonplace book

                Fasten your items in a variety of ways - You can glue things down, tape things down, and create a little flip-up action by fastening a card on only one side. Even a paperclip or a staple might be a fun addition! (although remember, the more chuck you add, the more fluffy your finished journal will be! Personally, I am 100% IN for a super fat commonplace book when I’m done working through my journal!)

                  Inside my commonplace book

                  • Don’t overthink this, friends! Let this practice be playful and eclectic. Once you have found the inspiration, the hard work is done! Now you just need to fasten/glue or write it down in your book so that you can find it in the future!
                  Inside my commonplace book

                  It’s Your Turn!!

                  What do you think friends??? Are you ready to start your own inspiration journal?? Do you already have a space where you can collect all of your inspiration?

                  I’d LOVE to hear all about it! AND if you use the above printable or the ideas in this post it would make my day to see what you do! Find me over on Instagram at @shawnaclingerman and be sure to tag me there! Also make sure to tag @archerandolive, and use the hashtags #AOShare and #archerandolive So that we can see all the ways that you are building your own inspiration journals!!!

                  Keep collecting that inspiration, friends!!!

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