Drawn and quoted

My friend Pam is (almost ridiculously) generous and kind, so I wasn’t surprised a few weeks ago when she handed me a big bag full of birthday gifts. I was grateful for them all, of course, but I was smitten with one in particular.


I’m a sucker for blank books, you see. The crisp, empty pages practically compel me to write, even when I think I have nothing to say.

Pam’s book was different, though. It was so beautiful β€” and so beautifully crafted β€” that my scribblings and musings didn’t seem worthy, and so it sat unused.

But last weekend I finally had an inspiration: Why not fill the book with my favorite quotes? I’ve been collecting them for decades on scraps of paper, or saving them in random word-processing files.

I divided the book into five categories, and used a bit of eyeshadow to color the different sections.

Journal 1090680 BLOG

Then, I got busy writing.

Journal 1090691 BLOG

Journal 1090709 BLOG

It may take me a year or five to fill the entire book. But when I finally do, I will give it back to Pam as a gift. (Shhh! Don’t tell her … it’s a surprise.)

In the meantime, revisiting some of my favorite quotes has inspired me to start playing with typography again. Here are a few Facebook cover photos, for starters. Please feel free to download them if you like ’em.

Be kind 2 FB

Focus on strengths FB COVER

Give a man a fish


Mark Twain 1010337 FB

And here’s to dear friends who encourage us to stay curious and creative. Thank you, dear Pam.


  1. Absolutely love this idea! There’s something about a good quote that can pull your life back into perspective. It’s like food for the soul, if I may be so cheesy…

    Bravo for this noble & touching idea. The fact that you plan to give it BACK as a gift is another sign of that infallible Munro generosity and thoughtfulness. πŸ™‚

    You’ve inspired me to share a few of my own favorite quotes, this time with a Paris theme:

    β€œA walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of Life.”― Thomas Jefferson

    β€œLondon is a riddle. Paris is an explanation.” ― G. K. Chesterson

    “With an apple I will astonish Paris”. — Paul Cezanne

    “There is an atmosphere of spiritual effort here. No other city is quite like it.” –James Joyce

    (I love this idea of Paris encouraging a “spiritual effort”. How perfect!)

    • Aww, you are *never* cheesy, French Frye! (Especially because I agree with you wholeheartedly about the value of a good quote.) As for giving it back to my friend, well … it seemed like a good β€” albeit smallΒ β€” way to repay her many kindnesses. After all, it was she who took a risk on me and assigned me my first paid newspaper article! And merci beaucoup for those wonderful quotes about Paris! I have added them to the “travel” section of the book. Though in hindsight perhaps I should have made an entire section just for Paris. πŸ™‚ Greetings to you from across the pond, Mr. Frye!

  2. That book is truly gorgeous. I too love how a new, empty notebook (or something fancier) feels, except I am the type of person who hates to “ruin” their perfection by actually using them. Instead I end up filling memo pads and losing pages. Oh, the silly things that we do.

    The idea of giving it back to your friend completed, as it were, is a wonderful idea. I have seen a few projects similar to that. A trading of creativity. In a digital age where it’s so easy to send a Facebook message or a text, it’s nice to see people still investing time in something more tactile and thought out.

    • The silly things we do indeed, Jenn! I certainly felt silly when I wrote the first couple of wobbly words on the side of the book, and then smeared it with eyeshadow. πŸ˜€ But as you so insightfully say, I think the end result β€” however imperfect β€” will be a nice “handmade” memento for my friend.

      Thank you so much for visiting, and for taking the time to comment!

  3. This is an idea which has a long history, it was called a commonplace book. I know of some medieval ones and recently saw one from 1815 in a local auction. Nice idea to gift it back to her πŸ™‚

    • So I’m making a “commonplace book,” then! Although I was a bit disappointed for a fraction of a second that my idea isn’t exactly original, then I realized that it’s actually quite fitting that I should be carrying on an ancient tradition β€” just like the Italian bookbinder who made this book. Thank you very much for this wonderful historical insight, knotrune!

  4. Oh, what a truly splendiferous book and what a great idea! (Love the eyeshadow too.) Funnily enough, this is *exactly* where I am too at the moment. I have a collection of blank notebooks (swoon, gasp) which I fill with quotes, cuttings, thoughts, sketches and so on. For the past month, for some reason, I have been slightly obsessing over doing this.

    You are more generous than me, though: I don’t know if I could bear to give one away! Some of mine go back to student days: it’s funny now, reading the high number of quotes which were either angrily feminist or about trying to find one’s place in the world. Takes me breathlessly back to the young woman I was then.

    As wise Knotrune says, in doing this we are continuing a historic tradition, which for me adds a pleasing extra dimension to the whole experience. As a matter of fact, one of my dearest friends from university days wrote her doctoral thesis on 17C women’s commonplace books. I must find out if she published it!

    • Ah, dear DB β€” rest assured that I’m far too selfish to give away the scrapbooks I’ve filled with plane tickets and train passes and faded notes from dear friends! (In fact, I still have the one I made at age 16, when I ran off to Europe with a mime troupe. Though sadly, my many subsequent re-readings have failed to yield any insights into what on earth I was thinking.)

      As for your recent slight obsession with scrapbooking: Perhaps you’re entering a period of new growth or evolution in your life? For me, at least, there seems to be an instinctive need to write more when I’m going through any kind of change. I encourage you to give in to this urge, for I suspect that in a few years’ time you’ll truly treasure your doodles and musings.

      Oh, and please do tell more about that doctoral thesis? I’m becoming quite obsessed with this notion of commonplace books!

      • Ah-hah, wise insight: perhaps it is indeed about a period of change and growth. We’ll see.

        I can’t tell you much more about V’s thesis until I’ve spoken to her, but I will, I will! As I remember, she found that commonplace books kept by women in 17C England were full of diverse delights: often recipes and folk medicine, a fair few gardening tips and then anything from prayers to rhetoric to astronomy and mathematics. In the days before girls could attend university, I suppose these books were an outlet for literate women to indulge in any of their interests and passions. Much like today’s journals, in fact. πŸ˜‰

  5. Well done. As ‘Knotrune’ says (above) books like this are called commonplace books. You are following a long and distinguished tradition … Francis Bacon, John Milton, Ralph Waldo Emmerson, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Mark Twain and John Julius Norwich to name just a few.

    I began keeping mine in the late1950’s and I’ve done so on and off ever since. They are a valuable source of reference (all those things you knew you knew but can’t just put your finger on), a source of inspiration (all the things you wish you’d said but someone else said first) as well as a kind of scrapbook of words and phrases that seemed important at the time.

    It’s a great idea to give it back when you’ve completed it but … don’t forget to copy the contents first!

    • How wonderful that you’ve been keeping a commonplace book since the 1950s! What a treasure-trove of insights and memories it must be.

      As for your last paragraph: Fret not. My husband was so upset at the idea that I would give this book away that I’ve begun a (secret) parallel copy for him, too. πŸ™‚

    • DOH!! I was hoping maybe you wouldn’t notice this post. So much for keeping it a secret [slinks away wearing a sheepish grin]. Oh, well … now we can make it a *joint* commonplace book. And add facts about trees β€” and notes about the secret locations where we find those things that we sometimes look for in the woods in May! πŸ˜€

  6. Me again ..my quote book is not so pretty.. and now that i quote regularily on saturdays on my blog i stopped writing in my book. Qell let me get back to writing. Ths again for sharing this

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