Confession is good for the soul, or so I’ve been told. And even though I don’t know you all yet, I feel the need to unburden myself.

This blog is the second I’ve started. With the first, I posted exactly… zero times. That was two years ago, when I chucked my corporate job in California, loaded up the moving truck, and popped the cat into her carrier for the long drive east. You’d think I’d have had a lot to say, and I did. Driving cross country alone resulted in my pigeon-holing folks everywhere, just to have someone to talk to, about anything (excellent conversationalists in Nebraska and Iowa, by the way) — but I was too tired to post after long days at the wheel. And then the reason for the blog was done — I got to where I was going, and got busy with other stuff. So much for that blog.

And this blog? I set this blog up at the end of April. Two and a half months ago. I was getting ready to come to Madrid for a few months, and I thought I’d have fun writing about my life here and all the big life changes I’m working through.  I thought about posting once in a while, but didn’t put fingers to keys; I didn’t think I had anything noteworthy to say, nothing that others would find interesting. [This is a situation not unlike when I lived in Madrid the first time, in the middle and late 1980’s. My paternal grandmother kept asking me to write to her about my “adventures,” which really stymied me. I mean, I was having some adventures, but they weren’t the sort you could tell your grandmother about (well, not that grandmother, at least). And the rest of the time, I was just living. Which didn’t seem too noteworthy to me, at the time. Because my grandmother was an artist, and had had lots of wildly interesting adventures in her life, and I was just a teacher. Not interesting at all. Ah, callow youth.] Anyway, today, the penny dropped. I have been overthinking this. Wanting to write noteworthy, interesting-to-others posts has let my persnickety editorial self out of her holding pen, brandishing her red pencil. Don’t get me wrong.  I’ve been an editor for years, and persnickety has served me well as a professional. It’s not so great when you just want to write, however.

So why am I finally posting? That quick trip in the Wayback Machine (please, somebody remember this allusion, too) also reminded me that when I was young and callow and much more interesting than I gave myself credit for being, I kept something called a commonplace book. (I think I got the idea from Virginia Woolf, who was fairly devoted to commonplacing.) Per the American Heritage Dictionary, a commonplace book is “[a] personal journal in which quotable passages, literary excerpts, and comments are written.” Note that the word “commonplace” here doesn’t mean “obvious” or “trite,” but actually means what its component parts do — a common place (“locus communis”). It’s a kind of intellectual playground, where the texts take the place of the swings and the sandbox.

In Renaissance Italy, where they were probably invented, these journals were called “zibaldone” — hodgepodge books. They were full of all kinds of stuff their keepers liked, or needed to recall; reading through one, you might find a love poem, a recipe for some sort of salve,  a note of how much money the writer’s brother-in-law owed him, and a rough plan for a knot-shaped herb garden.  A pressed flower, or even a lock of hair, might fall out into your lap.

A commonplace is a way of keeping bits and bobs of information to hand, not necessarily because they mean something to someone else, but because they mean something to you. Commonplaces are made up of things that you noticed,  that made you think, that you want to remember. And despite what writing instructors tell you about writing to an audience (I’ve been a writing instructor, too, regardless of what all those sentence fragments a few paragraphs ago might lead you to believe), a commonplace is really only about writing to yourself. And then sharing the stuff you like with people you like. Just like a blog.*

So, dear friends and friends-yet-to-be, stand by for stuff I like.  I’m delighted that you’ve joined me, and I hope you’ll make time to write back. (And ask questions! Questions are fun.)

*I was chuffed to find that I’m not the only person who noticed this parallel — when I did a little research into the history of commonplace books, I found that there are a number of scholars who link blogging to commonplacing. Makes me feel a little “righter,” somehow.