The Commonplace Book: Entry 1


In Roy Peter Clark’s book How to Write Short, he suggests keeping an eye out for good short writing, trying to understand what makes it good, and recording your attempts at using those techniques in a “commonplace book.” I’ve tried a few different pocket notebooks in the past, but now that I’ve got one I can trust to hold up to normal wear, I’ve started to put Clark’s suggestions into practice. Here’s the result of entry 1.



“Paths are made by walking”

In a recent post at Marc and Angel Hack Life, they note that “paths are made by walking.” This idea struck me because it sounds so close to “paths are made for walking,” but reminds that even though physical paths exist to guide future footsteps, and are even reinforced by them, they had to start with someone walking where no one had walked before. (The saying suggests that the same holds for life choices.)

Attempting to reverse-engineer this proverb, I tried to think of other self-reinforcing processes that still have to start somewhere. Habits? Cycles of violence? Here are my attempts to make analogous statements for those themes:

  • “No habit starts as one.”

  • “Not every eye is for an eye.”

What do you think? Did I pack the right amount of surprise? What are some examples of smart short writing you’ve noticed, and what makes it so? I’d love to hear in the comments.

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