Journal Writing for Memoir: Time Capsule

by Amber Lea Starfire on March 10, 2012

catnav-journaling-activePost #54
Memoir Writing, Journaling
by Amber Lea Starfire

time capsule

Today, I’m writing about another way to preserve memories—keep a time capsule. Not to bury in your yard, but to bury in the pages of your journal.

If you journal regularly, you already know how journaling helps you become more aware of life as it plays out. And if you’ve been following my articles on journaling for memoir, you’re aware of ways to mine your past journal entries for details and of ways to deepen character and explore topics. Last month, I wrote about capturing the immediate, sensory details of your daily experiences in order to preserve those details for the future. A time capsule does that too, but in a more abbreviated and factual way.

Just as a time capsule summarizes the essence of a particular time in a particular culture, a journal time capsule—written daily, weekly, monthly, and/or yearly—summarizes the essence of that particular period in your life. Contrary to the usual meaning-making aspects of journaling (feelings, experiences, and what we make of them) a time capsule treats the mundane and the significant with equal weight. The time capsule is concerned only with the content of your life, not your experience of it; it wants to know what happened, not how you feel about it. When “unearthed” later, the time capsule entries add up to a larger story.

Here’s how it works:


A daily time capsule entry resembles the old daily diary, where you recorded the things you did, who you saw, and where you went during the day: “Went to the office at 9:00, got my hair cut at lunchtime, came home and made dinner for the kids; Gary and I fought about money; went to bed upset.” Notice how cryptic and almost detached these statements are. You can include major news events: “Huge tsunami in Japan.” You can use the top portion of your regular journal pages, make notes on a calendar, or buy one of those small page-a-day diaries. Daily entries are typically very short—around 50 words—and take only a minute or two to write.

Weekly and Monthly

The main difference between daily and monthly entries is the level of detail you choose to include. As with daily entries, keep the weekly and/or monthly time capsule entries short—between 100 and 150 words. You may choose to use your regular journal to summarize weekly entries, but it’s nice to have a separate journal dedicated to monthly and yearly activities. That way, when it’s time to look back on what was happening during a particular time of your life, you can pull your monthly time capsule out of hiding and review its contents.

For a weekly or monthly time capsule entry, gather together anything you need to remind you of that week/month: your longer journal entries, personal and business calendars, and daily time capsule entries if you kept them. After you review them, take some time to sit back and mull over events. Then, write a word or phrase that seems to encapsulate that week/month. Keeping that phrase in mind, write a short paragraph or two summarizing what occurred, writing down whatever strikes you about that period of time, including general feelings about it.


For a yearly time capsule entry, in addition to reviewing the year, you might also include what worked and what didn’t, successes and failures, what you started and what you stopped doing, classes you took, things you learned, family changes, favorite movies and songs, and whatever else seems important about that year.

If you want to try keeping a time capsule journal, decide how frequently you will keep it and make a commitment for a period of time—three to six months for example. At the end of that period, you can review the previous entries and determine whether you’d like to continue.

Have you ever thought about keeping a daily diary or time capsule journal? I’d like to hear about your experiences. Please leave a comment.


For creative ways to use your journal, as well as writing tips and prompts, be sure to connect with me on

Related Articles:
Using Your Journal for Memoir

Journaling for Memoir

Journaling the Sensory Details


Image Credit: Rachel Joy

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Kendra Bonnett March 10, 2012 at

What a great concept, Amber. Thanks.

Matilda Butler March 10, 2012 at


I like the time capsule concept. It seems to remove the need to feel that journaling is a big commitment. I would think that someone who wants to start journaling would find this to be a perfect way to slide in.

Amber Lea Starfire March 10, 2012 at

Thanks, Kendra. And yes, Matilda … It’s easy for beginners and experience journal writers because it works well for those days when you feel you don’t have time to write longer entries.

Ronda Armstrong March 12, 2012 at

Thanks for sharing this concept, Amber. Moving forward, I like the time capsule idea a lot. Concerning journal entries already written, I’ve considered choosing a year and looking at the entries for a certain date each month, say the 10th, to delve into the entries further to identify patterns and draw conclusions. Or another way — spread out over years — choosing the same date or two each year and perusing the journals to gain new perspectives.

Amber Lea Starfire March 12, 2012 at

Ronda, those are both great ways to identify patterns in your life. By reviewing my journals in the ways you suggest, I’ve found that I tend to go through the same kinds of things from year to year, and in the same seasons. I’ve discovered that life (at least for me) is spiral in nature—spiral instead of circular, because I always grow a little each year, not coming back to exactly the same place, and sometimes managing to curl off in new directions, creating new spirals altogether. :-)

Ronda Armstrong March 12, 2012 at

Amber, I like the concept of spiraling, both as growth and new directions. Thanks for that description!

Dawn Herring March 12, 2012 at

I love this very practical approach to journaling, with focus on the What of life. The examples you provide are insightful, with the different time spans: daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly. This approach makes summarizing our life and finding what we’re looking for easier.

I have chosen your post, Journal Writing for Memoir: Time Capsule, for the #JournalChat Pick of the Day on 3/12/12 for all things journaling on Twitter.
I will post a link on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, my blog and website Refresh with Dawn Herring, and in Refresh Journal, my weekly e-journal:

#JournalChat Live is every Thursday at 5 EST/2 PST for all things journaling on Twitter; this week’s topic is Your Journaling: A Success Synopsis.

Thanks again for a terrific approach to working our journals for the purpose of memoir and memory!

Be refreshed,
Dawn Herring
JournalWriter Freelance
Host of #JournalChat Live and Links Edition on Twitter

Amber Lea Starfire March 12, 2012 at

Thank you, Dawn!

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