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

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