Elizabeth: The Memory Jar

MemoryJarA few years ago, I started the tradition of a memory jar as a way to capture the positive things that happen from day to day that have a tendency to get lost in the shuffle. It was an idea I first saw on a blog about happiness and thought sounded interesting.

The idea is simple. All it takes is a jar (I re-purposed an old mason jar), some slips of paper (I have a pad of mini-colored Post-Its that I use), and a pen. When something positive happens, you write it on a slip of paper and drop it in the jar.

By the time the end of the year rolls around, you have a jar full of memories that you can pull out and enjoy all over again. It is a nice way to remind yourself of the happy little moments that can be so easily forgotten when life’s not-so-happy moments occur.

I have a memory jar that is specifically for my current book. The writing process can often be frustrating, a kind of two-steps-forward-one-step-back kind of dance. It’s easy to be disappointed by lack of progress or the need to cut a favorite scene after hours of work, so having a jar full of positive little memories can help balance things out a bit.

Saturday, I got a wonderful new memory to add to the jar. It was a call from the Northwest Houston RWA coordinator for the Lone Star Writing Competition telling me that I was a finalist in the historical category of this year’s contest.  Definitely a memory to keep. Months from now, when I pull out the slips of paper and read through them, I’ll be reminded all over again of just how nice it was to get that call.

I added a few more slips to the jar after reading the comments from my first-round judges. This was my favorite:

“Brilliant opening! My attention was caught right from the start. Crisp, clean writing, lovely touch of humor.”

Just the kind of pick-me-up for those days when I’m wondering if I’ll ever finish this book or why I thought I could actually write.

So, do you have a special way of capturing your own happy memories?

16 thoughts on “Elizabeth: The Memory Jar

  1. Love, love, love this.

    I’ve never really tried to capture happy memories — I’ve always assumed that I’d remember them, but of course, one doesn’t. The closest thing I’ve done is keep a file full of other people’s happy writing moments — it’s full of quotes and encouragement from famous writers. No reason, in particular. It could easily be the happy moments of my writing friends . . . or even of my own!

    • Michaeline – the file of happy moments sounds great. I had a file years before (it’s probably still around somewhere) where I put copies of emails where people had said nice things about my work. It was nice to periodically go through it.

  2. I also love this idea, Elizabeth. I’m going to start doing this for myself, maybe for all things, or maybe two jars, one for writing and one for life. Yesterday I had a wonderful conversation at the hardware store with the owner, who told me what my mom means to him. It was astonishing. I definitely want to remember that. And good moments for writing—I could use those, too.

    And congratulations for finaling in the Lone Star contest! Fingers crossed!

    • Kay, that conversation sounds like a great moment to remember. I’m always sure I’ll remember things that happened or what people said but, like Michaeline said above, it doesn’t always work out that way. Keep me posted on how the jar(s) work out for you and thanks for the congratulations. My fingers are crossed too (making it a challenge to type. Har.)

  3. Congratulations, Elizabeth, on finaling. My fingers are crossed for you!

    I love the idea of the memory jar. I think perhaps instead of a jar, I’m just going to stick the stickies all over my desk, so I can see them every day. Sort of a happy affirmation of me as a writer. Thanks for this!

  4. I love this idea, Elizabeth – and congratulations on getting to the final of the Lone Star. Fingers crossed for you!

    I’m wondering if I can somehow make myself a virtual jar. Firstly because I have too much Stuff in my house already; it’s all personal Stuff so I don’t want to get rid of any, but I definitely don’t want to add to it. Secondly, because if I don’t incorporate the jar into my routine somehow, I’ll keep it up for a while and then forget about it. I turn my laptop on every day, at the very least to check my emails, so if I make it a routine to open the Virtual Memory Jar at the same time, then I’ll keep it going and look at it at least once per day.

    • Jilly – I’m sure there are lots of ways you could do this electronically. You could have a document that you add positive things to as they occur (or they come to mind). You could create a draft email that you add things too. I added an auto-reminder to my calendar for the end of the day with the subject “Anything good to remember today?” I can ignore it if I don’t have anything, or take minute do jot something down if I do.

      Hope you find somethings that works for you.

    • Jilly, I found an app for my iPad that is literally stickie notes that cover your “desktop”. Maybe you could have virtual stickie notes and any time you want, just pull them up and read them.

  5. The happy-memory-jar idea is a great one. I think I’ll do an electronic one of those, starting today.

    But more importantly…. CONGRATULATIONS on being chosen as a finalist in the competition!

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