LifeJournal™ Newsletter – May 2002

This newsletter focuses on the Life History feature. As summer approaches, many of you may be planning to use some extra time to write. Consider the Life History timeline as one area you may want to focus additional energy. We’ve provided some information about how to use the feature, as well as some prompts to encourage you to get started.

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Ruth Folit

Chronicles Software Company

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Basics and Beyond: Life History Timeline
Life History Prompts
Mailbag: Another Tip for Consistent Journal Writing
End Quotes
To Purchase LifeJournal

Basics and Beyond: Life History Timeline

The Life History feature offers you the format to write about past events. You may want to write about the past because it relates in some way to the present, because events or anecdotes may be the basis of stories that you will be using in writing fiction, or because you are writing your autobiography or memoirs. Some journalers may also want to use the Life History timeline as a place to record genealogical research.

The Life History timeline allows you to create a graphic timeline, indicating landmark points, adding life history journal entries, and demarcating your life into different periods.

Start by opening the Life History timeline, by clicking the last circular button on the command bar, or by going to the Features menu>Life History Timeline. When opening the Life History feature the first time, a dialog box appears to ask you to enter your birth date. Use the arrow keys or number keys to enter the month (1=January, 2=February, etc.), day, and year. Then click OK. The timeline will open. Of two vertical black lines, one represents today, and the other represents your birthday.

If you accidentally enter the wrong birth date, right click the left vertical black line that represents the “wrong” birth date on the timeline. A dialog will appear that lets you enter the proper birth date. Enter the proper date and click OK.

You can view the timeline in one of three time frames: by lifetime, by decade, or by year. The three square buttons on the far left of the timeline control the viewable scale. The larger the black square within the button that you click, the longer the time period that is displayed on the timeline. When you are in the lifetime or decade scale, you can double click anywhere within the timeline to zoom in to the next time scale. Look at the top of the timeline to see which dates are displayed.

The first horizontal line below the dates is an area for landmarks, which are watershed life events. Landmarks may denote the beginning or ending of a period of your life, (for example, the beginning of an important relationship, the changing of a job, the birth of a child, or moving from one city to another). Landmarks may help you remember past experiences, they may give you a sense of the movement of your life, or they may help define different time periods.

Click the Landmark button with the star in it, to the left of the top line, and you’ll see a dialog box that lets you name the landmark as well as specify a date. After you enter the information and click OK, the Landmark icon appears on the timetable for the corresponding date.

Below the Landmark button, is a button with an image of a piece of paper with a folded corner. When you click this New Life History Entry button a dialog appears asking on what date you want the entry to be placed on the timeline. Enter the date and a new Life History journal entry opens. The Life History entry parallels the functioning of the Daily and Dream Journal entry in every way but the date. The date that appears in the Life History entry is not the date that you wrote it, but the date of the event that you are writing about took place.

It is often very difficult to know the exact date of a specific event that happened years ago. You might remember that it was in the spring of 1972, but was it March 19, or April 7? I would contend that the specific date doesn’t really matter, as long as you’re within a few months. It would be nice if you had the option in LifeJournal of writing Spring, 1972 or March, 1972, and we hope to include that feature for version 2.0. In the meantime, simply estimate the date, and remember that it may be approximate when looking at Life History entries.

As in all LifeJournal entries, you can give the entry a title, and assign topics to the full entry (bookmark) or only to passages of an entry (highlight). (For more information about assigning topics you may want to read the February, 2001 newsletter’s article,Highlighting: Basics and Beyond.) You can perform searches specifically for Life History entries that are written about specific dates or that include a specific topic or word.

There is also a quick search shortcut that lets you list all of your Life History entries. The button is at the bottom left of the Timeline, denoted by a graphic of three Life History entry icons on it. Click that button and a list of all Life History entries appears with the date of the event, the title of the entry, the journal type (Life History) and other pertinent information about the journal entry.

Each Life History journal entry is denoted on the timeline by a black-filled circle on the row below the Landmarks. If you point your mouse to a circle, you’ll see the name and date of the journal entry in the tool tip. If you’d like to open and/or edit the entry, you can right click on the black-filled circle and select Edit Life History entry,. If you double click on the entry (or any point on the Timeline) you will zoom in to the next time scale. When you are in a one year time scale the black circle changes to the Life History journal entry icon; double click it and the entry will open.

The last row shows time periods of your life. The default periods are Childhood, Teenage Years, College, Early Adulthood, Middle Adulthood, and Late Adulthood. You can right click on a time period to edit, delete, or add a new time period to better suit your life.

After reviewing the mechanics of the Life History timeline, let’s consider ways to effectively use this feature. If you already have a past anecdote, event, or recollection you want to write about, open a Life History entry, enter the date of the event and start writing. Include as much detail as you can-including description of setting-with such specifics as the quality of the air and light, any smells, ambient sound; descriptions of people-their emotions, what others were wearing, the quality of their voices; your own sensations –your inner feelings, any physical sensations; exact words in conversations, and any appeals to your senses to make the incident that you writing about come alive.

Life History journal entries can be a place to record the raw data of your past. You may want to write a Life History entry when a memory bubbles up during the course of a day. Or you may want to consciously dig up memories about a particular time period or subject matter and try to remember as much as you can about it. Both ways work well for recollecting and reporting the past.

We have created a set of downloadable Life History prompts that we hope will promote remembrance of past events. See the next article in this newsletter for prompts related to Life History.

People write their autobiographies for different reasons: for their family, for publication, or for review of their life to find greater meaning in it. Tristine Rainer’s book, Your Life As Story, is an excellent source of information about writing your autobiography or memoir. She encourages you to see the bigger picture of your life, helping you create what she calls a New Autobiography. The New Autobiography is more than a factual reportorial account of your life, but is the discovery of the meaning in the story of your unique life. She discusses the structure of good stories and helps you see that your autobiography can be written with such construction. Like good stories, which must have a beginning, a middle, and an ending, Rainer helps you find the corresponding desire, struggle, and realization that is the story of your life. Rainer discusses different ways to tell your life story-depending on how you “slice your life.” You can write about your entire life, about a particular segment of your life that may revolve around a pivotal event, or about a particular issue that surfaces periodically during the course of your life. If you are thinking about writing your autobiography I highly recommend that you read this book!
Life History Prompts: Early Years

These prompts are designed to help you remember specifics of your past. The answers themselves may or may not represent particularly significant incidents in your life, but they may lead you to remembering past events or anecdotes that do have meaning. This is the first of several sets of Life History prompts that we will create and make available in our newsletter in coming months. The focus of these prompts in this month’s newsletter is on your younger years. You can download the file by clicking Life History Prompts. The prompts are listed below and are also available for download into your LifeJournal from our Prompts web page,

Here’s how to download the prompts and import them into your LifeJournal program:

  1. Click Life History Prompts.
  2. Select Save to disk.
  3. Choose (and remember) the directory where you save the file. The default directory that the file will be saved to is C:\Program Files\LifeJournal, the default LifeJournal directory.
  4. Open your LifeJournal program and import the prompts by going to the Filemenu>Import Custom Prompts and Quotes. Browse to the prompt file that you downloaded and click on it: it will have an .ljpq extension.
  5. Within the LifeJournal program, click on the prompt icon and select the category Life History and the new prompts will appear one at a time.

The 30 Life History Prompts that you will have downloaded into your LifeJournal program are as follows:

  1. What is your earliest memory? Describe it in the fullest detail you can remember.
  2. Describe in detail your house/apartment or a room in it that you particularly liked when you were growing up.
  3. What was your favorite toy growing up? Who gave it to you? What did you like most about it?
  4. Who did you play with when you were young? What favorite activities did you share?
  5. What was your favorite music/musician when you were very young? Did you have a favorite song? If you can, find a recording of a musician or song that you enjoyed when you were younger. Play it and write your recollections of yourself and the setting when you listened to it.
  6. Did you have favorite kinds of clothes when you were young? Describe an event in which your outfit played a prominent place in the story.
  7. Who taught you to ride a bicycle? What are your memories of learning to ride a bike? How did it change your image of yourself when you learned to ride a bike? Once you learned how to ride a bike, where did you go? Who did you go ride with? What was the most exciting part of riding your bicycle?
  8. When you were in elementary school, what were you known for? How did you feel about that reputation?
  9. Who was your favorite teacher in elementary school? Can you remember an incident that made her/him your favorite?
  10. What did you work hard to accomplish or be when you were in elementary school?
  11. When you were in elementary school, what did you want to be when you grew up? How is that reflected in your life today?
  12. While in elementary school what world event had an impact on you? How did it affect you?
  13. What was your biggest fear when you were growing up? Was there an image that occurred in dreams, or an imaginary being that would scare you? Is there any connection to that in your life today?
  14. When growing up what were some of your beliefs about your role in the family, about your abilities, about what the future held, about being an adult?
  15. Describe your childhood traumas. How did your life change from before to after the traumas? How do they affect your life today?
  16. Describe a memorable family vacation when you were under ten years old and, specifically, one anecdote about that time that captures the essence of your family dynamics.
  17. Describe a typical family dinner when you were ten years old or younger. Where and what did you eat? What was the tone of the conversation during dinner usually? How did you fit into the family?
  18. In what special family activities did your family regularly engage? How did you family celebrate special events?
  19. Did you have any family routines or rituals on weekends? Describe what they were.
  20. Describe your first experience going to school. How did you get to school? Who took you there? How did you feel being in your elementary school for the first time?
  21. Describe in detail your route to going to school in the morning. How did you get to school? With whom did you go? What challenges did you face along the way? How did you overcome them?
  22. How did you spend a typical summer in your pre-teen years?
  23. Where did you play when you could play outside? Was there a particular playground, vacant lot, or woods, at which you spent a lot of time after school?
  24. Was there a family that you were close to when you were growing up? What was it like visiting that family? How did you feel when you there?
  25. Did you spend time with relatives when you were young? Who were they? How did you feel when you were with them?
  26. How did you and your siblings interact when you were twelve and under?
  27. Divide your life into decades, for example the 1940s, the 1950s, the 1960s and so on. What were the themes for you during the first two decades of your life? How were they influenced by the culture of the era?
  28. Who was your mentor during pre-teen years? What did he/she teach you? Who was your best friend in elementary school?
  29. Describe a typical day together. What were her/his characteristics that you found most appealing?
  30. Was there a landmark event in your pre-teen years that strongly influenced the course of your life? How was your life different before and after that event?

Mailbag: A Tip for Consistent Journal Writing

I just finished reading your suggestion for ways to keep your journal writing consistent, and I thought I’d share one of my own.

I got the idea from one of my favorite films, “Story of Us,” with Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer. As husband and wife, a ritual that their two characters had with each other as well as with their children, was “Hi/Lo.” At the end of a hectic day, after not seeing one another for a while, or sometimes just to make dinner conversation, one would often ask the other that the “Hi/Lo” or High Point/Low Point of their day was. I started adopting that ritual with my long-distance boyfriend when he calls, and pretty soon the habit found its way to my journal. It’s a wonderful way to get the meat of my day down especially when I feel too tired or uninspired to write.

More often than not, this technique has proven to be an unexpected muse of inspiration for me. Most times I start out thinking I’m only going to write a few words; many times I fill a few pages before I know it 🙂

As always, thanks for a simply, yet effective approach to journaling with LifeJournal I continue to find new ways to enjoy the process.

Pam Durant
Berlin, New Jersey 
End Quotes:

The wise don’t expect to find life worth living; they make it that way.

Dwell as near as possible to the channel in which your life flows.
–Henry David Thoreau

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