THE BLOG
05/09/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

6 Word Memoirs On Intimate Relationships

Last week, we unleashed a challenge to tell your life story in exactly six words, the idea coming from Larry Smith's Six Word Memoir Project and his series of best selling books based on readers' six word contributions.

Here are a few Six Word Memoirs from readers of last week's post:

"LIFE: unscripted, unedited, but never dull."
"I didn't know my own strength."
"Regardless of it I declared victory."
"While waiting for love forgot living."
"Suicidal disillusionment becomes surrender as bliss."
Dark clouds, luminous sun, together -- rainbows!"

HP blogger, Cara Barker, commented: "I'm waiting for the inspiration to find my six. Meanwhile, I loved all your words on this blog." To which I responded in six word fashion: "While waiting for inspiration -- found love".

I offered a six word response to nearly everyone who left a comment last week and was surprised and delighted by the experience of distilling communication down to its essence.

Which led me to wonder: What is it about the six word communication that is so satisfying?

I realize probably not every reader has this kind of response, but I've communicated with enough people over the last seven days, either spoken or written, to get the sense that I'm not alone in my response to this phenomenon.

Something about the exercise is both challenging and liberating. It brings a new level of mindfulness to communication. Since last week, I've found myself thinking in six word increments and counting words to see if I made the cut. A couple of my FB friends noted the same loopy phenomenon occurring in their brains as well. How about you?

I posed the question: "Why is the Six Word Memoir exercise so compelling?" on my FB page and here are a few responses:

"6 words make chaotic life, simple"
"I think it is the challenge."
"Provokes and condenses "too much" folks!"
"Or it could be the fun"
"Ignites your creative juices to flow"
"Like coloring within the lines: structure."

Something about the last one resonates with me. Yes, I admit to being a pretty neat and tidy person, yet I also admit to excess. I live at both ends of the continuum. The six word memoir exercise is like being on a "word diet". I should be so disciplined around food!

If you love to cook, perhaps you know the thrill of making a good reduction sauce. You end up with a concentrated, potent elixir that distills the essence of the original ingredient into just a few drops. What could be better?

Writing is a bit like cooking with words. I love seeing words line up on the page, like little soldiers, or watching how they arrange themselves in paragraphs seemingly with a mind and a life of their own. I love how the act of writing reveals to me truths of which my conscious mind was oblivious until I spilled it on the page.

To a writer, words are candy. But like candy, too much wordiness can be nauseating. Too much flowery language overloads the senses and ends up diluting the message and obscuring the messenger. Six word memoirs are like eating dark chocolate: rich, and deeply satisfying but only if eaten in small amounts.

And then I came across this quote from William Strunk, Jr., author of The Elements of Style, the ultimate writer's handbook, written in 1918:

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.

Ahhh, but that every word tell ... indeed! It's a bit of a metaphor for how our closest relationships unfold. Every word, gesture, choice and action taken is telling, whether we're aware of it or not. How about bringing some consciousness to the subject?

Which brings us to this week's six word memoir challenge:

Write a six word memoir based on your real life experience of intimate relationships. We might define "intimate relationships" to include those people with whom you are closest, not just romantic and sexual relationships.

Memoir writing tips

1. Instead of just stringing together a list of six words, choose words that tell the story of your intimate relationships, not as you would like them to be, but as they really are for you.

2. Remember Rule 12! Rule 12 of The Elements of Style warns:

Avoid tame, colorless, hesitating, non-committal language.

Here are some entries submitted by friends in response to this week's challenge:

"For best results, mix until combined."
"The only way out is through."
"Most rewarding and gut wrenching experience."
"With you I'm more like me."
"Shoulda, coulda, woulda, too late now"
"Been there, done that, what's next?"
"Partnered sherpas standing for each other."

One friend sent me an entire page, a veritable short story, made of six word sentences that speak to intimate relationships. I'm posting it on my personal blog at Rx For The Soul. Here are a few teasers:

Sleeping in double bed, waiting.
Aging passion turned into quiet companionship.
Your shoes sit beside the door.
Love stayed around when you left.

And here's mine, borrowed from Winston Churchill's description of Russia, and clearly referring to the romantic variety of intimate relationships :

"A riddle, wrapped in a mystery."

You might want to use this exercise to do a little self-reflection of your own. How do you sum up your story about intimate relationships in only six words? Let it rumble around in your psyche a bit, and see what spills out. There's an intuitive factor at play here, so trust the process and see what your unconscious delivers. You might just be surprised!

You know what to do. You're seasoned vets at this. Please share your six word comments below (and feel free to share any additional thoughts or insights you've discovered in the process) and I'll endeavor to deliver my six word responses to as many as possible.

And while you're rumbling around the site, go ahead and Become A Fan and receive automatic updates of my future posts. Invite your friends to play our six word game by posting this to your FB page and/or forwarding this on to your favorite wordsmiths. Why shouldn't they get addicted too?

Wanna play some more? Please come visit my personal blog and website at Rx For The Soul or send personal emails to judith[at]judithrichdotcom.

Have fun with this and blessings on the path.