"For sale: baby shoes, never worn."
If you think Twitter is abbreviated communication, how about this one: can you tell your entire life story in exactly six words?
Welcome to the Six Word Memoir Project, birthed from the brain and heart of Larry Smith, founder and editor of SMITH magazine, an online repository for people's personal stories.
Although the project is over three years old, I somehow managed to remain unaware of it until last week at the gym, where I saw a woman wearing a tee-shirt that said: www.sixwordmemoir.com on the back. Such an intriguing concept! Assuming there was more to the story, I couldn't wait to see what was on the front of her shirt.
Being that I was moving in place on the elliptical and she was moving around the circuit on the machines, I didn't manage to catch up with her until just as I was leaving the gym. The front of her shirt read: "The psychic said I'd be richer".
OK, I was hooked and had to learn what this was. From our brief exchange, I learned that Larry Smith, a friend of hers and former articles editor at Men's Journal, took an old idea inspired by Ernest Hemingway, who was challenged to write a story using only six words. Hemingway's story: "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."
Whew! I don't know about you, but that one kind of leaves me speechless. Don't those six words capture the essence of an entire journey through the joy of expectation to the sorrow of loss? Or maybe it tells the story of someone who changed their mind about starting a family and took their life in a different direction. Or it could be the story of someone who never experienced their own childhood or who never walked in another's shoes.
The possibilities for interpretation are endless, thus inviting readers to supply their own imaginations in bringing meaning to each offering.
In 2006, Smith took Hemingway's idea, launched an online magazine and challenged people to submit a six word memoir, offering an iPod to the winner. He expected to receive maybe a few hundred entries. He was immediately deluged with over 11,000 entries.
Today, over 250,000 six word memoirs have been submitted, and the idea has become a cultural phenomenon, spawning a best selling book series, including Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure, Six-Word Memoirs on Love & Heartbreak, Six-Word Memoirs by Teens Famous & Obscure. and It All Changed in an Instant: More Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure.
Distilling your life's story into only six words is challenging. Want to try it? Here's some inspiration. Check out this trailer from the latest six word memoir, It All Changed In An Instant: Let's have our own little contest and see what we produce. Here are some examples that are among my favorites:
"Don't make me come down there." - God (seen on a church billboard)
"The miserable childhood leads to royalties" - Frank McCourt, author
"Life is better in soft pajamas"- from a 3rd grader in New Jersey
"Now I obsessively count the words" - Larry Smith, editor of SMITH magazine
"Three marriages; three divorces; gratefully single." Judith Rich
" I finally came home to myself." Judith Rich (OK, I cheated and did 2).
OK, it's your turn. Let's hear what you got. If you want more inspiration, visit the 6WM Facebook page and see what readers like yourself come up with everyday.
And if you want to submit your own memoir as a possible entry in a future collection, check out SMITH magazine and indoctrinate yourself in this world of possibilities. There are six word categories for moms, teens, relationships, heart break, politics, Oscars, Olympics, and many more and the list keeps on growing.
Maybe you could start a category of your own. The nominations are open for new categories and if enough of you are interested, we'll explore them in future posts. What's new and happening right now and how can we distill it into six words?
For example: Healthcare: "I told you I was sick."
The floor is all yours. Have fun with this and blessings on the path. Along the way, come visit me at Rx For The Soul, my personal blog and website, where we'll carry on this conversation and whatever else serves to nourish the soul.