THE BLOG
02/16/2009 08:04 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

What You Can Say in Just Six Words

He's just not that into you.

American cinema fans have been reminded how powerful and encompassing just six words can be. Sometimes the shorter - and the sweeter? - phrasing can carry the strongest message.

This was the thinking that the creators of the six-word memoir had in mind when they developed the writing form a couple of years ago. The editors ask the public to submit six-word descriptions of influential moments or life-changing stories that continue to affect them. These collaborative stories, the editors hope, will relate and translate to a wider, more universal audience.

So far their pursuit has paid off. The editors have scanned many thousands of entries as they compiled two books of memoirs. As part of the book tour for their current venture, the editors were on hand at Borders last week to discuss what they have gleaned from years of reading about what others feel, think and write about. It was only fitting that that week of Valentine's Day they were speaking about the topic they've found people are most inspired by: love and heartbreak.

In their opening remarks, the editors explained that they wanted their newest book to cover both the happiness and the pain that they sensed in the words of their contributors. The book - and the accompanying site - aims to reflect what people tend to obsess over and worry about. Even some of the more optimistic entries still showcased heartfelt hesitation and genuine uncertainty about the conquest of love. For every passage shared, there was a larger, more complicated back story that you wished you could hear along with it.

But it's not only about love and heartbreak that people have wanted to share their thoughts. Since publicizing the six-word memoir as a form of expression, the editors have seen their art form unexpectedly turn up in both eulogies and sermons. People have at times been inspired to try to write more briefly and comprehensively ahead of extravagantly. Emotions not only can be expressed in such a limited space, some have written their memoirs about how six words is in fact too long for them.

After hearing the editors share some of their favorite stories, and several contributors read their passages, the audience was asked to take a moment to write original six-word memoirs. Some of the onlookers found this to be an opportune time to quietly exit. For most of us, though, we took this as a challenge to dig deep and come up with six words that could encapsulate the message of who we are and what we have held onto in our lives.

As I listened to my neighbors call theirs out, I again found myself wanting to know more about their stories. Why were some of them more upbeat than others? Would certain emotions actually be better expressed with more time and no restriction on space? I even found myself wondering about those who opted not to participate at all. It takes a certain audaciousness to share something that you wrote spur of the moment and didn't have time yet to rightfully consider.

When the time came for me to share mine, I nervously read "Discover passions in your free time" off of my paper. For no rational reason, I cared what the others thought about my passage. They reacted to it the way we all had to each other's: a nod of the head and eyes remaining fixated on the reader for a second before moving onto the next in line. All of the memoirs sounded roughly the same, though they each carried their own stories, ideas and experiences.

Nearly a week later, I still find myself thinking about some of the words shared at that event. The most provocative and thoughtful ones were also the ones that had the most rawness and deep-rooted emotion attached to them. As I reflect now on my six-word memoir, I can only hope that someone continues to harbor questions about my story. And that they cling to an unyielding desire to learn more about a complete stranger.