(This essay is one in a series of posts reviewing my favorite websites. Even though I don’t spend a lot of time surfing the Internet, I do have a file on my computer entitled “Random Cool Stuff.” Within that file are bookmarked Internet sites, an odd collection of webpages, among the millions of possibilities that tickled my fancy, intrigued me, or led me in a whole new direction.)
Sometimes you only need a few words to say a lot.
Ernest Hemingway was once challenged to write a story in only six words. The master of spare, tight prose produced the following heartbreaking tale: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
Inspired by Hemingway’s powerful brevity, SMITH magazine, a user-generated storytelling web magazine, launched a six-word memoir project. In a simple online challenge they asked: “Can you tell your life story in six words?”
Since the initial challenge was posted, hundreds of thousands of people have summed up their lives in just a few carefully chosen words. A couple of my favorites are: “Still lost on road less traveled;” “Kept my hands inside the ride;” and “Wasn’t born a redhead. Fixed that.” Some of the memoirs are thoughtful, “Pregnancy is poetry. Parenting is prose.” And some are heartbreaking, “Only one person said happy birthday.”
The best of the six-word memoirs have been compiled into several bestselling books, including Not Quite What I Was Planning, It All Changed In An Instant, and I Can’t Keep My Own Secrets featuring memoirs written by teens.
Creating six-word memoirs is addictive. I’ve emailed the six-word challenge to friends and family, used it in the classroom as a teaching tool, and made it a party activity. I have basically bombarded everyone I know for their own six-words memoir. Or two. Or three. Here is one of mine: “Surprised it turned out this good.”
The SMITH magazine six-word memoir project is ongoing. You can submit your own memoir at the web address above. There are now numbers of different categories, including teens, moms, love, etc… You can also design your own six word memoir t-shirt.
There is even a movement of pastors using the six-word form to help their congregation distill their spiritual beliefs. Hard to top this memoir posted on a church kiosk, but it’s fun to try.