The Six-Word Memoir

November 1, 2013, 3:52 pm

Ernest Hemingway was once challenged to write a novel in just six words. His heartbreaking result:

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

The constraint, it turned out, fueled rather than inhibited creativity.  The six-word memoir is now a common exercise for students, challenging them to encapsulate a story in just a few words:

“Sometimes lonely in a crowded bed.”

“My life made my therapist laugh.”

“Wasn’t born a redhead — fixed that.”

“I still make coffee for two.”

“Said he loved me, he lied.”

“Two girls, both of them me.”

“Big dreams, big heart, big mouth.”

“Life is better with headphones on.”

At its core, the six-word memoir offers a simple way for anyone of any age to try to answer the question that defines us all: Who am I?

Chef Mario Batali certainly did when he wrote, “Brought it to a boil often.”

Others try to capture one aspect of their life such as, “According to Facebook we broke up” or

“Mom’s Alzheimer’s: she forgets, I remember.”

The six-word memoir takes a basic human need—self-expression—and makes it accessible, easy and often quite addictive.

Give it a try!


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