Thursday, January 28, 2010

Six-Word Memoirs...Six Words of Distillation, Focus and Springboard Goodness

January 28, 2010

Six-Word Memoirs…Six Words of Distillation, Focus and Springboard Goodness

Greetings Writing Community!

Perhaps you’ve already gotten wind of Six-Word Memoirs, but if you haven’t heard of this autobiographical short writing I highly recommend it. Not only do these half dozen words act as a writing springboard for you, but there are a wealth of creativity-fueling materials about it on the Internet, including sites where you can upload what you’ve written to your heart’s content. It’s almost another version of Chicken Soup for the Soul because every manner of thematic content serves as the impetus for these, including heartbreak, life, and love. Even Weird Al Jankovic has come up with "(This Song’s Just) Six Words" that you can find on youtube and is pretty danged amusing. There is some sort of power in six and if you’re into numerology I bet you know why. (I don’t, but that made it look like I had some sort of secret knowledge, didn’t it?)

I’m not sure if this is urban legend and it’s not exactly “Snopes-worthy” to check out, but evidently the six-word memoirs were inspired by Hemingway’s short story featuring a six-word title, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn” and the rest is writing fodder history.

Along about a couple of years ago I was messing around with some of my personal essays and somehow, serendipitously, I happened onto this whole six-word memoir thing. I say “serendipitously” because I really needed to fit that word into something I wrote today, so it wasn’t necessarily serendipitous, only inasmuch as it has provided me with hours of writing self-amusement.

As you can imagine, there’s been a book (or dozen) filled with pithy philosophies as provided by the famous and not-so-famous, but the most poignant have been written by teens. NPR has featured the book that started it all, Not Quite What I Was Planning by Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser, along with the six-word memoirs of many whose voices I greatly appreciate. The following link is a pretty great one because it’s illustrated and offers up some very thought-provoking stuff:

The key is to get yourself hooked on writing these things, which remind me of a totally “sprung” haiku, if you will. As a teacher, I’ve often used this succinct, but powerful frame to get even the most reticent of writers to come up with something they’re so proud of they often even surprise themselves by voluntarily sharing them in class. This is frequently followed by what I call the “double snap” of approval, as in beat poetry, that provides one of those, “That’s deep, man,” moments.

Now if you’re a follower of this blog, and I sure hope you are, then post a few of your own six-word memoirs, would ya? The problem is not so much beginning these inscriptions, but rather stopping the onrush of them once you start. Here are a few that leapt from my pen as I was driving my daughter to school (which may explain why pedestrians were also leaping from my path at the same time.)

  • Searching for gifts in unlikely places

  • Believing justice as means not end

  • Love for keeps know your joy

  • Legacy embodied remain people treasured always

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