A few weeks ago, I issued a challenge: pick one important lesson learned in each decade of your life. If that assignment seemed too huge, here's something much smaller to try: a six-word memoir. The idea isn't to encapsulate your entire existence in a handful of words, but to capture a micro-slice or express a tiny truth.
The concept has been floating around for more than a decade, ever since Larry Smith, founder of SMITH Magazine, asked readers to describe their lives in exactly six words.
Responses poured in, giving rise to the Six-Word Memoir project. To date, more than one million of the mini-memoirs have been published on the Six Word Memoirs website, and the project has been featured in hundreds of media outlets, including NPR and The New Yorker.
The phenomenon has spawned a series of books (some with six-word titles, natch), including It All Changed in an Instant, Not Quite What I Was Planning, I Can't Keep My Own Secrets (Six-Word Memoirs by teens), and Oy! Only Six? Why Not More? (Six-Word Memoirs on Jewish life).
There's a Six-Word Memoirs card game, and live Six-Word Memoir "slams" are held at locations around the world.
For inspiration, you can check out the vast and ever-changing assortment of little life stories on the project website. You can browse through topics, such as Life, Love, Advice, Happiness, Bosses, Food, or search by keyword.
A recent visit turned up such gems as:
Life: A backflip down the stairs, by Abarooni
Baking bread helps heal broken hearts, by L2L3
Even pinhole light defeats the night, by BanjoDan
Water life; grow what is unexpected, by Poetreebook
Of course I had to try writing my own. Some of the ones I came up with are too personal to share (!), but here are a few that made it past my internal censor:
Weighing "Do better" against "Good enough."
48 years motherless. Miss her still.
Haunted by dreams of motorcycling calamities.
Unable to resist chocolate, beer, writing.
Thinking these up instead of meditating.
Finally realized introversion's not a fault.
Still limber at 69. Thanks, yoga!
Now it's your turn. You may be surprised what you come up with. I was!
Written from the heart,
from the heart of the woods
Read the introduction to HeartWood here.
Nan Sanders Pokerwinski, a former journalist, writes memoir and personal essays, makes collages and likes to play outside. She lives in West Michigan with her husband, Ray.