Your Life Story in Six Words

February 8, 2010 § 6 Comments

Book Cover of 'Six-Word Memoirs'

This just might get your creative juices flowing. Or at the very least, chop away at some of life’s mental riff-raff when you consider: What really matters? What are you truly about? How much story can be packed into 6 words? How much punch?

You’d think we’d all be experts, afloat as we are in a sea of restless soundbites and twitter-clips. But it’s not as easy as it might seem…

Below is an excerpt from Feb. 3 NPR , Can You Tell Your Life Story In Exactly Six Words?

Once asked to write a full story in six words, legend has it that novelist Ernest Hemingway responded: “For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

In this spirit, Smith Magazine invited writers “famous and obscure” to distill their own life stories into exactly six words. It All Changed in an Instant is the fourth collection of very, very brief life stories from Smith. The tiny memoirs are sometimes sad, often funny — and always concise.

It All Changed in an Instant is full of well-known names — from activist Gloria Steinem (“Life is one big editorial meeting”), to author Frank McCourt (“The miserable childhood leads to royalties”), to actress Molly Ringwald (“Acting is not all I am”).

Larry Smith, founding editor of Smith, and Rachel Fershleiser, Smith‘s memoir editor, talk to NPR’s Rebecca Roberts about the fun and the challenge of capturing real-life stories in six little words.

Smith’s six-word memoir? “Now I obsessively count the words.” And Fershleiser’s: “Bookstore to book tour in seconds.”

Can you write your autobiography in one sentence?


Gets you thinking, huh. Can you do it? Are you willing to share yours? (I’m still thinking…)


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§ 6 Responses to Your Life Story in Six Words

  • Valerie says:

    Live Learn Love Laugh Share Care


  • Douglas says:

    My life in 6 words:

    No longer accepts excuses, obstacles, regrets


  • saxtonstudio says:

    Guess it’d be only fair if I tossed in something of my own … so here it is:

    Pen and ink and love unfolding.


  • Mark says:

    My life in six words…

    Living life in pursuit of Peace 🙂


  • Wholeness seeker; Wind follower; Now reveler.

    Needs work – easier to say in 10.
    Centering on Wholeness; Following the Wind; Reveling in the Moment.

    Guess I’ll let Hemingway and others keep the record for 6 words.

    Have to wonder if my 10 words really tell anybody anything (other than myself). I’ve found myself going the other way recently – taking a word and expanding/expounding it to fill a page. Interestingly enough, the less familiar I am with the word, the easier it is.


    • saxtonstudio says:

      It seems to me that your 6 words tell a lot about you! And, actually, they tell it In a more “interesting way” than the 10 word play. It also seems to me that grabbing the “gist” in 6 words can only really be a snippet, a loaded morsel, leading to a general sense of the person.

      Hemingway’s “Baby Shoes For Sale, Never Worn” is indeed profound … but when you think about it, we probably fill in all sorts of gaps there because much of his life (and temperament) was documented. It’s a powerful snippet, but is it one that explains his whole life?

      I think the key is not so much to “tell it all” but serve up a tempting “essence”.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts – and your expanding/expounding word exercise – for those of us “word people” that sounds fun!


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