When I was an English teacher I would begin each school year by challenging my students to write a six-word memoir.
Legend has it that novelist Ernest Hemingway was once asked to write a full story in six words and he responded: “For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
In this spirit writing something that is both precise and powerful, the online magazine Smith asked readers to write the story of their own lives in a single sentence. The result was Not Quite What I Was Planning, a collection of six-word memoirs by famous and not-so-famous writers, artists and musicians. This first collection was so successful that later Smith magazine compiled another book of six-word memoirs, this time by teens. This book was called “I Can’t Keep My Own Secrets.” (You can check out examples here.)
My six-word memoir has evolved. When I first started teaching my six-word memoir was “Writing so we won’t be erased.” After I started teaching an elective on women and the media and became my school’s resident feminist my six-word memoir shifted to “Write. Teach. Fight the patriarchy. Repeat.”
Now that I’m no longer in the classroom, I think it’s time for my six-word memoir to change again.
Though I’m still and always will be #FeministAF, I feel the need to reset to my old memoir.
I am writing to speak up for all of the marginalized groups that I represent — women, Black people, and Southerners. I am writing so we won’t be erased.
I believe all writers should draft their own six-word memoir because doing so makes you mission-minded. Your six-word memoir can help you be a writer with intention. Your six-word memoir can make you a purpose-driven writer.
When you’re tired, frustrated or facing rejection and you’re tempted to give up, remembering your six-word memoir could be exactly what you need to keep going.
Why do you write? What is your six-word memoir?