By Maggie Van Ostrand
The Six-Word Memoir
Pascal said “The letter I have written today is longer than usual because I lacked the time to make it shorter.” Polonius, a character in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, said “Brevity is the soul of wit.” (That line was later paraphrased by Dorothy Parker who said “Brevity is the soul of lingerie.”)
Great writers all give the same advice: boil your words down until only the best are left in the pot. Hemingway’s work is why he’s a favorite of writers. It is to his legend that this month’s column is dedicated, for he once rose to the challenge of writing a story in six words, turning in the poignant “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
A similar challenge was recently made to readers of Smith Magazine and the response was staggering. At the rate of 500 submissions each day, Smith had plenty of six-word shorties for a book which made it to the New York Times Best Seller List.
We thought it would intrigue Ajijic writers to take part in such an effort. To reduce one’s life into six words can result in the sharpest, most insightful, and touching writing imaginable. Following is a selection from Smith’s book to wet your appetites.
• Afraid of everything. Did it anyway.
• Lived like no tomorrow; tomorrow came.
• Not as blond as I look.
• Tequila made her clothes fall off.
• Became my mother. Please shoot me.
• Revenge is living well, without you.
Joyce Carol Oates
• Big heart protected by sharp tongue.
• Learned to say no too late.
• My life, in Mexico, is strange.
• Fearlessness is the mother of reinvention.
• Fact checker by day, liar by night
• Born in abject obscurity; never escaped.
• One tooth, one cavity, life’s cruel.
• Followed white rabbit. Became black sheep.
• Made a mess. Cleaned it up.
• Found true love. Married someone else.
• Everyone who loved me is dead.
• Glass half full; pockets half empty
• Young, skinny, ridiculed. Old, skinny, envied.
• Running away: best decision I made.
• 1949 to 2000...something
• It’s like forever, only much shorter.
• Cursed with cancer. Blessed with friends.
• Not easy, but a lot of fun.
That last one was just to show you I’m not scared to go first so I stuck mine on the bottom. C’mon, give it a try and email your entry to email@example.com with Six-Word Memoir in the subject line. We could have a Memoir Party with yellow sticky notes and pencils so you can write your memoir on a nametag. Just think, when you stop to chat with someone, you’ll be able to see an entire life sparkling on their lapel. That’s what I call real bling.