How to Write Your Own Six-Word Memoir (& How Those Six Words May Rewrite Your Life)! (2024)

Many moon ago, a literary publication called Smith Magazine introduced a fascinating construct: Write a memoir.

In six words.

It became very popular due to its quirky concept.

Authors jumped all over it. Celebrities (like Stephen Colbert) got involved. I did, too.

I was not only interviewed by Smith Mag, but I wrote my own six-word memoir (actually a few of them … read on to see what they were!).

In my writing workshops, I began to adopt this idea as a way to kick off the sessions. It served many important purposes. I urge you to try this if you are stuck in your writing, readying a query letter for agents, or need to rethink how you edit.

I also urge you to try it if you are stuck in life: It will offer a way for you to think of yourself as YOU think of yourself, not others. It will also give you the freedom to present yourself — even if only to you — as the person you dreamed, one defined by passion rather than job, one defined by purpose rather than by society.

How to Write Your Own Six-Word Memoir (& How Those Six Words May Rewrite Your Life)! (1)

So, pretend you are sitting in my knotty pine cottage in Michigan. You are seated in a cozy chair, a cup of coffee or tea beside you, strangers surrounding you, and I stand and begin to talk:

How to Write Your Own Six-Word Memoir (& How Those Six Words May Rewrite Your Life)! (2)

“Everyone has a story,” I say. “What’s yours? You have ten minutes to consider, write and then share with the group. Again, who are you? Not what you do, but who you are and wish to be. Truly and deeply. Now, go tell that story in six words. Only six. Doesn’t have to be a complete sentence. Can be single words separated periods. Can be a phrase. Can be whatever you dream. But it has to be only six words. The time starts now. Go!”

Why is this an important exercise to undertake for writers and souls?

  1. This gives us permission to think outside the box and tell the world — okay, a group of strangers — who we really are, not the labels that are thrust upon us, but who we are inside, the pieces we rarely show the world, the dreams we hide, the secrets we squash. I. Give. You. Permission! Be. You. (See, six words.)

  2. Most folks in an environment like this are nervous. I don’t want to give them too much time to think (read: overthink). I want their brains to work quickly. I want their creativity to flow. When you’re scared like this, real emotions — and words — happen.

  3. Aspiring writers bring their works in progress to my workshops. I’ve seen either pieces of their work in advance, or — often — a full manuscript. I want them to write something in their own voice, which is often decidedly different than what they’ve been working on (or believe they should be writing).

  4. This exercise forces writers to be good editors on the fly. Each word is vital to the story you are telling as you only get six. We rarely think this critically about our word choice.

  5. This also forces writers to think outside of the box. I’m not asking for complete sentences even. Just six words that tell a story. Often, that unlocks something deeper in the way they consider writing.

    How to Write Your Own Six-Word Memoir (& How Those Six Words May Rewrite Your Life)! (3)
  6. A six-word memoir also asks souls to present to a group of strangers who they REALLY are. What happens when we walk into a party? Or when you sit next to someone on a plane? We are asked, “What do you do?” Not “Who are you?” Not “What is your passion?” I’m not asking people not to tell me what they do. I’m asking them to tell me who they are. We rarely do this. And it’s a rare gift to be asked.

  7. This dovetails into writers who have finished a manuscript and are writing a query letter in order to land a literary agent in hopes of having their books published. One of the most overlooked aspects of penning a great query (which I will discuss in future posts more in-depth!) is not just bringing your book to life as creatively as you can for an agent but also bringing YOU to life. Yes, agents want to know what you do (lawyer, doctor, housewife, teacher, carpenter), but they really want to know WHO you are. Why are YOU writing this book? Bring yourself to life in the most eye-opening way you can in a query. This exercise helps bring that to light.

  8. Finally, saying the words you’ve written out loud to strangers makes them real. You own them. You become them And that is powerful not only in the moment but when you leave and go back into the “real world” where people will not only dismiss your hopes and dreams but try to squash them.

My six-word memoir?

Ran from myself. Stopped. Finally fulfilled.

My two back-ups? (Yes, Smith asked for my alternatives.)

Buy my books. Mama needs shoes.

And:

Laughing at oneself. God’s greatest gift.

Are you stuck in writing or life? Take a moment and try to write your six-word memoir. And then share it in a comment (or on social media).

Own it.

Become it.

Share

XOXO,

Wade/Viola

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How to Write Your Own Six-Word Memoir (& How Those Six Words May Rewrite Your Life)! (2024)
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