Summer’s over. One look around our home will tell you this. There are school supplies stacked in each of my children’s rooms, and my teacher wife has been regaling me of the myriad educational ideas she’s found on Pinterest. As per usual, I’ve taken in all of this information with the appropriate amounts of nods and wows. It’s tough being a teacher. Tough being a teacher’s husband, too.
One of these ideas, however, has struck me. So much so that it slowly became one of those things that simply refused to go away until I exorcised it through writing. Which is what I’m doing now.
It’s ironic, really, because this thing that’s gotten my wife fired up (as well as my brain moving) is a writing exercise—one that’s simple on top but difficult on the bottom. It’s a child’s game called The Six Word Memoir.
I’ve heard of such things before. Through the years there have been more than one writer who’s taken up the task to tell a complete story in the shortest amount of words. Six seems to be the magic number, and to me no one did it better than Hemmingway (his six word story—“For sale: baby’s shoes, never worn.”). It’s a tough thing, trying to whittle down a hundred thousand words or so into six and still call it a story.
But as I sat down the other night and reached for my notebook and pen, I discovered shrinking down forty years of life into six words was even tougher. After twenty minutes or so of desperately trying and utterly failing, I began to think that such an exercise was not only impossible, it was pointless, too. It seemed cheap in a way, taking all of my memories and hopes and balling them up into a few simple syllables. I’ve never held a very high opinion of myself, but that opinion had never been so low as to hold that six words were sufficient to define me.
Now that I’ve had some time to ponder, though, I’ve come to believe different. I sat on my porch for a full hour and went though three pages of paper (front and back, mind you) trying to get this right. Far from making me feel cheap, this whole experience has taught me much. There’s value in whittling down your life into six words. A lot.
It forces you to realize that all those things you think are necessary really aren’t at all. And also that the things you do that seem small are actually sort of big. You only have time for important things. There isn’t space enough for anything else. And really, how often in our comings and goings do we actually stop and ask ourselves what we’re coming and going for, or whether we’re chasing after the right things, or whether the meaning we give our lives is the same as God’s?
Deep stuff for six words, huh?
I sat there for a while longer. The last thing I wrote was “Stand. Fall. Stand. Fall. Stand. Repeat.” It has a ring to it, and it’s very true, but I don’t think those words say it all. I plan to try again. I plan to try a lot. It’s always good to know where you stand in this world.
How about you? Write your six word memoir below. Or if you’d rather, write it down and keep it to yourself. Spend some time with it and let me know. Whatever you do, don’t skip it simply because it’s a child’s game. Those are the ones who often hold the most truth.