Twitter restricts your message to 140 characters. Actually, that’s a lengthy dissertation compared to the challenge Contributing Editor, Ron Carmean, presents in today’s blog. Here, he reduces everything down to just six words. Can you condense any of your thoughts to simply six words and still get the message delivered? Ron seems to have mastered the concept, adapting just about any thought to a mere six words. Hmm…reduce to six; piece of cake.
According to legend, Ernest Hemingway was once challenged to write a story in six words. His response: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” True or not, the making of a six-word story had its beginning. In 2006, Smith Magazine (online) asked for six-word stories and were flooded with responses. In 2008, they published a book entitled, “Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs.” It was a collection of some of the many stories they received, including the Hemingway story just mentioned. Some were written by people who were famous: “Revenge is living well, without you.” –Joyce Carol Oates. “Brought it to a boil, often.” –Mario Batali. Some writers were not famous: “Painful nerd kid, happy nerd adult.” –Linda Williamson. “I still make coffee for two.” –Zak Nelson.
I’m fascinated by the idea of six-word stories because of how much information and, especially, feeling can be conveyed in such a brief span of words. Periodically, I find myself trying to describe a situation in six words. For example, I’m a baseball fan, especially of the Philadelphia Phillies. For next year, what are the Phillies priorities? “Improve hitting, pitching, fielding. Get younger.” You may know that, and your response would be a six-word one: “Easy to say; hard to do.” Ask me to sum up my work career, and my response is a six-word one: “Minimum wage jobs; minuscule bank account.” Ask me my priorities in life and I could answer: “Wife, friends, dog, ice cream, baseball.” And on it goes.
You may want to summarize something you’ve read, succinctly. Six words can be enough. I read recently that many school systems are dumping the idea of “healthy eating programs.” Why? “Schools quit healthy lunch: too costly.” A child in such a school, trying to eat healthy, could hear from his classmates: “School lunches: good for you, loser.”
In another place, I read an article on students’ use of social media and I thought: “Students in line, online, ever present.” and “Tweet, text, web: barely enough time.” and “Contact friend: talk, text, call, Facebook?” The article discussed the quality of the communication, and I thought: “Online world = Virtual friendship; real loneliness?” Just as previous generations desired a car for a sense of independence, do people now value something else? Perhaps they should be asked: “Important to you: car, laptop, smart phone?”
Suppose you’re at work, asking yourself, “Why?” Because all you’re doing is: “Putting in time; taking up space.” Or you wonder: is this your future job? But you ask yourself this way: “In ten years, still here? Why?” Are you in a one-way relationship? Ask yourself: “Need someone? Who will you contact?”
If you want to find out other people’s opinions, or your own on a topic, or want to find seven other books like the one mentioned earlier, or want to find out what people are thinking today (in six word bursts), you can check out the website: www.smithmag.net/sixwords/ One day recently I found these ideas: “Woke up, naked, in New Jersey.” “I am not everyone’s favorite flavor.” “Mistake knocked, disguised as an opportunity.” “Running on empty, but still running.” “Rested on laurels, got a rash.” Or, if you just want a break or a laugh or an insight… “Stop by. You may be surprised.”