Six Words to Describe Your Life

Do you read in the bathroom?

I always thought everybody did, but then found out that it’s a no-no for many people. My whole family firmly belongs to the bathroom reading crowd with books, newspapers and magazines tucked away in every corner. My daughter hides her old Archie comics and reads them over and over, which makes her bathroom trips as long as shopping trips. My husband reads the Economist and I read whatever the others leave behind or what I can remember to bring. When the bathroom is bare (rare, but possible), the ingredients on my soap bottle will do, although that reads more like the content list of a dangerous insecticide.

My family also reads at the kitchen table when one of us is eating by him/herself. We do have a “no-reading- at-the-table” policy at family meals, so please don’t think of us as one of those dysfunctional American families with nothing to talk about when we’re having dinner. But when the grown ups talk politics (and how can you not right now), I watch my daughter tune out and read about the beneficial qualities of oatmeal and how it lowers cholesterol. Words are like gravity, they pull us right in.

My bathroom and kitchen table reading right now is this: “Not Quite What I Was Planning. Six Words Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure”, based on Hemingway’s famous six word story: “For Sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.

The title says it all and here’s a taste:

Poet locked in body of contractor.” – Marilyn Hencken

I still make coffee for two.” – Zak Nelson

Fell in Love. Married. Divorced. Repeat.” – Lori McLeese

Stole Wife. Lost friends. Now happy.” – Po Bronson

When it comes to writing a memoir, it’s hard to imagine a bigger constraint  than using only six words to express one’s life, but it’s surprising how much information and emotion can be packed into six words.

Wouldn’t it be fun to have a party, where the guests had to sum up their lives in six words after dinner?

I’ve been thinking about my own six word memoir….What I came up with spontaneously is not Hemingway, but it became clear that all of them related in one way or another to traveling and being uprooted: “German born. Nomadic now. No regrets.” Or  “Now, where do I go next?”

Constraints do help remove the “noise” from what’s essential and worth listening to.

This one by Margaret Hellerstein is particularly good: “Followed rules, not dreams. Never again.”  Doesn’t that say it all?

Can you sum up your life in six words? What’s your theme or “red thread”?

Update: Forgot book info, here it is:
Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure
Rachel Fershleiser (Editor), Larry Smith (Editor)
ISBN-10: 0061374059
ISBN-13: 978-0061374050


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12 Responses to “Six Words to Describe Your Life”

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  1. Katie says:

    My family also firmly belongs to the read-anywhere club. What else are you supposed to do with that time? Ha!

    I love using Hemingway’s six-word story as an example for students who struggle with wordiness–like me. I hadn’t heard of the Six Word Stories collection. I really want to read it now!

  2. Amanda Huddleston says:

    We are also a reading in the bathroom family! I thought everyone did that… Really enjoy reading your words. Thank you.

  3. i have always read anthing i could see the katsup bottle , the cereal box i read everything

  4. eSeN says:

    My family was totally like that! The Reader’s Digest magazine was always kept in the bathroom, or you brought your own material. And now, though my husband is very much not a bathroom reader, he is very tolerant about my habit! And if I forget to bring anything, I’ll read the ingredients of my creams, etc.

    I used to read at the kitchen table too, if I was eating by myself. If it was a particularly good book, I’d read while I was brushing my teeth!

    I thought everybody did it too, until I found it was thought to be weird by some people! So, thanks for this :)

  5. Michelle says:

    Hi! Reading – yes a good thing. Bathrooms – it’s known to happen:)

    I just now realized that your blog is back after the hiatus!!! I saw a link to one of your tutorials on another blog and sighed a little since I thought you weren’t posting any longer. I clicked anyway to revisit and enjoy. And here you are! I’m a little late on this welcome back I see:)

    I’m putting you back on my favorites bar, yay!

  6. Kata says:

    Six words … a challenging idea… While I can’t imagine a red thread of a life in six words, here is a six-word sentence and the reason for my comment:
    Embroidered bindings, for you to see!
    When I read that post this morning about embroidered bindings (picture included), I thought you might enjoy it, too.

  7. alison says:

    “started as Eeyore, now happy Tigger”

  8. margaret says:

    And with smartphones and tablets, we can now read blogs at the table; haven’t tried it in the bath though…!

  9. Suschna says:

    I tried, it works well.

  10. kathrin says:

    Wow, that’s a whole new genre. One life, 5 words.

  11. Anne-Marie says:

    This 6-word challenge made me think; I haven’t yet come up with my six words. Thanks for your insightful blog Kathrin. I enjoy reading it. I belong to the ‘read whatever is in front of me’ contingent of readers, and when engrossed in a book have even been reading it while walking the dog (luckily, I live in an area where the dog can do his thing and I can do mine!). And while brushing my teeth, and at night by the light of a torch, so as not to disturb my husband’s sleep. Cheers.

  12. frost* says:

    I found my way here in search for tutorial for paper stars. Thank you! I already made a couple. This post was particularly interesting. Need to get that book now!

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