Quote of the Week: “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” Maya Angelou
Writing Exercise of the Week: A man named Pii is at a swap meet and finds a locked koa box for $1. On the bottom is a local address with a request that the box be returned if found. Write for 10 minutes about what Pii decides to do and what happens next.
Words matter. Whether you think them, say them, read them, or write them down, words make an impact. They can change a mood, challenge a belief, invite possibility.
Words can change your life.
Think about how you would feel before or after receiving the following:
• A letter for jury duty
• A college acceptance letter
• A rejection letter for a job
• A letter from an old boyfriend or girlfriend
• A check for $1,000,000
• A bill for $1,000,000
We’re talking about 100-250 words, much less than what you’re reading in this column. And yet those words have the power to affect you. Why? Because words represent of our lives—they reflect who we are, what we believe and what we value. People always tell me that they’re not writers, but I am here to tell you that you are.
You write everyday. Forget about spelling, grammar or sentence structure. If you want to do something with your writing, like publish a poem, novel or memoir, you’ll find the tools to help you perfect your craft. Improvement will come with practice, if that’s what you desire. But writing starts simply, and there’s where we start today.
One of my favorite writing exercises hails from SMITH Magazine: the Six-Word Memoir. It’s fast and simple, a great way to kick off any kind of writing. Take a 3-by-5 index card and on the lined side see how many six-word memoirs you can come up with. You must use exactly six words, no more, no less. You can’t break up compound words (wheelbarrow = one word), but you can play with contractions (do not = two words, don’t = one word). Make it a sentence rather than a list of individual words. Your six-word memoir can reflect an experience, an event, a preference, a feeling, a value system, a hint of where you’ve been or where you’re going. Keep it funny and fluffy or go deeper—what gives you great joy? What knots up your stomach? Who is the real you?
Some examples from my workshops:
“Sold memories for pennies in carport.”
“Used to stay within the lines.”
“Breathing gratitude into what is left.”
“One hundred cartwheels in a row.”
“Always late, tired of running. Still.”
“Learning to love my brain tumor.”
A few words can pack a big punch—these mini memoirs say a lot in only six words. They get to the heart of things. They shine a light on what’s relevant and important, what you want others to know about you. Consider putting it as a heading on your annual Christmas letter.
I’d love for you to try it, so I’ve provided an index card for you to use. That’s right, let’s get started now. Put pen to newspaper and see what comes up. Have fun and feel around—there may be more there. And if there is, you may have the beginnings of a memoir.
Information on the Six-Word Memoir can be found at sixwordmemoirs.com | legacyislepublishing.net/memoir-guide.
Darien Gee is a national bestselling author based in Waimea. She also writes under the name Mia King. Her next book, Writing the Hawai’i Memoir: Advice and Exercises to Help You Tell Your Story, is out this month by Watermark Publishing and available for pre-order on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Learn more at dariengee.com and miaking.com.