“For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn.” That’s how it started. Those six words, we are told, are the shortest of Hemingway’s short stories. And those provocative words inspired Smith Magazine writer and editor, Larry Smith to challenge his Smith Magazine web readers to describe their lives in a mere six words. This was November, 2006, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Smith has sparked a wild fire of creativity for all ages; this idea has blazed across the globe, NPR, on to tee shirts, and into school rooms. Check out Smith’s site; there are contests, categories, themes, word play, teachers’ guides, and books. This idea has hit a resonant chord with the story teller within us all. And the wonderful thing is that there is room at the table for everyone.

Recently, Oprah’s magazine has picked up on this idea and she, now, invites her readers to join the burgeoning fans of minimalist memoirists. And I can see why. I love this idea! It really makes my soul sing. It is fun; it is thoughtful, and it is oh so utterly unique.

I have been looking for a new spiritual discipline, some daily action to help me stay mindful and connected to my Better Self. In the past, I was a mad journal writer. Thanks to the enthusiasm of Julia Cameron and her book, The Artist’s WayM, for ten years, I spilled every thought and emotion onto paper. And it was an excellent discipline; it really accelerated my process on the spiritual path. And I still do it, from time to time, but not with the same daily fervor.

Inspired by an integrative medicine training with psychologists Jeanne Achterberg, Ph.D. and G. Frank Lawlis, Ph.D., I drew mandalas for four years. I used water color pencils so I could wet my finger and make my mandala less of a mud pie and somewhat prettier. An artist, I am not. That said, out of that practice, came the logo for my first professional baby, a holistic center that grew to be 12 years old.

Cultural anthropologist, Angeles Arrien, suggested the daily haiku as a spiritual discipline and I was enraptured with the thought. For one year, I madly counted syllables for the 17 syllable haiku — that would be a 5/7/5 syllable template for the three lines. It was quite the commitment, and one I have never repeated. It was not as easy and elegant as I had imagined; it felt very narrow and confined. The loftiness of the experiment had dissipated.

When I read some of the O magazine examples of the six words, I was delighted. This is so fun. See what I mean:

Fired Sherpa, but still saw Everest. (Tammy Gomez)
Carjacked in the Tunnel of Love. (Cheryl Diane Kidder)

Reads like a Monty Python Sketch. (Robin Elliott)
Falling gracefully. Hoping there’s a mattress! (Elizabeth McDonough)

I’ve made all the best mistakes. (Michelle Hix)
Outnumbered educated liberal on the prairie. (Rebecca Meidinger)

Might as well eat that cookie. (Paula Dean)
Was hot. Raised kids. Lost cool. (Trudy Love Tantalo)
Fat. Thin. Fat. Thin. Fat. Thin. (Julia Chambers)

I am excited at this prospect. There is something very playful about it all. From punctuation to contractions to multisyllabic words, I can play with words. I really like this idea. Even with just six words, this feels more possible and expansive that the defined structure of the haiku.

However, given by nature that I am a Chatty Cathy, this will stretch me to really drill down to the essence. That said, there is something very satisfying in that thought. I am reminded of the old Doogie Howser, MD television show where he typed one short line daily as his journal entry. Who knew he would be such a forerunner of creative play? So, if Doogie and students in classrooms across the country can do this, I think I can give it a whirl. My plan is to find six words for each day — a very mini mini memoir. For today: Craft six words; make mindfulness possible.

P.S. Do you have six words to describe your life, your day, or the past week? I’d love to hear them, so please feel free to share. And by the way, I am still thinking about six words to be the mini memoir of my life. This has inspired a real slow and meandering drive down Memory Lane.

Author's Bio: 

Adele Ryan McDowell, Ph.D., is the author of the Amazon best-selling Balancing Act: Reflections, Meditations, and Coping Strategies for Today’s Fast-Paced Whirl and a contributing author to the best-selling anthology, 2012: Creating Your Own Shift. She is madly working on her next book, Help, It’s Dark in Here. You can learn more about Adele and her thinking http://theheraldedpenguin.com.