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It may be much harder to write a short paper than a long paper, but it’s much more interesting to tell a story – any story – in six words.

I’ve started using Six-Word Memoirs as a fun, creative (and addictive) way for having people introduce themselves to others in a group.  The idea came through an exercise created by Smith Magazine and popularized by the book Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Famous and Obscure Writers.  This exercise gets some phenomenally interesting introductions – some hilarious, others poignant, and some quite revealing. 

Here are some examples from the book:

Cadavers played an unexpectedly large part.  (Mary Roach)

Oldest of five.  Four degrees.  Broke.  (Kaitlin Walsh)

Never should have bought that ring.  (Paul Bellows)

Arty dad, rocker mom, crazy childhood. (Summer Pierre)

Learning disability, MIT.  Never give up.  (Joe Keselman)

Wife: one; Degrees: two; Arrests: seven.  (Patrick J. Sauer)

Fearlessness is the mother of reinvention.  (Arianna Huffington)

Struggled with how the mind works.  (Steven Pinker)

You can also use this technique to break through creative blocks by describing the problem, goal, person, constraint, location, etc., or some aspect of the above, in six words or less.  Try this the next time you are feeling stuck – it is both fun and helpful. And then try it again.  And again.  And again.  This technique helps to shift your thinking by forcing you to focus on one aspect (or the essence) of the topic, unlocking new insights and potential new ways of approaching the task at hand.

Do you have a Six-Word Memoir, story, or problem statement?  Or other creative methods that you find helpful?

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