Use Your Words....All 6 Of Them.

Use Your Words....All 6 Of Them.

Monday, September 5, 2016 - 08:15

A few years ago, I happened on a jewel of a book called “Not Quite What I Was Planning” by Writers Famous and Obscure.  A collection of six-word memoirs, I found this crazy quilt little nugget profound, odd, funny and powerful.  These famous and not-so-famous writers were on to something.  And I couldn’t get enough.

I started to thinking in six words all the time. In the shower. Taking a walk. Even while waiting for the utility company through ten degrees of voicemail. Encapsulating one’s life into the smallest verbiage possible really had me jazzed. Condensing words to a powerful, precious few is hardly new. As far back as Confucius, who said, “One joy dispels a hundred cares”, people have known verbosity isn’t a requisite for memorable statements.  Henry Ford once said, “Don’t find fault. Find a remedy”.  And Ralph Waldo Emerson stated, “Enthusiasm is the engine of success”. 

Powerful quotes.  Six words only.  But who was counting?

As a copywriter, I’m used to compacting messages.  Putting ten pounds of thought in a five-pound bag. Transforming a company mission statement into a pithy tagline. Streamlining is what I do. But reading this book gave the process a whole new meaning. While more than a few of them, made me laugh out loud, I saw how they were terrific creative self-analysis.  Words done right also color life outside the lines — and that’s the way life is, right?

Words can be far more than just directives. They’re certainly more than merely catchy taglines. Yes, they’ll always fill reams of white papers, and pharmaceutical cautions. They are often crucial — and overflowing. But when shrunken to their smallest number, they need to have their biggest meaning.

What if inauguration speeches were shrunk down to six words - or better yet, in this outrageous election year?  Or all the disclaimer copy at the end of car ads was reduced to the fit on the head of a pin? Imagine the encyclopedic directions for your new DVD player reduced to one short phrase. Now, that’s something I could really be enthused about!

While it’s amusing to use your six-word card for writing epitaphs like “I should have had a V-8’ or  “Must have been in my DNA” I think it has an even more dynamic application. Think of that corporate elevator speech.  Okay, a full on corporate descriptive might not be able to be reduced to a mere half dozen.  But if you start shooting for the star six, you just might find it easier to get to a powerful descriptive that won’t put someone to sleep.

Small is powerful (no pun intended).  Your words can form your iconic memoir. They can be terrific therapy; even your verbal logo.  But no matter what, they are yours.

Mine are still in progress. I may not yet have written ‘the one’ but then, maybe there’s no Eureka moment for perfect six words either for my own ‘life sentence’ or summed up business word capsule. It takes only three words to say, “I love you”.  And, I believe that sometimes, two words; “I’m sorry” could save the world. 

But then, I’ve used up my quota of words today. 

What are your six words?



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