Monday, March 14, 2011

Six Word Memoirs. Reminiscence In Nutshell

Photo by jjpacres via Flickr

When a person reaches their senior years, many begin to reflect on the life they have lived. Reminiscence is no small part of our activity programs as we provide opportunities to give voice to our residents. As they say, everyone has a story but all too often we are intimidated by the process and the sheer bulk of our life experiences to put that story into written words.

Old Hands Writing/3
Photo by ECosiCresci via Flickr

Smith Magazine in an online magazine for storytellers of all sorts. The Six Word Memoir project is a participatory project that encourages readers to post their thoughts and memories, in six words, on their website. The project has become so popular it has spawned a book and an entire series of six word projects, each focused on a particular aspect or age of life: love, teenagers, food, and so on. Click here to go the the Six Word Memoir website and read memoirs posted by others. You can even add your residents' or your own.

Sailor Fountain Pen
Photo by Digitalnative via Flickr

The rules are simple:

Six words. Any language. Real words. (See what I did there? Six words...) Keep in mind-- it's not six syllables, it's six words.

Though they are called memoirs there is no need for your residents to feel pressured to summarize their entire life in six words. Unless they want to, of course. Here are some of the memoirs that "my folks" have written:

Close enough to reach. But missed.
              from a fella with a congenitally shortened right arm due thalidomide exposure

I will never believe in coincidences.

Should have read the directions first.

Will eat dessert first next time.
Loved thrice, married twice, widowed once.

Coffee. Cigarettes. Booze. Women. My life.

How many babies did I have?

Down the long hallway of life.

Red Hallway
Photo by .m for matthijs via Flickr

The first time I did this activity, I handed out pieces of card stock and the folks decorated their page and we put up a very nice display. The second time, I simply put up a 5-foot long sheet of paper with "Six Word Memoirs" across the top and the simple rules under that. Then I hung a pencil cup filled with pencils, pens, and colored pencils. Our "scroll" stayed up all summer and every inch was filled with memoirs and little pictures/doodles. Oh gosh, now I'm getting inspired to do that again!!

OR... wouldn't it be nice to have a book of the Six Word Memoirs written by your residents. Oh my, the possibilities here are endless. There are multiple online resources for printing books and most offer a variety of sizes (mini-books to coffee table books), cover, binding, and paper choices, layout options, on and on. Let me list a few possibilities.


A search for "Make a photo book" will bring in endless hits and of course you should check with your local printers. I have used Snapfish and Shutterfly without any trouble but that's been my experience. There is a way to display your book (for sale !!) on websites- Blurb I know for sure because I've seen one of theirs on a blog- but I haven't investigated the details. You could advertise your book on a web page or site, if your facility has one, as a fundraiser. You could have a book of "collected works" by your  residents or maybe a simple book that you put together with desktop publishing software and a stapler at your facility of each participant's memoirs- because once you get going on these, it's easy to keep going. So for example, each page could be a chapter: school days, military service, marriage, work, family, retirement, big events in life. I'm just throwing these ideas out there for you.

Check out his video of Six Word Memoirs, some written by some famous individuals, some plain ol' joes like the rest of us.

(I think I fixed this video link- sorry about that)

If you do this activity with your residents, I would love to post a collection of memoirs here in The Creativity Greenhouse. Contact me via email if you would like to share.

And as always, I love to hear what you're thinking so please click on Comments below and share your thoughts and ideas.

See ya next time.

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