I was recently asked by the editors of a small press to write my life story in six words and to “Be as pithy as possible.” Seriously. After fooling with this task for a completely ridiculous amount of time, choosing, discarding, and switching up the order of words, I grasped how revealing it is to do this. I didn’t end up doing a very good job. There were too many possible sets of six words; I saw the unlikeliness of picking the “right” ones. I was wasting an obscene amount of time and drinking potato juice (some people call it vodka, but it’s much more comforting to think of it as a vegetable) didn’t speed things up at all. Finally, I just wrote in five verbs and an adverb and pushed send so I wouldn’t be able to obsess about it any more. And have obsessed about it ever since because I realized, based on the amount of effort I put in, that the six words I should have used are I have always tried too hard.
The runner-up six words were Why am I doing this really? I veered away from these at the last minute because I was afraid they’d think I was being a smart aleck about their question as opposed to referring to more cosmic issues like writing and being. With no opportunity to explain my six words, I chickened out. But that, as well as I have always tried too hard, really would have worked well. I ended up going with: care work love try laugh and again. I cannot remember in what order I put them, only that the order seemed significant and that I changed it maybe 78 times. And I’m trying not to go back and look. I’m trying really hard to stop trying too hard.
So is this easy or crazy-making for other people? What might your six words be? If you’re willing, take a shot at it and post yours in the comments.