Getting Started

Overcoming Writing Inertia

When it comes to writing, getting started is often the hardest part.
Even when the task is only to compose six words, helpful prewriting strategies can make a finished memoir more memorable, poignant, vivid, and clear.


Every Six-Word Memoir begins with thoughtful reflection. Good questions create better reflection.

Here’s what it looks like in action.

When students need help starting, we love to provide them with powerful questions to get them thinking about their lives. Here are some of our favorites:

•  What makes you smile?
•  What makes you angry?
•  What’s a lesson you’ve learned the hard way?
•  What’s a memory that makes you happy?
•  Who’s someone who means a lot to you?
•  What makes you special?

After thinking about these questions, ask this one word follow up question: “Why?” Give students an opportunity to consider why a certain memory is so special, or why a particular obstacle was so beneficial in their growth.


Now, it’s time to start putting pen to paper.

We always invite students to start writing their memoir with MORE THAN six words.

It’s helpful to jot down sentence fragments, brainstorm, and note significant details of treasured memories before condensing these ideas into the six word format.

Once students have an idea they’d like to pursue and polish into a memoir, we encourage them to begin writing in six words.

Here’s some tips we’ve discovered that help students create powerful memoirs:

1.  Consider your adjectives - What’s the best word to describe what you’re hoping to communicate?
2.  Think about your verbs - What’s the specific action you’re trying to write about?
3.   Reflect on your goal - Are you trying to paint an image? Share a lesson? Capture a moment? How is your language helping you accomplish that goal?

Make It Better

If students are struggling to capture their ideas in six words, here are some helpful suggestions:

1.  If you’ve got too few words, consider adding descriptors.
2.  If you’ve got too many words, consider combining ideas with more robust language.

While all good writing begins with good questions, it ends with good editing.

Once students have a few memoirs composed, we invite them to take a quick brain break (slowing down with deep breaths, shaking out their wiggles, or relaxing at their seat) before returning to their memories to edit and refine what they’ve written.

With a little bit of extra effort, we’ve seen students create exponentially more powerful memoirs.

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