TED Conversations

Rachel Lehmann-Haupt

Senior Editor, TED Books, TED Books


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Can you define your life in just six words?

This is the challenge Larry Smith presented to his online community, SMITH MAGAZINE, in 2006. His quest was inspired by the legend that Ernest Hemingway was once challenged to write a novel in just six words. His heart-breaking result: "For sale: baby shoes, never worn." Giving the form a personal twist, Smith reimagined the six-word novel idea as the Six-Word Memoir, challenging contributors to create a half-dozen words of self-reflection. The constraint, it turned out, fueled rather than inhibited creativity: "Sometimes lonely in a crowded bed." Inspired by the form's popularity in schools, Smith recently called for submissions for illustrated Six-Word Memoirs, in which he asked students, whether in grade school or grad school, to create a piece of artwork that enhanced their memoirs. The voices in Things Don't Have to Be Complicated are younger than typical, but no less profound:

"Big Dream, Big Heart, Big Mouth"
"I'm a Muslim. not a terrorist."
"Life is better with headphones on."

At its core, the Six-Word Memoir offers a simple way for anyone of any age to try to answer the question that defines us all: Who am I?

Here's an excerpt of the book in the Washington Post:

You can buy it on:

Kindle: http://tinyurl.com/b35x88g

iOS: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/things-dont-have-to-be-complicated/id588129395?ls=1

Nook: http://tinyurl.com/cy8pdae

Author Larry Smith will be joining us for a one hour Q&A January 15th, at Noon Pacific / 3pm Eastern. Mark your calendars!


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  • Jan 12 2013: I Am that I Am I
    • Jan 13 2013: You are still here, so... not at " I " , not yet, but it's where you came from.

      I , I am that, I am

      You may not believe it, but i had exactly this ' story ' in my mind yesterday :)
      • Jan 13 2013: Hi "i"

        so no not surprised at all!! :-) That is a good working example of the Noetic level. ref'd in the material I sent to you.

        (PS yes still around a little... Harvey's "Is TED a cult thread caught my eye ...having a little fun with it)
        • Jan 14 2013: Hi, Ed !
          I mean , you are here on Earth, not on TED :)
          And obviously i am not ' I " , frankly , hope to be around in ' I am ' version for some more time.:)

          Re : the material I sent to you.
          I haven't received anything so far, but i would like to !
      • Jan 15 2013: Hi nn

        Not Received? .Hmmm

        ...I used your given e-address "nikolo4ka ...and I wont say the rest here ...is this much right ...if so your service might have a limiter on it size wise

        I will bookmark this place and watch for your response

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