The 365 Ways Blog

Michael Norton is author of "365 Ways to Change the World", which provides an issue for each day of the year, interesting facts, inspiring case studies of people doing things to address the issue and ideas for action. Originally published in the UK, versions with local content have been published in Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and the USA. To find out more visit our website:

08 February 2008

Your dreams in just six words

In the 1920s, Ernest Hemingway bet ten dollars that he could write a complete story in just six words. He wrote: "For Sale: baby shoes, never worn." He won the bet.

Inspired by the Hemingway anecdote, Smith an online magazine asked its readers to sum up their own lives in just six words. More than 15,000 did this. Then they compiled 832 of the best contributions and published a book called "Not Quite What I Was Planning". This is “Everything we believe storytelling can be: accessible, funny, profound, and addictive.”

The BBC Today programme interviewed the magazine’s editor Larry Smith, and challenged listeners to come up with their own six-word stories. The feedback was phenomenal. Here is a selection of the submissions:

Three sons, eleven cats, and Yvonne – Michael Govan

Outside lavatory, worked hard, now flush – Ashley Errington

Laughed out loud, cried in silence – Lisa Weston

Age crept up and mugged me – Bill Cowan

If only I had turned left – Robin Pickering

Thirty thousand insulin injections and counting – Tim Kell

Saw, heard, learnt, loved, mourned, dying – Aaron Asadi

Left mad Russian for mad Scotsman – Maggie Morgan

Pass the bottle before clarity returns – Gail Edmans

Now do these three things:
1. Write your dreams for the future and for a better world in just six words – perhaps in lipstick on the bathroom mirror, where you can look at what you have written every day.
2. Talk about your ideas or experiences of green living in just six words and submit them to Smith.
3. Write a six-word epitaph by which you would like to be remembered. Mine might be “Go change the world. I did! – Michael Norton”

All about Smith: The website is a storytelling community, a place to read, to write, and to share stories. The website has a number of active storytelling projects. For example, in the run up to Valentine’s Day, people were asked to submit a story in 100 words of the craziest thing that they had ever done for love. Smith in partnership with TreeHugger challenged people to define their green life in just six words – their green philosophy, things that they had done, how they had fallen off the eco-wagon often. TreeHugger is a one-stop shop in the USA for green news, solutions, and product information.