Hiding Behind Your Words
Why do we all have so much trouble talking about ourselves?
As many of you surely know by now I’m involved with the Chinese Whisperings anthology. The second anthology is in the planning stages, and a couple of days ago the call went out for new author bios. Suddenly the Facebook pages are abuzz with authors wringing their hands, cringing over the need to write 100 or so words about themselves. And before any of you think I am above all this, the only reason I’m not fretting over it is that I’m redesigning the website for the project—so in a week or two I’ll be pacing the floor writing my own synopsis of my life.
But why does this relatively simple act send most of us into near hysterics? We are, after all, writers. Words are our specialty. What we do as a profession or hobby causes the average person to shudder in fear. This should be easy, right?
But it’s not. Very few of us find it easy to talk about ourselves in anything other than an aw shucks, self-deprecating way. And when we actually have to summarize ourselves into a short paragraph we get stuck in the mud—if we’re lucky we’re trying and spinning our wheels, but many of us just sit there with our heads slumped against the steering wheel.
In preparation for this post I did a simple search online and found thousands of articles on this. Most are bloggers complaining about the need to write their own, or magazines for writers offering advice on what makes a good bio. But after browsing through many of them I was surprised that no one had come up with the relatively straightforward way I approach it.
1. Write it as a character summary. Try to pretend it’s not you, that you’re writing about. Write about a character, instead. That’s something we all have experience with. You may feel self-conscious about talking about your own accomplishments, but you don’t have trouble selling your characters, do you?
2. Brainstorm. We’re talking about a short paragraph here, so if you write fifteen it’s not like you’ve wasted a lot of time. Try it a host of different ways. Try a funny one (or two), a businesslike one, and at least one in any other style you want. There’s no need to add pressure onto your shoulders by assuming that you have to get it right on the first try.
3. Use your friends. Who reads over your stories. Do you have an editor? Are you in a writer’s group? These are people who can easily read and comment on a short paragraph. But don’t take their criticism personally. Remember, the paragraph isn’t about you—it’s about a character.
This all makes it sounds easy, which it isn’t. But we already have the skills in place to write something and to do it in a compelling manner—yes, you do, otherwise you wouldn’t need the bio. Just try to use the skills you already have. It might not make it easy, but it should make it less difficult…