Lately, I’ve been contributing to anthologies. I know. Fancy. This has come in the form of “guest posts,” speaking engagements and conferences. Ok, so maybe those are not technically anthologies, but they are collections of people and works that must be distinguished from each other, which sounds almost as fancy, doesn’t it?
And they all have one thing in common: They require a bio.
Writing is hard. But writing bios is harder.
Until about a month ago, I viewed writing a bio as a chore. A burden. A necessary evil that would ride alongside a mildly disappointing picture of my head located at the bottom of my pièce de résistance or on the About Us page. My bio would tell people, in an entertaining and memorable way and in less than 100 words, what I do with this god-forsaken life.
The perfect bio would be the epitome of the humble brag without appearing too humble, because that’s sexist, or too boastful, because that’s tedious. It would have enough detail to assure people that I wasn’t a corpse, but enough generalities so that I wouldn’t sound like a person who waits around for my dog to sneeze so I can snap a picture with my camera phone.
After months of trying to ignore the importance of writing a good bio, I noticed how much people’s bios influenced my opinion of them. On Twitter it has become the single factor determining whether I will follow someone. It makes the difference between just skimming a blog and actually reading it. It has become my version of the pre-crime unit, except it’s the pre-friend unit.
It’s even had some unintended emotional consequences. If your bio has a cliché, I dislike you. If you are someone who has social clout and a cliché in your bio, this could incite rage. If your bio makes me laugh, I adore you. And I probably lay awake part of that night trying to come up with a good reason to write you a love letter that is subtle, yet expressive. Yes, the internet is creepy. Or possibly, I should be on medication.
The bio has now become my Rome to conquer, my dragon to slay, my last frontier. You get my point. I’m working on it. And for the most part, I’ve stuck with the traditional approach, like this (my profile for VillageQ — an online community for gay parents):
Sarah is a recovering newspaper reporter, who writes with sarcasm about science, gender, feminism and fertility issues on her blog sevenlittlemexicans.com. When she’s not dreaming about being a “real writer,” she works with 50 psychologists at her “real job.” Sarah lives in Denver with her soon-to-be-wife, two daughters and an ungrateful dog. She is working on memoir about becoming a parent. If she had more free time she would spend it lobbying the state government to make down vests and flip-flops the official uniform of Colorado. You can talk to her on Twitter @7littlemexicans.
But I’ve also tried a narrative, story-telling approach (One of my Twitter profiles @7littlemexicans):
Gets born. Turns out gay. Wants kids. Goes to hell. Births babies. Finds bliss. Writes book, ironically. A family story. @HuffPost @VillageQ #Blogher14 #LTYM
One of the best and the worst attributes of Twitter is the character limit, of course. Packing in emotional impact without sounding just like everyone else is really hard to do with a Twitter profile. And I’m still trying. The other day I found a Twitter mom, whose profile said: “Using my words.”
Short. Brilliant. I was immediately flooded with feelings of jealousy. And I followed her, of course.
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Or talk to me on Twitter @sarahanngilbert