I’m in the middle of writing an application for a fellowship, and as part of the process I have to write a 2 page biography that includes why I write, what keeps me motivated, and why I consider myself to be an emerging writer. The instructions urge applicants: “don’t be too modest”. But writing about strengths, skills and talents doesn’t come easily to a lot of creative people. Here’s a way to make the process a little less stressful.
1. Add up the goals you’ve achieved
Count up the short stories you’ve written, not just the ones you’ve had published. The same with any full length manuscripts. Just to complete a manuscript is a big deal. And if you’ve made it through Nanowrimo, kudos to you. That’s a tough gig. Ever targeted a specific publication and had them accept your work? Another big deal. Publications, competition wins or placings, public readings of your work or participation on conference panels are all important, too. Write down a list of the big wins or make a few dot points to summarise.
2. Go through your rejection letters
This might seem counter-intuitive but bear with me. If you’re anything like me, this will be the longest list of all. I haven’t kept all the rejections I’ve ever received but I always hang onto the ones that give feedback. Reading through those gives great insights into how my writing has progressed over the years, and those “near misses” often contain key words and phrases you can use. The way others describe your work is always invaluable so take a few quotes from rejections that have included praise for your work.
3. Think about all the times you’ve wanted to give up, but didn’t
We all have times (usually after a rejection that hits particularly hard) when we want to give it all up and walk away. When that happens, the fact that you get over it and get back into writing demonstrates tenacity and perseverance. Write down a few dot points that describe how you picked yourself up and kept going, and what motivated you to do so.
4. Three cheers for volunteers
Make a note of the times you’ve participated in your writing community. This might include volunteering at a con or writers festival or doing behind the scenes work at a publication. Being a first reader for magazines is important work that many magazines wouldn’t survive without, so make sure to add that to your list, along with any times you’ve acted as an awards judge. And although it’s not strictly volunteering, being active in a crit group is an important part of participating in your writing community, so note that down, too.
5. Compile your bio
You should now have a decent list of notes to help you put together your writer’s biography. Read through them again and jot down anything you might have missed. Looks impressive, right? The longer you’ve been writing the more content you’ll have to work with but beginning writers should also have a few important points to pull from the process. So, without any further ado, put it all together. And remember, don’t be too modest!
How do you go about writing your writer’s bio? What other elements do you add? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Image of the entrance to Liverpool Library in the UK from my personal collection.