The Joys of Writing a Personal Bio

As a freelance writer who specializes in web content for business,  I often write about topics which I initially know little to nothing about. Sometimes these topics are even quite technical – like a series of web pages that I recently wrote for a company that designs and build data centres. I’m actually pretty comfortable writing about topics that I’m not totally comfortable with.

Recently, I was asked to write a short (under 200 word) bio about myself for a martial arts club where I am an assistant instructor. Easy, right? I mean, if I can write 5000 words about data centre design, surely it should be no problem to write 170 words about myself!

But the truth is that it was way more challenging than I anticipated.

I quickly drafted up a bio that described my experience and training. It was accurate and to the point. And it was utterly boring! It gave the “what” but not the “who”. It was clinical and without any of my personality – ugg!

For the first time in some time, I was experiencing writer’s block.

So I decided to consult Professor Google. In the search bar, I typed the question “how to write a personal bio”.  One of the first things that struck me was how many people – including professional writers – struggled with this seemingly simple task.

The second thing that struck me is how much conflicting advice is out there. Some people advised not to include unrelated hobbies and others said that by all means, you should include them! Some advised being serious and professional and others recommended using some humour. .

Since there didn’t appear to be one “right” way to do this, I started pulling out the advice that felt the most right to me. Some professionals say not to include anything unrelated to your core message (ie. no hobbies etc.) My opinion is that’s ridiculous – even for a business bio. If I can’t be a real person with a prospective employer or client, they are probably not the type of person I’d like to work with anyway. But make your own call on this.

After compiling the advice that I actually agreed with along with some sample bios that I really liked, it was time to try again. I started by jotting down some notes of things I might say if I were sitting face to face with someone and telling them about my marital arts training.

I then took these points and started to work them into my old boring version of my bio. The results were so much better!

See the difference for yourself:

Old boring version:

Kristen first started practicing martial arts during her early twenties. She spent several years training at a WTF-style taekwondo club in Niagara Falls where she earned her first degree black belt in 2003 and her second degree in 2005.

After moving to London, Kristen started looking for a new place to train. Eventually she came across Ryoku Seikido and has been here ever since. Since all of the ITF-style taekwondo patterns as well as the Aikido portion of the curriculum were new to her, Kristen once again moved up through the ranks, participating in belt exams until she earned her first and second degree black belts in Seikido in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

New more interesting version:

Kristen has been practicing martial arts since her early twenties. She enjoys all aspects of her training even though she wishes doboks were a bit more flattering.

She earned her first and second degree black belts in WTF-style Taekwondo while training at a club in Niagara Falls. This period of training included a 10 month stretch in which she was the only female in her class – nevertheless, she enjoyed the challenge of sparring with stronger and heavier opponents.

After moving to London, Kristen started looking for a new place to train. Eventually she came across Ryoku Seikido where she was introduced to the ITF-style Taekwondo patterns and Aikido. Instantly attracted to both the diverse curriculum and the supportive learning environment, Kristen remained at Ryoku where she earned her first degree black belt in Seikido in 2013 and her second degree in 2014.

When she is not busy teaching, training or drilling patterns in her living room, you can find her ballroom dancing with her husband, spending time in the garden or working on her freelance writing business.

Maybe it’s just me – but I feel like the person described in the second bio is more interesting don’t you?

I’d love to hear thoughts from others. Have you ever struggled to write a personal bio? What are your best tips for writing one?

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