“My story isn’t very interesting.”
“I don’t know how to make my skills and experience sound good.”
“How do you write about yourself in a way that’s not, you know, cringe-y?”
When I talk to people about bios, these are invariably some of the comments and questions that come my way. A good bio is essentially a good story: it gives the reader information woven into a Hero’s Journey-style narrative while being SEO-friendly and optimized for LinkedIn. Writing a decent bio can feel like an epic journey in itself!
Storytelling doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and sharing it is when we have the chance to improve how we tell our own stories (enter: social media). But learning to be more objective about what we share — online, with friends, or in a professional bio — helps to get clear on your story, highlighting what’s important and choosing key details to play a supporting role.
Here are a few ways that help me see storytelling problems from other angles — and that encourage creative breakthroughs:
Make a list. When I see the all the information out on paper: what I want to communicate, things I want to emphasize or downplay, and the tone I want to convey, it helps me get clearer on my thoughts around how (and what) I want to share. Seeing a bulleted list helps me prioritize the pieces and parts of the story I’m telling, create an outline, and write the final product.
Ask a friend. The best way to infuse objectivity into a situation is to introduce it to someone else. Find a friend, partner, colleague, or random passerby and ask for their feedback on what you’re working on. People are almost always flattered you asked for your input and will offer thoughtful feedback. (And if they don’t, remember all advice is autobiographical, and it’s not about you. They’re not worthy of your story!)
“But what if…?” Empathy goes a long way in writing and other creative pursuits. The better you’re able to put yourself in your reader’s shoes and think from their perspective, the more connected your writing will be. Inviting people into our stories makes them more memorable: taking with people is much different from talking at them. Make your story a conversation by empathizing with who’s hearing or reading it.
Sometimes, the best antidote for a writing or storytelling problem is just space. Having some time and distance from a project helps to clear your head and conjure up some of that sweet, sweet objectivity that makes the story better.
Because there are an infinite number of ways to have a job, or live a life, or be a human, there are just as many ways to write and talk about yourself. Getting an objective eye on your story (or your business’s story) is invaluable because feedback matters, but how you feel about the story you’re putting out there matters more.
(The image for this post is a snapshot from Austin Kleon’s latest, Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad. It’s a great, quick read and full of ideas to keep your creative work fresh and stay motivated — highly recommend!)