My trusted friend and advisor has been hounding me for months to write a proper bio for my site. So far, I’ve resisted, mostly because I am at a loss when it comes to talking (or writing) about myself. Since my friend is as relentless as I am stubborn, this is what happened when she cornered me –literally, my back against the waLl– in a bistro, having drinks.
FRIEND: You have to write your bio, you know.
FRIEND: Because you have to. Stop procrastinating.
ME: No, really, why?
FRIEND: (Sighing) Because everybody does.
ME: ‟Everybody does” is neither an answer nor a reason.
FRIEND: Just the same, you have to. Why do you keep arguing?
ME: Because I like to.
FRIEND: There you go. Put that in your bio.
ME: Yeah that’s a start. About me: ‟I like to argue”. But seriously, this whole tell-us-a-bit-about-yourself thing – Is it a written rule? A law? An obligation? If you don’t have a bio on your site, does that mean you’re not a person?
FRIEND: Of course not. Don’t be silly. You’re definitely a person. An annoying one, I might add.
ME: Cool. Another thing I should write about me: ‟Annoying”. Let’s keep going.
FRIEND: (Sighing again) Can you be serious for a moment? It’s good practice, that’s all.
ME: Says who ?
FRIEND: Says everyone.
ME: Who’s everyone ?
FRIEND: (Looking exasperated) Oh jeez… You’re in that kind of mood. Just write the damn piece and let’s get it over with. A paragraph or two aren’t going to kill you.
ME: I don’t want to. I don’t feel like it. I don’t agree with the whole concept.
FRIEND: (Losing patience) You’re really driving me nuts!
ME: I know. It’s part of my charm.
FRIEND: (Rolling her eyes) Whatever. Here’s the thing: it’s a legitimate expectation, you know – readers like to know a thing or two about authors those books they read. What’s their background, what do they do in life, what they like, what inspire them – that kind of stuff. Short and sweet.
ME: (Acting smug) Ah yes. I could say ‟I was born in Africa” like Karen Blixen, you know, ‟I had a farm in Africa”. Sounds exotic. I was raised in France. Even better: it sounds glamorous. I moved to America in my twenties. Now I am a bona fide American Dream story (sort of). I read a lot. I travel even more. What else? Oh yeah, I travel with a cat. Now that’s a bit out of the ordinary. You want me to write something like that? How boring! How pointless! Who the hell cares about crap like that?
FRIEND: Well, no one if you make it sound so lame and trivial…
ME: Because it is.
FRIEND: You’re infuriating me beyond words. (Now becoming agitated) What are you doing now?
ME: (Acting candid) I’m taking notes of this conversation for my bio: ‟Infuriating. Can render people speechless with anger.”
FRIEND: (Rolling her eyes again) You’re not going to do it, are you?
FRIEND: Why? I’ve given you reasons why you should, but you gave me no real reason why you shouldn’t.
ME: Because… (Pausing to think) even if I told anything about myself, how would you know, as a reader, if it is true or not?
FRIEND: Right now I have this irrepressible urge to strangle out.
ME: I’m serious…
FRIEND: So am I, actually.
ME: … because you know, if you’re a writer –a fiction writer I mean…
FRIEND: (Perking up) A fictional writer ?
ME: Now you’re the one being a smart ass. What I mean is, I could spin a completely fake story about myself, and no one would be able to tell the difference. How could they trust I am telling the truth ?
FRIEND: (Looking drained) Because except for you and your twisted, contrarian mind, everyone else does.
ME: There’s no proof.
FRIEND: They just assume…
ME: You know what assume really means ?
ME: Makes an ass out of you and me.
FRIEND: (Not amused) I’m seriously aggravated. And don’t you dare write ‟aggravate people” in your notes. Can you try to be serious for a moment ? Why don’t you just shut up and write the damn bio already ? Just this once, can’t you do like the rest of us ?
ME: Can’t remember the last time I did that…
FRIEND: (Looking about to give up) I need another drink…
ME: See, I don’t read other writers bio, except for dead ones, but that’s because I have a slight fascination for dead authors. The others, I’m just reading their books. Everything essential about them, from my reader standpoint of course, is IN their books. I don’t need to know if they like the color blue or yellow, I don’t care if they live in California or Connecticut, if they’re young or old, fat or skinny. I don’t. All I care about is what they have to say, the stories they tell, and how they tell them. That’s all.
FRIEND: Not everybody thinks that way.
ME: I know.
FRIEND: You might alienate potential readers…
ME: I know. I am willing to take the risk. I can only be who I am. I cannot pretend to be someone I’m not, and I can’t do things I don’t want to, for the sake of ‟I’m expected to”. That’s just not me.
FRIEND: Remind me why I agreed to be your adviser?
ME: Because you’re my friend and you love me?
FRIEND: Ah yes. Something like that.
ME: Honestly, you’ve known me for a long time. Don’t you think what I write is a fair representation of who I am?
FRIEND: Yes, but your stories are all so completely different.
FRIEND: (Looking bereft) You’ve kinda lost me. Explain.
ME: Let me tell you a story: one day, in an interview, Walt Whitman was taken to task by a journalist who accused him of saying just about everything and its opposite, Walt Whitman didn’t skip a beat and replied: “Contradict myself? Of course I do, I contain multitudes!”
FRIEND: So ?
ME: I, too, contain multitudes. And you. We all do. Trying to sum them up in a paragraph is berating and trivial. Borderline insulting.
FRIEND: (Laughing) You’ve always been such a drama queen!
ME: Yes, that I am, too. But you know what, let’s try something: write your own bio and see if you can accurately sum up your life, yourself, what you are about in five-six sentences, without sounding boring. If you can manage that, I promise I will do the same.
She took out her notepad and a pen and started scribbling as we ordered more drinks (and a side of tapas). I could see her scratching furiously block of text after block of text. After some time –the glasses were empty and the food was gone- she put the notepad away and looked at me.
FRIEND: (Giving up) You know what, about your bio… maybe you’re right. Let’s not do it. For now.
If you can’t beat them, wear them out.