Why are bios so difficult to write? Writers like attention. Right? Sort of. We wanted to be liked. Desperately. If by “liked” you mean respected, admired, paid for our work, invited to dinner parties, thought of as clever, reviewed favorably, mentioned in trade papers, interviewed, lusted after (from a respectful distance), annotated, translated, made into a movie, have a cult following, be admitted into the great mysterious CANON of literature, be taught in classrooms, teach in classrooms, be invited to conferences and workshops as an expert, have strangers come up to you at a reading and say “that was great”, have someone tell you “what you wrote changed my life”, have someone tell you “what you wrote saved my life”, win awards, get published, get republished and also just, you know, be liked.
Writers have the advantage of being able to pretend that we want to be loved for our work. Not ourselves. But bios put that to the test. A test we all fail.
What you put in your bio is why. Why someone should like, respect, read or trust what you have written. Trust me, I’m a Pushcart Prize nominee. These editors were right to publish my poems and the editors of Mother Jones, Zyzzyva and The New Yorker agree with them.
We write and rewrite bios. We put in them what is specific to the journal/book, what we are currently promoting, what readers want to know, what we like best about ourselves. Sort of. In bios, we are serious or flippant. In bios, we are uncomfortable. In bios, we are exposed.
I really hate writing bios.