Yes, it’s time to write a bio-blurb for my new book, How To Be Old. The Cuba Press has sent me a draft and as always, I stare at it and think, is that me? Not really. Not exactly. I’ve written hundreds of these for hundreds of different purposes, and maybe you have too—for conferences and grant applications and job applications if not for books. Every time, the same puzzled frown, the same sense of dissatisfaction.
Life is not a bio-blurb
Life is a grand and glorious and colourful scribble. Yet (within this life) again and again we have to detach ourselves and summarise our lives in 2 or 3 sentences for a particular audience. An elevator pitch about ourselves.
Here’s the clue: what does this particular audience want and need to know about you? They don’t need to know about your family circumstances, even if that’s what matters to you above all else. Nor about your passion for a special interest irrelevant to the conference topic or job or book. Nor about your cat unless you are promoting a film or book about your cat. (Calm down, I’m not.)
Strangest to me, has been for years, is the certain fact that people who like my poems (or my blog or drawings or podcast or future videos) couldn’t give a toss about the twenty years I spent studying and teaching and writing about digital communication. It’s a geeky thing, I was even a Chartered IT Professional for a couple of years. I was fascinated, obsessed, and did some splendid pioneering work in the field. But no, literary people are deaf to this great accomplishment of my life.
Don’t pity me! This is normal! How many of your social friends and family do daily work that you follow in detail and that honestly interests you? Yes yes, I can name a few, but being interested is not a duty, not something we can expect. That may be a good thing. Maybe 1% of my friends read this blog? That’s my best guess. That’s fine. They like books, not screens or ear pods.
Even so, I always yearn to squeeze the writing-for-the-web Rachel into literary blurbs and bios. And I always want to squeeze the literary-Rachel into technology blurbs and bios. I’m wrong! I have to stop.
The weirdness of the bio-blurb
But today I just wanted to share the total weirdness of the bio-blurb, its exclusivity, its narrow bias, its necessary warping of the self image. And I wonder if you have had the same experience.
What do you say for a book of poems called How To Be Old? We’re working on it. Meantime, Ursula has stepped in to prove my point.