Writers and the Fear of Egotistical Biographies

By guest blogger Natasha Tracy

Hi. My name is Natasha and I am a writer.

A simple sentence, I know, but one it took me years to say out loud. Even after writing thousands of posts, read by a myriad of people on weighty topics such as bipolar, depression and Justin Timberlake, it took my own personal lightning strike to pry the idea from my mind.

The next obvious question: so I was a writer, so what?

Being a writer meant transforming how I thought about myself. I wasn’t Hemingway; I wasn’t Tolstoy; and yet still, I was a writer. Being a writer meant I had the permission to make that the first thing I would tell people, and not the last, over martinis, in the dark.

And then people started asking, “So, what do you write?” Ack.

I needed a bio about me as a writer. I had to write one for cocktail parties, Twitter, my blog and all the other places my name as a writer would find itself. Seemingly impossible. Now, not only did I have to claim the title “writer,” but I had to come up with biographic details of a persona that had barely formed.

Instead of putting things into a biography, my mind instantly started taking things out.

Award-winner. Well, that makes me sound egotistical, and those awards aren’t really worth mentioning anyway.

Mental health writer. Oh, that really makes me sound like I’ve studied and know what I’m talking about.

Controversial. That seems to indicate that people would care enough about what I have to say to argue about it.

And so on. Any word that anyone had ever used to describe my writing was put on a pile of words I “wasn’t allowed” to use for creative excuses I was all-too-capable of making up.

But an important fact struck me after about my 29th draft: my bio isn’t about me, the writer; it’s actually about the reader.

All those perfectly good words I had thrown out, all the awards, all the compliments I had been given; those were the words of readers. Those were the words of a biography. And as uncomfortable as being described by a friend to a blind date, that is the discomfort involved in writing a biography.

I had to look at myself from the perspective of a reader and describe that person. Another person wouldn’t find it egotistical to talk about my awards because, to them, they were simple facts. Another person would naturally describe me as a mental health writer because that’s what I am. Readers who follow me often say I’m controversial due to the stances I take on various subjects. These biographical details weren’t so scary when I looked at them from the perspective of a reader. These descriptors didn’t make me egotistical; they showed I listened to my readers.

Even coming to terms with my own writer persona, I still don’t find bio writing easy. I still have to pick and choose the information to include. I still have to decide how to make enjoyable my often dark and somber subject matter. It’s not easy to weave those tidbits together into a pithy, attractive bio.

But once I started removing myself from the equation, and writing as a reader would, I removed the roadblocks that had been making writing my biography impossible.


Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a professional writer of fiction, non-fiction and bathroom stall limericks. Natasha works to bring authenticity to the world of mental health writings and believes rose-coloured glasses should be reserved for Sir Elton John alone. More about Natasha can be found at http://natashatracy.com.

8 Responses to Writers and the Fear of Egotistical Biographies
  1. j
    January 17, 2011 | 12:06 PM

    That’s a great way to think of it. I struggle with bios all the time. And incidentally, your bio for this piece was quite wonderful.

  2. Natasha Tracy
    January 17, 2011 | 1:46 PM

    Hi J,

    Thanks. I figured if I wrote about bios I better have a decent one at the end 🙂

    – Natasha

    • j
      January 17, 2011 | 10:02 PM

      That would be my big fear. Will everyone like my bio? 😉 I love that yours includes all the necessary information but in a fun, interesting way. Perfect example.

  3. @fearofwriting
    Twitter: fearofwriting
    January 17, 2011 | 2:00 PM

    I agree with j, your bio for this post is wonderful. I’m remembering now (this happened a while ago) that your Twitter bio was how the discussion got started that eventually led to this post. I had Tweeted to say how arresting your bio was and that was how we got acquainted. So, there you go. The immediate power of a captivating bio! It’s even a great way to make friends. 🙂

  4. Lois
    January 18, 2011 | 10:29 AM

    Oh, gosh, I hate to talk about myself, but with me, it’s because I feel like I have to have had something published before my bio is “worthy.” Still, I’m a writer. I write. And if that’s all there is in my bio, it’s more than I would have if I didn’t have the courage to sit down and tell stories. 🙂

    Thanks for these inspirational words!

  5. Tinfoil Magnolia
    January 18, 2011 | 12:29 PM

    Love this! I only just recently came to the place where I can say “I am a writer” and I agree with Lois that it sometimes still feels fraudulent when you haven’t been published. Although, recently I have found myself published in a medium I had not expected and I’ve had several articles in our local paper, so I guess I AM a published writer. Hmm.

    Anyway, thanks for the great info! Love your bio!

  6. Natasha Tracy
    January 18, 2011 | 12:49 PM

    Hi Lois and Tinfoil,

    In all honesty, I am, in fact, seeking representation right now. I wouldn’t consider that fraudulent though, just a stage along the way to getting my memoir in print.

    If I might offer a suggestion, try guest-posting on a few blogs. Then, in fact, you have been published. Someone received your piece and felt it was worthy. I’m always looking for good guest-posters for my blog on mental health issues, so just look for blogs in your niche and see what happens.

    Glad this bit of writing helped you out.

    – Natasha

Leave a Reply

Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?