Recently, I was asked to write a few professional bios for a local real estate broker. He’s got new agents coming on board and they’re doing some pretty awesome marketing pieces for each one of them. One piece of that puzzle is a professional bio. So here I am, knee deep in bios. Sounds like fun, huh? Like the kind of fun you might have slogging through a bog with holey wellies. It just doesn’t seem too glamorous, really. Well, that’s what I thought, but it has surprised me, delightfully enough.
It helps quite a bit that I’m naturally nosy. No, make that, I’m naturally inquisitive. Everyone has a story, and I love pulling those little nuggets out of people. Most folks don’t realize how interesting their lives really are. It’s fascinating to me to learn that someone’s dad was friends with Stevie Ray Vaughan, or that they once lived in a tee-pee, but ran the debutante circuit from Houston to New York. Or, that someone has three advanced degrees from a foreign university, or invented a product, or has recorded an album. These things, all so different from my own story, are so cool. These amazing things you wouldn’t know by looking. This is where I wanted my journalism degree to go. I love the human part of news, the feature writing part, the stories. I didn’t want to write about city hall, or politics or violence, so I opted out of that life. People’s stories are so like fiction when they’re not yours. It’s like hearing things your imagination just wouldn’t come up with on its own. For real! And someone is living that life.
Oh, and it’s stressful! I didn’t think of it this way, but holy macaroons, I get so nervous when I send that bio over. In fact, I have to force myself to hit the send button. Yes, I’ve procrastinated because I was scared. I didn’t know it would be so hard to write about someone and then send it to them directly. If I were writing a feature piece on someone for a magazine, it would be much easier. Much. Here, I’m writing a feature piece, and only get 500 words to write the interesting bits. These bits that I write might make someone want to hire them for, likely, the biggest transaction of their lives, or not. Gulp. There’s no doubt that I enjoy it, but wow. I sweat buckets over what to include, and all of the interesting things that have to drop out. I’ve heard from them that they’re really nervous to read it. They’re wondering how I perceived them and what things from our interview I chose to include. So, it’s awkward all around.
Awkward. Yep, I just didn’t anticipate that feeling, but it is, a bit. Luckily, I’m the kind of person who gets past “awkward” moments pretty quickly. I’m not much of a judger, and I think people know it. I do genuinely find their stories interesting, and have a knack for giving their stories life on paper that represent their personalities pretty well. That’s the best part. One client wrote back,
“I love it! Even I want to work with me!”
Rewarding. I love it when people see themselves from the outside. They get to see how interesting they are. They get to see that they’ve got a great story! Yes, the rewarding part. That was the biggest surprise of all!
So, did you read the book? If so, you know that the author, Cheryl Strayed, changed her name after the death of her mother. It’s an autobiographical journey that takes her on an epic hike through life, and along the Pacific Coast Trail in search of, well, herself. It’s a really great read that was very difficult for me to read at times because of her choices and the things that drove her to those choices. We learn a lot about her life in the book, and about her family.
Funnily enough, she wrote the book so well that a woman who was reading it in bed one night after having checked it out of the library sat straight up in bed and realized the father in the book was, in fact, her father as well. Names were not mentioned and since the author had changed her name, she had no idea that they could possibly be related. Imagine, descriptions of your father so perfect in character that you’d recognize him anywhere. Well done, Cheryl! Meet your half-sister. Read the NPR story here.