Not too long ago, I had the pleasure of working with a digital artist who had asked me to write up a new bio—or as I prefer to call it, bio story—for her website and to use as a print promotional piece. When we met to discuss the project, she struck me as a very humble and even slightly shy person. I asked her lots of questions about herself, which she answered easily, but with each answer, she would add something like “but no one would really be interested in that.” I just continued on with the interview, and when I sat down to write her bio story I incorporated lots of the details she’d shared.
When she read it for the first time, she exclaimed, “Wow, you made me sound so interesting!” What was funny to me is that she IS a really interesting person doing amazing work. It was easy for me to write a great story about her because there were so many fascinating facets to her life. Yet, somehow she had assumed that people would not care about the details of her story—how her family influenced her work as an artist, how she’s had the opportunity to travel the country collecting material for her work, and how she turned her interest in technology into a passion for digital art.
As you hear about this artist, you may be thinking to yourself, “Yes, I know how she feels. No one is interested in my story either, but that’s because it really is a boring story.” I’ve actually heard that from many artists. But here’s what you need to know—the woman I’m talking about has had a very typical American life. Like almost every artist I’ve met, she grew up with a little encouragement toward art, got married, raised a family, had a different career in another field, and eventually came back to art. It’s normal, it’s average, and—here’s the best part—it’s fascinating. You see, people are interested in the familiar, not necessarily the exotic. As humans, we connect over the mundane elements of life that most of us share. So, you may think your story is “boring” because it’s so normal, but in reality, it will still be interesting to those who read your story because they can relate to it.
Okay, so would you like to know how to present your bio story in a way that others will find interesting? Read on for my best tips, but first, let’s start with my foolproof format:
- Kick off with an exciting lead paragraph that either a) describes your artwork in a compelling and interesting way by using colorful, descriptive language or b) describes an exciting, meaningful, or emotionally touching moment from your journey as an artist
- Next, jump back and use the second paragraph (and more, as needed) to describe your artistic journey chronologically from the beginning. You may need a couple of paragraphs to tell your story if you’ve been very active for a long time.
- Conclude your artistic journey with a paragraph detailing your credentials and any significant accomplishments you’ve made as an artist, including important shows, awards, association memberships, publications, etc.
- Wrap up your new bio story with one last paragraph that features maybe a few personal details, especially the city where you live, and your website or other contact info. To the degree you’re comfortable, please share your family status, pets, and other hobbies and interests.
Once you’ve written a draft following this format, it’s time to go back and finesse each section, using the following guidelines. By the way, be sure to write your bio story in the third person—that’s just the norm.
- Write like a storyteller. Have you ever noticed how a good storyteller or fiction writer doesn’t give exhaustive, lengthy descriptions of the main characters? Instead, a talented writer offers only the select details that reveal the characters’ personalities. You can and should be just as careful and judicious with your own story. Rather than being wordy, pick and choose the details that will contribute to creating the image you’re trying to project. And if you’re one of those art-as-a-second-career artists—like the digital artist I mentioned—focus mainly on your art story and include details from your first career only if they’re relevant.
- Be real. Just to be clear, while you should follow a good storyteller’s lead in how you tell your story, you should not embellish it with actual fiction. Keep it real, honest, and authentic, or you could risk being found out and destroying the trust you’ve established with others. As I said, it’s the “average” aspects of your life that will allow you to connect with so many others, so there’s really no need to indulge in fantasy.
- Reveal your personality or "brand.” If you incorporate meaningful anecdotes and write as if you’re telling a story to a friend, your personality will probably come out naturally. But it’s still an important goal to remember when you’re revising your draft. If you’re funny, show it. If you’re serious and scholarly, show that. Choose anecdotes and phrases that reflect your character and values, what’s important to you. Make sure you’ve stayed authentic and true to yourself in communicating your story.
- Adopt a conversational tone. Write as if you’re talking to a friend. Use plain language (not “artspeak”) and a writing style that’s informal and conversational, yet presents a professional image. And when you think you’ve got your bio story where you want it, read it out loud to yourself and ask one or two trusted friends to read it before publishing it.
- Above all, inject your story with emotion. Perhaps even more important than what you include is how you present it. It’s essential to inject feelings and deeper meaning within your story. What brings you joy, motivates you, and inspires you? How does the creative process make you feel? What’s it like when someone connects with something you’ve made? Do you feel like you’re making a difference with your art by bringing beauty into other people’s lives? Those are the kinds of emotions I’m talking about. That's what people really relate to, and in the end, people are less likely to remember the facts of your life and more likely to remember the emotional connection they felt with your story.
I’m not gonna lie. Writing your bio story isn’t easy, but it can be very rewarding. You can do this! And if you’ve got questions, drop me a comment below. Let’s connect!
Just Can’t Do It?
Do you recognize that you need a bio story but feel like writing just isn’t your forte? I’m happy to help! I charge $150 for the creation of a combined artist’s statement/bio story, which I’ll then present to you in three different formats. You deserve to have a great written story, and if you feel like you’re just not up to the task, let’s collaborate on getting it done.