Where do you begin? But there’s something even worse and that’s when someone asks you to write something about yourself.
Do you feel the panic setting in? If so, you’re just like most of us. Even though we may consider ourselves writers, most of us prefer to write about other things—and other people.
However, you won’t be able to dodge this bullet forever. At some point in your life you’re either going to have to do it—for a job perhaps—or you will choose to do it—for a life story, memoir or blog post.
Here are a few things to consider:
1. Know your boundaries
When writing about yourself, particularly online, expect that whatever you write will be shared well beyond your intended audience and that it will be around forever.
If you don’t want a prospective employer—or your mother-in-law—to read or otherwise find out about it, don’t write about it. Seems simple, doesn’t it? But we all know someone who did or said something that he really wished wasn’t ‘out there.’
Be careful about what–and how much–you choose to share.
2. Be honest
Most people have been tempted, at one time or another, to stretch the truth a bit—perhaps to pad a resume line or to otherwise exercise some creative license—when it comes to sharing some of our life experiences. Don’t!
Not only is this wrong on many different levels, but it’s also hard to remember something that’s less than the truth. Unless you eventually ‘confess’ you’ll be carrying around the burden of that lie for the rest of your life. Just be you—people respond to authenticity. Or decide to write that story as fiction. Nowadays, it’s simply too easy to verify facts. Why take the risk?
3. Determine your audience
As with any writing assignment you need to know who you’re writing for, so do your home work. Having a good understanding of your audience will help you to adopt the appropriate tone of voice. Is a more formal tone best (for a prospective employer) or is a casual, friendly tone a better choice (e.g. for a blog post)? In other words, while the information you choose to share about yourself may be the same, how you convey that information will change significantly depending on your audience.
4. Be strategic
Now that you know who you’re writing for and the tone you will be adopting, you need to determine the 3 or 4 key message points. People remember stories better than just facts, so connect with your intended audience using the power of story. For example, if you’re writing to a potential employer, choose a story that highlights your accomplishments and explains why it is relevant to the organisation. Don’t just recite a list of facts.
5. First impressions matter
It takes only 30 seconds for people to form an impression, therefore write with confidence, not arrogance. Bring your natural energy and enthusiasm to your writing, but don’t over sell. If you’re not sure that you have achieved the right balance, ask a friend or mentor to read what you’ve written.
6. Final thoughts
As you have probably worked out by now, writing about yourself is not much different from other types of writing but it can feel still feel uncomfortable. If you’re still having difficulty, and don’t know how to write about yourself, try writing about yourself in the third person. Then go back and revise it.
Basically, the only way I know to help that uncomfortable feeling is to keep writing about yourself, over and over again. Save your stories and write about your memories and, if you are saving your stories online, you can always edit them later. It’s your life, your story.