Posted by: Leigh Ann Otte | 02/22/10

How to write a memorable bio: creativity exercise 1

When you think of great artistry, what’s one main word that comes to mind?

For me, it’s vulnerability. Whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction—a novel or a bio—I believe this is one of the most freeing, effective characteristics you can nurture. Doctors, accustomed to academic exchanges and staying safely detached, may find this particularly challenging. But you’ll also probably find it especially rewarding. I’d like to help you get your feet wet.

Imagine your favorite actors, painters, singers or writers. Don’t they seem to give you a glimpse into their soul? They reveal their deepest emotions, unabashed, even if they might look stupid or be made fun of. The result? We feel connected to them. We feel that they’re reflecting some true essence of life. Their work becomes personal to us, not just to them. And we become loyal.

Screenplay guru Robert McKee writes in his lauded book Story:

Each tale you create says to the audience: ‘I believe life is like this.’ Every moment must be filled with your passionate conviction or we smell a phony.

Friday, Medgadget announced the winners of their 2009 Medical Weblog Awards. I could analyze the best literary blog, StorytellERdoc, for a while. But for now, I’d like to focus on one simple entry: the author’s bio. Check it out. The rhythm flows like a calming sea. The sentiments are juxtaposed unexpectedly, pleasantly:

I am small-town. I live in a big town. I am from a large, forestry family. I miss my mother’s voice.

The above is an excerpt, but the entire bio employs sparse words—only the ones necessary. And we feel that we can relate. This doctor is one of us—human, flawed, emotional.

So here are three options for a creativity/writing/vulnerability exercise:

  1. Anyone: Write your bio, expressing who you truly are, with only 82 words (the amount the StorytellERdoc used). It might be poignant, painful, joyful, comedic, or any number of other things. All sorts of writing can be vulnerable and real.
  2. Fiction writers: Do the same for one or more of your characters.
  3. For business: If you already have a bio, incorporate some reality into it—the kind of reality Robert McKee talks about. This exercise is a bit different because, if you use the bio for business, you have to decide just how vulnerable and open you want to be. What’s the balance that draws potential clients or patients to you but doesn’t go too far into personal issues?

If you feel comfortable, please post what you come up with. I’d love to read it.

Image courtesy .



  1. […] “A mother’s cry” (doctor blog: StorytellERdoc) Grabs you from the start and won’t let go. Effective use of suspense; demonstration of vulnerable writing. […]

  2. What terrific advice, and, by the way, what a nice example of good writing!

    • Thanks, bluerabbit. How kind of you. I really appreciate the feedback.

      Leigh Ann

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