On Writing the Brief Bio
Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons
I have been a painter and writer for many years. Even with the enormous amount of rejection and insecure income these endeavors bring, there is still one thing I dislike more than being rejected or worrying if a painting will sell, and that is writing the brief bio. However, I do not think art careers are the only ones that must furnish this horrible little morsel—I’m guessing anyone writing a resume, filling out a dating profile, or even checking in with your old alma mater requires one to write a brief bio. One would think that a writer of all people would be the best at writing one of these things—or at the very least—the most comfortable. However, for me it is an exercise in sociology along with pangs of ‘I feel like a liar,’ ‘that’s totally true but false,’ and ‘this is not the me I know.’ Because the truth is I am really really weird, and for those out there who are also on the eccentric side I give you all my sympathies because nothing really—truly highlights the fact that one is weird is when they must draft up a brief bio.
I’m always studying other people’s brief bios to see how they create their stick figure representations so that other people, mostly strangers, can put that stick figure into their minds, make a lot of decisions, and then form a judgment of the subject of the brief bio. If I were to make my stick figure without any sort of check-in with the bulk of humanity, I would lead with some key specifics that would perhaps not be understood clearly or be received as well as the traditional things like education, occupation, awards, and excellent family dynamics.
Without a doubt, if I lived in a cave and were asked to provide a brief bio without checking and seeing how this was typically handled I would lead with the fact that I was born with a clubfoot. When I was a little girl, I used to play with the little plaster cast from my clubfoot surgery my mother had saved and stored in a cupboard in the laundry room. I also have a few very early memories of wearing corrective shoes with little steel bars running up the sides to my ankle. They would have me walk up and down an aisle at the special shoe store for people with deformed feet, and my mother along with the proprietor would cheer me on and say how I’m almost ready for normal shoes. Lord Byron had a club foot too, and (of course) I see that as having all sorts of excellent implications. Mephibosheth, King Saul’s grandson (who is one of my most beloved Bible characters) had two clubfeet. I call him Mephi when I think or speak fondly of him. A few years ago, while vacationing at Martha’s Vineyard, a group of young men from Italy was ahead of me in line at the grocery store. One of the young men had a club foot that was allowed to remain. I remember feeling an instant rapport with the gentleman (though I refrained from grasping him and exclaiming me too) (but it was thrilling to see a club foot au natural, and I did want to embrace him). Another thing I think gives me honest shine is that although I am not Jewish (or Christian), I love the Old Testament. To me along with the I-Ching, Bhagavad Gita, and the Flower Ornament Scripture the Old Testament is totally amazing. They are my very dearest holy works, and I read them routinely (possibly obsessively) (I nearly know them all by heart).
The brief biography for the very eccentric is like a maze with a Minotaur at the center, and that is profession. I know and fully understand that in our world what one does for a living says absolutely everything important about a person. However, for me, I started painting when I was a very small child, so it just never feels like anything more than say an arm or leg. When I was six, one of my paintings was spotted in a classroom by a gentleman who was in the California Arts Commission. He asked the teacher if she had painted it, and she said no, that a student had. He then put my painting in a group show at a local museum representing various artists from the Central Valley—all of them grown-ups. The funny thing is that it was very crowded at the opening, and I was only six, so all I remember seeing was ladies’ handbags. So really, from my perspective, my job is simply like my club foot—something I was born with—a kind of interesting deformity.
A brief bio (if I lived in a cave):
I was born with a club foot. My clubfoot was repaired early though remained legendary in my mind. I have an innate drive to paint, write, and read. I study four major religious works routinely: the I-Ching, the Old Testament, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Flower Ornament Scripture. This activity along with the painting and writing I suspect is connected to my clubfoot—as if the clubfoot were a doomed scout. Not much has really been achieved just unfurled. The hardest job I genuinely work on is going up and down the mountain.
Jennifer Barnick is a painter and writer. She studied painting at the San Francisco Art Institute. She founded Twenty-two Twenty-eight. “One of the most exciting aspects of Twenty-two Twenty-eight is building a channel for artists and writers to share their work with the world.” You can follow Jennifer on her Instagram here.
Check out Jennifer’s book. You can read the first short story for free on Amazon here.