You are a complex person, and there are nuances to your personality that cannot be summed up in a few brief adjectives. Does ‘mother of two’ encompass the highs and lows with your children, the love you feel for them, or the rollercoaster of conception, pregnancy and birth? Does ‘Christian’ explain the midnight questions you asked yourself and the balancing of faith with the realities of the world? Does ‘British’ suggest your patriotism, your political leanings, your secret love of rainy days? Of course not! People are more than just a list of traits; that’s why personal ads are so tricky to write. But you as a writer are not the same as you as a person.
I found it very difficult to apply for grants or to query magazines because every time I wrote about myself, I didn’t think it was an accurate representation of me. And it wasn’t! But it was as accurate as it needed to be for the job. I have been awarded several grants and prizes, and part of that was describing myself as ambitious, successful and prolific ñ no matter whether that was how I saw myself.
Be careful about rejecting opportunities because you don’t want to limit yourself, or to be seen in a particular way. For example, you might overlook a magazine about Jewish issues because you are more than just your religion, or an interiors magazine because you don’t think of yourself as a homemaker. It’s true that you are more than the sum of your parts, but it’s these parts that make up you as a writer. Part of being a writer is learning to see yourself from the outside.
Remember those college admission essays, or lengthy job applications? Think about how you described yourself in them. With everything you write, you are describing only one small part of your life. It doesn’t matter who you think you are; what matters is the part of you that is relevant for the job.
Kirsty Logan is a writer, editor, book reviewer, and teacher. She is the founder and editor of fiction magazine Fractured West and the reviews editor of PANK. She lives in Glasgow, Scotland. Visit her at kirstylogan.com.
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