I fear I have succumbed to an illness this week. It’s called illeism (pronounced ille-ism). It comes from a Latin root and means to refer to yourself in the third person. We’ve all meet someone who does it. Some appear to think it makes them witty or more important.
I don’t suffer from this habit too often, but now and then it breaks out, when I have to compose a new writer’s biography (or bio) for myself. Before I did much writing, I’d naively assumed that writers had someone to do this job for them. They would sit down for a chat with this more lowly writer, tell them about their work and unusual hobbies, and then the lowly hack would compose something witty and complimentary about the author in the third person voice.
Now I understand, that the writer does this job for themselves when submitting a piece for publication. I have a large document on my computer containing hundreds of bios. I like to tweak them to reflect the target publication. If I write about parenting, I’ll mention my two children. If I’m writing about technology, I’ll include details of my computer qualifications and experience. Plus some publications like 50 word bios, others consider 150 to be the norm.
Anyhow, this week I had to craft a new one for a forthcoming collection of short fiction from Balbriggan Library Writers’ Group, and Jane, our organiser, asked me for 200-300 words. I’d become so used to 100 words or less, I struggled to create a longer bio and sought inspiration in my former bios. Which is when it hit me. Since 2001, when I began writing part-time, my bio has improved immeasurably. I’ve landed some great publication credits, spoken at literary festivals, won contests, self-published some of my non-fiction, written regular columns, been featured in numerous print anthologies, and just in the last few months won my editing stripes and mentored a region in NaNoWriMo. I remembered how hard it had been to write my first bio, struggling to make myself sound like an interesting writer and laughing at the illeism of writing about myself in the third person. Whereas nowadays that seems normal, and bios are just a tiny part of what I write in an average week.
Another highlight this week was receiving my copy of the latest anthology to feature my work, “A Cup for Comfort for a Better World”. I love getting a new book like this, reading the other entries, and finally popping it on my “Published Books” bookshelf in my study. This time, however, I was particularly proud of it as the personal essay I wrote for it concerns my late father-in-law, Tom and his inspirational volunteer work throughout his life. I’m very proud to be his daughter-in-law and I think he would have loved to have seen this book (although he would have been very modest about his own story in it).
Until next time, happy reading and writing, and watch out for slipping into illeism, unless you have a bio to write,