What Picture Do You Make When You Talk?

My latest freelance writing job is intense; and so, very exciting. I’ve been asked to write a series of executive biographies for high-level executives. Many of them work for the same company, many of them are in the same industry, and most of them have the exact same experience and background. But each one of them is entirely different. Each one has unique skills and talent sets that are valuable, individually to the employer.

imageI am ghostwriting these bios, which means, the bios are to be written as if the executive is doing the talking.  This makes the job a bit more of a challenge; it must be written in their “voice” so that it sounds authentic. for most of them, writing is not their specialty — which is compounded by the fact that everyone has a tremendous difficulty in writing about themselves in a way that sounds engaging, informative and insightful.

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So the challenge is: write the bios, as if the person you don’t really know, is speaking; and make each one unique. No cookie-cutter format.

The way I approached the project is a bit unique. Once the interview is done, and the transcript is typed, I read over the notes and highlight some of the most compelling insights they revealed during the conversation. It may simply be a phrase, such as “servant leadership is what shapes the way I live,” or “I love math,” or “I let clients listen and know they are heard.” Everone offers those tidbits — the words that come out like poetry, that are truly the words of their own soul.

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Once I’ve highlighted enough of them, I copy them and paste them into Wordle, the text/art generator. And suddenly, seeing their words scattered all over the page gives me a deep understanding of who they are, and how they see themselves wanting to contribute to the world.

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The word art also shows me something else — word choice. I might want to convey the idea that the executive created a team of record-breaking sales performers. But “create” may not be the word this executive would use. A quick scan of his wordle/art shows me that no, he does not have the word in his vocabulary when he’s talking about himself. What he does say is “build” or “developed.”  Catching those little nuances make all the difference in making the bio resonate with the truth of who the executive is.

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I know I’ve got it right, when I watch the face of the executive light up and smile, when she/he reads her words.

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