Friday, March 7, 2014

Writing Lessons From An Awkward Selfie

I recently decided I needed a new author photo. My old one was a hastily-cropped snapshot of me at a Christmas party about a million years ago, and it was getting a little...well, dated. You can take one look at this photo and see that the girl pictured is definitely not someone who worries about tooth enamel and drives significantly under the speed limit while singing "The Wheels On The Bus" to a toddler strapped in the backseat.

Yes, I needed a new author photo, and - after a lot of debating - I decided I was going to have to take this thing myself. Oh yeah, and I had to do it in 24 minutes or less, because that's approximately how long Little Miss will sit still to watch an episode of Dora The Explorer.

So I set out to take my new author photo, armed with my iPhone and a well-lit neutral wall. And that's how I came to the conclusion that I take extremely awkward selfies. I mean, every picture was absolutely painful. Was my smile always that crooked? Why was one eye so much bigger than the other? This was not a case of me being too hard on myself. No, this was a simple case of laughably bad photos. In fact, I wish I'd thought to save and post them here, because you'd all get a good giggle for the day.

After a lot of cringing, I finally realized what was wrong. I was trying too hard. I was too aware of the fact that a photo was being taken. I was too wrapped up in trying to hold my head at a certain angle, or trying to smile just wide enough. I was TOO aware of my audience.

Eventually I realized that I took a much more relaxed photo by setting a camera timer, dancing like a nut while it counted down, and then freezing to smile for the photo. It took a few tries to get the timing right, which resulted in several "oops, still dancing" shots. (Again, I wish I'd saved them.) (I should also mention that I'm a really nerdy dancer, so by this point the whole experience was quite hilarious.)

But I finally got a few decent photos to choose from. Because I stopped trying so hard and enjoyed the process.

If you're curious about the winning author photo, it's below. I'm no photographer, and I'm certainly no model, but this feels like a pretty authentic representation of me. And yeah, I decided to wear my glasses because I can't see a thing without them anymore

All of this hyper-aware selfie taking got me thinking about my writing, and wondering: Are there times when I'm TOO aware of my audience? Times when I'm overly guarded? Times when I'm dancing around words because I'm trying to take the safest path?

I'm certain there are. And the thing is, I don't want my words to be the written equivalent of awkward selfies. I want my words to dance. I want to let my words elicit chills, and tears, and big belly laughs. I want my words to be a little less guarded, and a little more real.

As writers, I think we all do. I think we all need to remember the 24-minute lesson of the awkward selfie.


  1. I love your thoughts on photography (and motherhood to toddlers)! Welcome to Anaiah, and can't wait to get to know you!

  2. "Writing Lessons from Awkward Selfie" ingeniously draws parallels between art forms. How Get Better It illuminates the subtle nuances of self-expression.