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These photos were taken on the same day
A lesson on creative angst.
Last summer, I was in desperate need of updated author headshots. In my previous set, I have practically no visible white hair. So clearly the time had come.
Besides, my new book (Socially Awkward) was set to release in the fall, and I was getting down to the wire on finalizing the back cover.
Alarmed, I got referrals and made an appointment.
Now to pull myself together.
It had been a tough year. I’d been ill, brain-fogged, stressed. I wasn’t sure this was a version of myself I wanted to immortalize.
To complicate matters, in the week leading up to the sitting, I endured one of those runs of bad sleep that have become increasingly common lately.
The exact day before the appointment, it dawned on me I owned very little by way of professional wardrobe.
This, of course, led to some extremely unproductive eleventh-hour panic shopping.
It was only after I arrived at the mall that I realized it was back-to-school weekend. So in one sense, I was in good company. Nobody else wanted to be there, either. But all the stores were crowded and understaffed, and within the first ten minutes, I was ready to call the whole thing off.
It’s fine to pose for headshots in your jammies, right?
I was so stressed about the situation that I broke into a rash on my torso.
Fortunately, I found a shirt or two that would work, and I raided my grown niece’s closet to fill in the gaps.
At the very least, I would be clothed.
But then there was my face.
The night before the appointment, I’d been hoping for a full eight hours of sumptuous rest to have me looking fresh and dewy. These images would represent me to the world for the next five years. The least I could do was appear human.
No such luck.
I woke the next day, waxy-faced and crusty-eyed, feeling a blemish the size of Jupiter rising from deep in the dermis of my chin. The skin hadn’t reddened much yet, but my chin was raised on one side, and it definitely hurt to smile.
I snapped a quick selfie to amuse the girls in the DM group and headed to my appointment, hoping for the best—but expecting the worst.
I’d been under instructions to come with my face washed and my hair clean but not styled. Which is good considering that’s about all I could manage.
What happened next was no short of a miracle.
The photographer cranked up a playlist, hung my clothes on a rack, and started pairing pieces and planning backdrops.
A makeup artist stuck me in a chair and went to work, evening out my complexion and calking in my eye pits. “Oh, I see you have a blemish starting here,” she commented. The skin had started reddening by then—because of course. A few swirls of this and a pat of that, and even I wouldn’t have known it was there.
Both women asked me about my new book.
The coffee started kicking in.
Natural sunlight poured through a large bank of windows, and the lighting kit filled the shadows under my eyes.
A few hours later, session over, I lounged on a velvet couch, waiting to view the digital proofs. Maybe this wouldn’t be a disaster after all. Leaned back, casual and relaxed, I flicked my camera into selfie mode and snapped a second pic for the girls.
It’s hard to believe the two pictures were taken on the same day.
But they were.
And there’s a lesson here.
Later, I jokingly referred to the before pic as “the first draft of my face.”
The more I think about it, the more significant this description seems.
Before and after photos can be dramatic—as dramatic as the difference between first drafts and final drafts of creative work.
When it comes to our projects, writers often get behind on deadlines, amping up our stress and causing us to panic in ways that don’t make a lot of sense to those outside the writing community.
We do the best we can to put our best face forward, but it doesn’t feel like enough.
Still, the alternative is doing nothing. And that seems worse.
Expecting the worst but hoping for the best, we show up with the equivalent of clean hair and a bare face. Acutely aware of our own drawbacks, we decide there’s no hope unless we are willing to surrender to the process.
Just as it took a team of professionals to help me land a good headshot, so it takes a team of professionals to land a good book: co-writers, beta readers, content editors, copyeditors, proofreaders, cover designers, formatters.
Thank God we’re not judged on the basis of our first drafts alone.
And thank God we have help to get from where we are to where we need to go.
Have you had a chance yet to pick up my most recent release, Socially Awkward: Pressing Through Discomfort to Engage Tough Topics? If not, you can take this chance to order in hardback, paperback, or e-book.
If you have read it, thank you so much! Would you spare a few minutes to post an honest review? Even just a few sentences and stars can go a long way toward helping other readers determine whether this book is right for them.