Leaving the Comfort Zone

In observance of the Word of the Week (observe), I'd like to share some observations from my author photo re-shoot last week.  I originally had pictures done back around May.  Observe:

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There wasn't really anything wrong with them except everyone I know kept saying they didn't look like me.  Which was weird since they were taken where I should have been most me - at my house, in my clothes.  Of course, the hideous haircut didn't help. 

After months of hemming and hawing, I decided to have them taken again.  I hated spending money for the same thing twice, but hated the idea of hating the picture on my book even more.  And I'm so glad I did, because I love how the new ones came out:

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To me, these look much more natural and relaxed and, although irl my hair never looks this good and there'd be coffee on that dress five minutes after I put it on, they look much more like me.  Even though I'm at the photographer's house.  Even though I'm in her dress (she took one look at my T-shirts and the shapeless linen shift I'd brought and dove into her own closet). 

My biggest observation about having my pictures done is that sometimes getting out of the places and things that you're most comfortable with brings out your best.   Maybe I was more self-conscious about being photographed in my own yard, with my kids around.   Probably my comfort-heavy wardrobe could use some rethinking.  I don't own dresses like this - I'm more of a less-skin-showing kind of gal - but it was very pretty and feminine and it worked.

I would be totally remiss, of course, if I didn't point out that Cathrine White, who did the new pictures, is amazing.  Her work always looks great.  It's a special skill to be able to assess someone you don't know (me) and figure out how to capture her best self. 

And that made me think of my editor - of all skilled editors - who are able to do the same thing with a manuscript: find the places where it's not its best self and push the author out of her comfort zone, to add and tweak and delete to make it shine.  My editor, Caroline, kept pushing me to streamline my prose in THE MARK and add more scenes at school and with friends.  I wasn't that comfortable with it because the former wasn't my natural style and the latter didn't seem that relevant to the story.  But she was totally right on both counts. 

I'm so glad I listened to her and also SO glad I don't have to look at my fake-smile, horrible-bangs, Dirty Harry pictures anymore.