Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Why you should always carry a camera!

That was the subject of an email sent to me recently. It had attached a series of really cute cats and dogs, doing the really cute things they do. A lot of them involved sleeping. I'm sure everyone's seen similar pictures in their mailbox at one point or other.

I'm a sucker for these shots. They never fail to put a smile on my face. I wish I could print and frame them all, but I don't have enough wall space. And I'd get too distracted when I should be writing.

But those words stuck with me. Always carry a camera. That's the same advise that one of my favourite authors, Anne Lamott gave in her address to a writer's conference several years ago, and which can be downloaded as an audiofile. It's called Word by Word and I was so impressed, I blogged about it last fall after listening to the audio.

What I didn't mention at that point but it flashed into my brain again, was Lamott suggested you should always carry a camera. Take pictures of things that inspire you. Of people's faces. Of children playing. Of architectural details. Of flowers and shrubs. Of rain showers. Of cats and dogs. These pictures are all research. You can take them out and use them as visual prompts in your writing, whether you're using them to describe a person's face at seeing a baby or the porch complete with wicker furniture and a stack of books. Or you can sit and stare at a beach sunset it that's what inspires you to dig deep for that extra emotion in your writing.

Several years ago, on my power walk back to my house early one morning, I walked alongside a small field and forest enveloped in fog. I love fog. Must be my west coast upbringing. Anyway, I sprinted home, grabbed my camera and drove back (I'd had my exercise after all) to the spot. Not much had changed and I managed to get some atmospheric photos, lying on my stomach on the dewy grass, of cattails and ornamental grasses through a foggy mist that soon became a hazy shaft of sunlight.

I had meant to try my hand at painting and those photos would take over where my memory left off. The artwork never happened. Maybe some day because I still have the photos.

I'd forgotten that. But my camera goes into my purse today & will stay there. Fortunately, it's small. Let the photos begin!

Do you find photos a tool in your writing?

Linda Wiken/Erika Chase
A Killer Read coming in April, 2012
from Berkley Prime Crime

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