Super Easy Ways Your Camera Can Make You a Better Writer

Continuing the theme of writing away from our desks, I wanted to bring up a tool you might not associate with writing: your camera. I don’t mean some super-expensive, high-tech device, like the Lytro ILLUM lightfield camera  (drool…); I mean the camera already built into your smart phone–the one that’s probably within arm’s reach at this very moment.

Writing someplace new- (1)


Using your camera is a no-brainer if you write nonfiction, especially if you want to break into a market like Highlights for Children, which prefers authors to provide photos. But even if you don’t plan to sell any of your images–even if you’re writing fiction–your camera is an awesome tool. You can use photos to help

  • Create detailed, believable settings for fiction writing
  • Document information for a nonfiction project
  • Collect visual inspiration for art and poetry
  • Inspire characters by capturing details about real people–expressions, fashions, hair styles, tattoos, body language
  • Spark ideas about place, weather, terrain, or architecture

Photos can help you recall the inspiration
sparked by writing in a new location.


Read on to learn how your camera can help you up your writing game!

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Reasons to Love Writing…

One of my goals this year (first mentioned here) is to keep my eyes open for what’s going right in my writing life. It can be so easy to focus on everything else, don’t you think? On rejections, failed queries, long hours, or negative feedback…and yet, when we start looking for it, there are so many things to celebrate in the writing world as well.

I have an ulterior motive in all this: to increase my “positivity,” as defined by Barbara Fredrickson in her book of the same name. (Take the positivity quiz here.) Positivity is like a many-fingered vine, its tendrils twisting through our mood, productivity, family harmony, stress responses, creativity, and more.

So…what right in my writing world this week? I’m still glowing from that Florida trip—two weeks ago now!—and the research I was able to do there. In addition to crab observation, I also spent a day in Crystal River, Florida, where I helped with USGS’s Manatee Health Assessment—capturing, weighing, measuring the manatees that frequent the warm waters of Crystal River every winter. I got to help haul a 1946 pound female, help spot animals from a bridge, add my weight to help subdue a struggling animal before it could injure itself or someone else with its powerful tail.

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I got to touch manatee skin, which is rough in some spots and slick with algae in others.


I got to talk to all manner of researchers, wildlife rescue workers, animal trainers, and more, who had traveled to Crystal River to help with the manatee captures and health assessment.


In other words—it was a magical day, the sort of immersive research that I love. And what could be better than studying manatees?

What’s right in your writing life this week? Please share in the comments!

Reasons to Love Writing…

Reason #1: Writing is awesome!!!

Reason #2 (this week’s SPECIFIC reason): Last week, I was in Florida for research on two separate projects. Yes, this counts as work.

I spent one day at the Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce talking with scientists, looking at photographs, and touring one of their research sites.

Marsh OrgansLizard Dude on Mangrove

I spent two hours the next day sitting VEEERY still among the mangroves in order to observe crab behavior…

Aratus pisoni

…and I spent another three hours at the fantastic Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce Ecosystem Exhibit observing captive fiddler crabs and talking to their wonderful staff.

If you love to learn new things, if you love to meet amazingly cool people and learn amazingly cool things, writing lets you dip your toes into a thousand different fields. I feel incredibly fortunate to be in a position to talk to scientists who know the ins and outs of various topics and ecosystems, and then to translate what I learn for young audiences. Of course, I’m talking about nonfiction writing, but the same goes for fiction. Where does your story take place? What sort of characters does it involve? Your role as a writer gives you the opportunity to slip into someone else’s shoes for a bit.

It’s an incredible amount of fun…and rewarding as anything I’ve ever done in my life.

What about you? What makes you delighted with YOUR writing life these days?