Portrait Writing

“It is in the moments of emotional crisis that human beings reveal themselves most accurately. … The heightened moments … are the moments of revelation. It is the moment when the real self rises to the surface, shatters its false roles, erupts and assumes reality and identity. The fiery moments of passionate experience are the moments of wholeness and totality of the personality.” - Anais Nin

Anais Nin, a writer, essayist, and diarist pointed out that moments of tumult are when we learn the most about ourselves. Indeed. And often the tumult, while internal, has to do with our relationships with others. Our relationships with others are tricky. We see ourselves reflected in others. Even when it is about them or we think it is about them, it is also about us. Portrait writing allows us to really analyze our interconnections with others.

Writing a Portrait


When we write a portrait, we write a description or observation of another person. Be as descriptive as possible. Think about, not only this person's physical appearance, but also about aspects of his or her personality. You don't have to write about everything. Write about what matters to you right now. This is a creative process and there is no right or wrong way to go about doing it. In fact, you can write multiple portraits about a single individual, and each time you write one, it will be different. Our ideas about things evolve and change more drastically than we realize. An experience that you have three weeks from now will impact the way you see or remember events and/or people in your lives, past and present. 

Place yourself in the portrait. Without acknowledge your relationship with this person, your interconnectivity, you'll be less honest about them, about yourself, and about the relationship. You have to remember that your analysis of a person is always your analysis, your interpretation. It is not who this person truly is, but who you perceive this person to be. Chew on that. Think about it.