Who I’m Writing For

Yesterday Chris and I went out to dinner with his family to celebrate his sister’s birthday. Half way through the meal I looked across the restaurant and saw a girl who just broke my heart.

She couldn’t have been more than 8, and a miraculous mix between what I looked like at that age, and what my littlest sister looked like a few years ago. Slightly chubby, bangs too short and sticking up, bright blond hair, round, pink cheeks, and hyperactive. When she smiled I saw my same teeth pattern. But her mother was very overweight, and I saw the same future for her. I could trace her path through middle and high school, and it wasn’t pretty. Not because being overweight (how do we define that anyway?) is necessarily bad, but because kids are cruel and loneliness is crushing.

She was the most beautiful little girl in the world to me. I wanted to talk to her so strongly I was almost crying. I wanted to tell her what it was like growing up, what she’ll have to watch out for, and that all the bullshit waiting for her didn’t mean a thing as long as she could be happy with herself.

Something was telling me I needed to talk to her. You know that feeling you get when you see someone and know that they desperately need someone to say the right thing to them? Or you just happen to be in the right place and right time to change someone’s life, and it’s like there’s a force guiding you through it? I’ve been a little off-balance lately, but as soon as I made my peace with God miraculous things started happening, and this feeling was the latest in a string of them.

I felt bad all through dinner because I didn’t have the courage to go over to that table and tell her mother that she had a beautiful daughter, who looked a lot like me when I was younger. But I finally got my chance afterwards, as both our families met in the bill paying area. I got to say hi to her, and hearing her speak was spooky, because it was the same voice I heard when I played old home videos of me.

Like most things in my life, I related this experience directly to writing, and a suspicion I’ve had for some time: I’m not writing for anyone but myself, especially past versions of me.

All of my stories are designed to entertain young!Savannah specifically. I know it’s more altruistic to say that I write for teenagers in general, or those who are misunderstood, or who escape in books, etc., but the truth is I’m just writing the books I would have loved with a burning passion if I had read them when I was younger.

If they appeal to you, too -hooray! I’m so glad we found a way to connect! But even if no one else in the world enjoyed my stories, I’d keep making them.

I guess it all goes back around to my favorite writing quote, and the one that guides me the most: “If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written, then you must write it.” -Toni Morrison.

What is your personal writing philosophy?

13 thoughts on “Who I’m Writing For

  1. journeynorth says:

    This post kind of confuses me with the “grossly overweight” thing–maybe I’m just being oversensitive to word choice, but I was feeling some fatphobic vibes there. So the woman was fat, and this was… a bad thing? I don’t quite understand; did the girl break your heart because you saw her in the future as a fat woman, or because she would go through hardship because of that? I know that fats have a lot to deal with through middle school and high school and the rest of their life–hell, all girls do, regardless of whether they’re fat or not–but I just don’t understand the message you’re trying to convey…

    • savannahjfoley says:

      I’ve never witnessed an overweight kid have an easy time of it in school, and given the weight of her mother and her current weight she was going to grow up to be overweight as well. I didn’t mean to offend anyone with the use of ‘grossly overweight’; I didn’t even mean to use the word ‘grossly’ as in ‘gross’, but rather ‘the complete whole.’ I’ll make an edit because it’s misleading. Thanks!

  2. outfortea says:

    Oh wow, what an amazing experience! I’m so happy you spoke to her! Perhaps you two are old souls, who knew each other in a past life… I’m not sure whether I believe in things like that, but I like to keep an open mind, and there has to be some kind of explanation for things like that.
    I think your writing philosophy is beautiful. It’s sort of a different way of saying you should write for yourself, do you think? There aren’t many things I know for sure, but I do know if you write for yourself, you love what you’re doing, and when you love what you’re doing, good things happen.

    Re my own writing philosophy…. I don’t know. I’m still working it out. I’m still working a lot of things out ;)

  3. irisflower81 says:

    My writing philosophy is basically the same as yours. I write the books I want to write. If other people like them, fantastic. If not, I still take pride in them. I have two books I’ve written that will never be published in their current incarnations. I knew this after book one, but the characters still had story left, so I wrote book two anyway.

    I don’t regret it for a second.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Congrats on finishing the rewrite!!! I know what you mean about NaNo novels feeling all wrong… I tried to write a novel for NaNo last year and I stopped about halfway through because something just felt off to me.

    YA books you absolutely have to read? Hmm… my #1 reccomendation would be Graceling by Kristin Cashore, a fantasy novel. (Don’t let the character names put you off… Po, the MMC, may have what seems like a terribly silly name, but he’s an amazing character, and definitely one of my favourites.)

  5. Anonymous says:

    This was EXACTLY what I needed to read today. I’ve been struggling w/ moving on from my first novel (currently querying) and fully investing myself in my WIP. And that Toni Morrison quote really hit home for me. My first book was exactly the book that I wanted to read. This one seems to be turning into what I think will sell. And it’s hard to get excited about that. I’ve gotta do some serious thinking and get back to writing what *I* want to read. Then hopefully some other people will be interested in it too. Thanks for sharing this! :)

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