Writing for No One by Julie Falatko
Recently Colby Sharp and I got talking about picture books, and picture book writing, and how there’s always going to be someone who doesn’t like your book. And Colby said:
Yeah. Of course. The kids. But I couldn’t deny the panicky feeling welling up in my chest.
And then New York Times bestselling picture book author Drew Daywalt chimed in:
Right. Crud. What moves and entertains the kids.
The panic turned to hyperventilating. Because here’s the truth.
I don’t write for those kids.
Then Colby also said:
Such a beautiful image to a writer. The thought of children curled up with a book – my book!
Deep breath. I don’t write for those kids either.
Ok, I will admit that, now that I have a book deal, I will sometimes be in a gathering of children – at the playground, say, or at swim lessons – and I will close my eyes and send brain messages to all of them. “You are reeeeaaaaderssss. You will loooooovve my boooook.” So I hope all those kids, the ones in libraries and at bedtime, read my story and love it.
But I didn’t write it for them.
I happen to have four children of my own, all young enough to still be picture book readers (although, of course, I still consider myself young enough to be a picture book reader). As luck would have it, each of my children has a different kind of favorite book, so I can theoretically read my stories to them, and if they like them, then I could extrapolate outward, and assume that other children in the general populace, those like Child A, B, C, and D, will also like my stories. (Do note that my children have actual names, and I only refer to them as Child A, B, C, and D when I am using them in mathematical equations.)
Except (deep breath) I don’t write for my own children either.
Alright, here it is, for real, the truth: I only write for me.
That feels good to get that out.
Sounds selfish, doesn’t it?
But the truth is that I get these stories, the gift of these stories in my own head, and I write them down to amuse myself. I write the stories that I like, that I would want to read.
Do I want other people to like them? You bet. A LOT. More than you know.
But that comes after.
First I write for me. And I’m hoping that, the same way I can extrapolate outward from my children, I can extrapolate from my own head too. I know there are other people who like the kinds of stories I do, and I’m really hoping they like them when I’m the one writing them.
I mostly only know how to write by how I do it. But I have trouble imagining how to write for other people, with an audience in mind. I’m curious, writers, is that what you do? (And I’m worried that you do, and I’m going to seem even more egotistical and selfish.)
Julie Falatko writes from her home in Maine, where she sometimes reads her stories to her family members. Her first picture book SNAPPSY THE ALLIGATOR (DID NOT ASK TO BE IN THIS BOOK) will be published by Viking in the summer of 2015. She’s on Twitter as @JulieFalatko, blogs at http://worldofjulie.com, and is the picture book reviewer for the Brain Burps About Books podcast.