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  • Kacen Callender

WIP: Writer's Purpose

This is a little more of a reflective post, coming on a wonderfully gray, misty Monday afternoon.

I believe that there are so many storytellers and writers in the world because lives mirror stories: there are lessons we have to learn, different storylines in our own lifetimes that will help us grow, just as our characters must. One of the biggest lessons for writers, myself included, is learning the purpose of our writing. Why are we writing? Is it for the fame, the awards, the money—or is it for the impact, helping others to heal and grow, helping others to feel seen and heard?

I’m always honored and grateful for awards, and to see my books featured on best of lists, because this ultimately helps with the book’s exposure, and helps more people learn, grow, and feel validated. But, like any writer (and human being), I’m also plagued by ego, and it can be difficult to balance gratitude and remembering my purpose. The awards, the best of lists, the reviews—even with gratitude in hand, these can at times distract me and make me forget that the lists and reviews and awards aren’t the reasons I’m writing, that I’m first and foremost writing to impact readers. Sometimes, I wish it were as easy as escaping off into the woods to write in complete solitude without a care or worry for how my stories are being accepted or are not being accepted; but for now, I’m in this world, being tagged in reviews and receiving wonderful news and accolades, as well as not-so-wonderful news or poor reviews. I can’t run away from this lesson, and the ego’s a little hard to ignore.

But I can also be grateful for the ego, in helping me learn a lesson and grow a little closer to being an author that better remembers my purpose in my writing, the impact I hope to have on readers. Lessons in life, just like in story, can often come as conflicts. My most recent conflict: the internal struggle over celebrating the love that King and the Dragonflies is receiving, while being disappointed to see that Felix Ever After isn’t receiving the same amount of celebration.

It’s really unique to be placed in a position like this, to be able to learn such a specific lesson: on the one hand, I’m receiving the love of awards, best of lists, etc.; on the other, I’m feeling the disappointment so many authors feel every year as we remind ourselves that, even if our book did not receive the award or celebration we hoped it would, it did impact a reader, and this impact is our purpose.

And it’s amazing, because I really am witnessing this fact so completely: out of all of my books, Felix has inspired the most amount of readers to send heartfelt messages about how they have learned more about their gender identity, realized that they are a demiboy or demigirl, learned that they are nonbinary because of specific thoughts and feelings Felix had; to say how grateful they are to feel so seen and heard for the first time in their lives, to share how they better understand their loved ones. I hope that all of my books impact readers to this same level. With every beautiful message I receive, I remember that this is why I’m writing.

The lesson? I’m still trying to sit with it, to let it sink in, to smile at the ego for being so distracted that I forgot, for even a moment, to be grateful that a story has reached others in exactly the way I hoped it would. That had been my dream with Felix Ever After: that Felix would help even just one person better understand their gender identity, in the way that another story helped me. My dream has come true a hundred times over. I needed to learn with this lesson that the awards and best of lists were never the reason, the purpose, in my writing.

In the end, I guess I’m really just saying the same thing so many of us say at the end of each year: it’s okay to be disappointed if your book hasn’t been nominated for an award, or if it didn’t end up on a best of list; but it’s also important to remember that it really is always about the impact that our stories will have on the reader, who will forever cherish the words that have touched their life in ways you might not even know. This lesson, to remember my purpose as a writer, is one I accept with so much love and gratitude, especially as it will ultimately help me grow into a better writer, too—help me to stop thinking about what the reviews might say, whether my books will win an award or not; to remember the child or teen (or adult) that will pick up the book, read its words, and potentially be forever changed.

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