Writers are magicians.
I’m watching season three of The Magicians.
I’m glad I stayed with it.
The show has hit its stride. The writing is great. It’s sweet and dark, ultimately all about trauma. In this latest arc, conversations about meeting the shadow and coping with grief are beautifully brought home.
Quick primer if the show is new to you: The Magicians is a story about a world of hidden magic. It’s based on an urban fantasy series by Lev Grossman. The TV show is created by Sera Gamble, and there’s a secret academy and another realm and multiverses and gods and goddesses — all set in New York City (and filmed in Vancouver).
Warning: If you haven’t seen Season 3 yet, what I write next is spoiler-adjacent. I’m giving you the setup and premise for the very start of Season 3 so if you are allergic to spoilers squint your eyes and skip down past the bold line below…
At the top of season 3, *something* awful has happened.
Magic is gone.
Connection to the power source disappears. No one can work their spells.
A few episodes in, I’m watching these magical characters struggle to thrive in a world without magic, and I’m thinking:
They look a lot like writers who aren’t writing —
Or writers who are trying to write without accessing wonder.
Now, you can write an entire career without wonder.
The formulas and story structures are there. Enough to write a book without ever consulting the mystery. You can even make it a page turner.
But that’s probably not the reason you’re drawn to creative writing.
Like in the Magicians’ world without magic, the world when you aren’t writing can be a little bleak in colour. It can feel... lifeless.
And what these characters describe that I find so resonant, is the loss of an entire sixth sense.
That’s what it can feel like for a writer who’s blocked.
We can get on with it. We can get it done. But, as the characters do on The Magicians, we may find ourselves scrambling for other ways to access magic (this doesn’t go well).
Eventually we may numb out, and lose our motivation to show up.
We may question what it’s for, if it’s worth it.
In despair, we may default to judging and discarding every seed that could become a story.
We just can’t know what’s going to happen or whether it will be any good.
Whatever happens for you on any given day, know this:
The writing realm is always there.
When you feel blocked, there are ways you can check in and give yourself what you need to restore access.
You can unfasten your logical mind, your rational brain, your market analysis, your quite understandable fears.
It may take five minutes. Three days. Three months.
You can free yourself and come back to wonder again.
Photo credit: Reuben Wu