The Truth About Writing Magic

Seems to me the best reason to write is because we want to create something no one else has read, seen, or heard before. Essentially making the unreal real. Writing magic.

But writers often fumble and stumble along the way, and soon, that desire to create writing magic fades like a broken spell.

Suddenly, writing becomes work, not the magic they were expecting, and writers drop off, one by one.

Doesn’t matter if the writer is penning fiction, a memoir, or blogging. Far too often the “job” and “weak plots” and “boring characters” and SEO and “no time to write” conspire against writers. They expect the writing magic to have happened much sooner, or even, to spark differently, with huge sales, raving fans, a plethora of awards and great reviews.

The writing magic actually already happened, but many writers miss it.

Writing is a risky endeavor because writers bare their souls to the world. Not everyone in the audience will like what they read. They might turn away in disgust or derision, and the writer will be shamed. Some writers quit at that point; others trudge onward. Why is that? What makes one writer throw his tools into the deep beyond, forever lost, while another goes on to create writing magic?

I have three reasons why some writers miss writing magic.

♦ They didn’t identify themselves as writers

♦ They didn’t state their core purpose for writing

♦ They didn’t prepare themselves for the fact that anything magical is hard work

I’m guessing this all happens because often, the urge to craft story tends to come out of thin air and smacks us directly in the head, making us see stars. Hard to be logical and purposeful when we’re woozy from the story ideas pummeling us, right?

Funny thing is that the moment we are wooed by a story idea is the first flicker of writing magic. It is a brief encounter, full of wonder and daring, but there is no doubt in my mind that magic ignites when a writer is hit by a spark of inspiration.

How I Found Writing Magic

As a kid, I was pretty content with the way the world was until one day I learned that sometimes the truth is in disguise, misused, and nothing would be the way I wanted it again.  That was probably around the time I lost my innocence, my faith, my belief that goodness would always prevail. To turn the world right-side-up, I’d have to change events, change people, change outcomes. That would have been impossible.

So I wrote it instead.

I want to believe in something extraordinary, fantastical, provocative. I love how my muse lures me in with the threads of a story. So easy and stress-free to tuck in with my imagination on full setting, dreaming, fantasizing. Yet unfulfilling. Boring. The spell might be cast within my imagination, but writing magic burns steadily when we turn ideas into stories.

When I write, that’s my opportunity to speak up, answer impossible questions, change truth, evoke hope. Without story, without the opportunity to believe in something, we are left with only one chance. A sort of Russian roulette, where no one contemplates consequences, choices, or difference-making.

My ideas, dreams, wishes, insteads, and what ifs are lyrical on paper, rush through my core, give me something to believe in.

Writing magic is not found in the outcome; it is found in the process.


Do you feel like you missed out on writing magic? Read this post by Kate Johnston | Author & Story Coach to learn how to ignite writing magic in your life so you can feel fulfilled and inspired on your writing journey.

How to Ignite Your Writing Magic

Look at a page of some of your favorite writing. I mean, really look—and picture yourself as you were when you first wrote those words. Sit with that image for a few minutes.

♦ What meaning did they hold for you as you wrote them?

♦ Has that meaning changed over time?

♦ Were you immersed in that particular spot in your story, or were you distracted?

♦ How did you conjure those words?

♦ How did you feel when you committed them to paper? Did you throw them together because you were tired or feeling blocked, or did you carefully cultivate them?

Now, go back in time, to the moment that idea first came to you in all its brilliance and potential.

♦ Do you remember what you felt?

♦ Were you open to the idea and did you act on it right away?

♦ Did you feel nervous and not quite worthy of the task it posed?

♦ Were you excited but knew you needed to level up your ability to handle the idea? (For example, did you think you could take it on once you conducted some research, built stronger writing skills, or finished a work-in-progress?)

Writing magic was active at the point when the idea came to you and you responded. Even if you turned the idea down (no matter the reason), you were straddling the realms of reality and fantasy. You simply have to be open to the world of ideas and be in touch with all your life forces to make the most of the idea. To see if you and the idea are a smart match.

When I’m feeling a little disillusioned with my writing journey, I read favorite passages I wrote months or years ago and allow them to hurl me back in time, to the exact moment I put them down on paper. Often, I can remember what inspired a subplot to rise up, or what was going on in my life where I needed to write it out and it became a character’s personal mission.

Most importantly, I focus on how I felt when I came up with those ideas. Joyful. Surprised. Spellbound. Energized. Motivated.

Heck, I felt like a real writer. And I feel like a real writer again when I perform this exercise.

If you want to bring more ideas into your life, or feel inspired on a regular basis, keep yourself open to the writing magic around you. Because it is all around you. The world is full of ideas. Some may not be appropriate for you, or they may come at an inopportune moment, but they come knocking on the door of your imagination, all the time.

All you need to do is say, Welcome, writing magic, let’s see what we can do together.

Have you missed out on writing magic in your life? Try my suggestion above and let me know how it goes!

Have a Writerly Day!

36 thoughts on “The Truth About Writing Magic”

  1. I love that idea of going back and thinking of about yourself when you first wrote a piece. Sometimes I can immediately connect with that past self and other times I think “wow, I wrote that?”

  2. I have gone back and done this, and only a few of my works hold up under the scrutiny of the years. It’s the quality of the writing that makes me cringe, not the emotion. It does bring back memories, but I would never share the words because I don’t think they’re good enough. I guess it’s got to be enough for me to read them. I have shredded most. So few make the cut. But yes, I believed when I wrote those words. Maybe I leave a paper trail in disappearing ink. I love this post!

    • I know, Jilanne. There are many, many pieces I wrote that I don’t dare look at again because I know, deep down, they just aren’t very good. And I think it’s funny how, back then, I thought that (what I know now is terrible) stuff was great! What a crash back down to earth!! lol

  3. I love that feeling of pleasant surprise when you’re wowed by something you’ve written. And sometimes stories take so long to write that they’re about our life as well as the story, definitely.

  4. It’s always strange for me to go back and read my work that’s already published. I worry I’ll critique it too much, and it’s too late to do anything about it. After reading this though, I’ll have to approach it with a different mindset. I’ll look for the magic and cut myself some slack. 😊

    • Hey Carrie,

      I used to be like that too. And I did critique it too much, which resulted in me tossing much of my work away. I regret that to this day. But I think I had to go through that process in order to get to a place of acceptance, and even, wonder.

  5. I absolutely love the magic of writing. And yes, I’ve returned to stories I wrote years ago, read them now and think, “Wow, I wrote that? It’s really good!” 🙂 I agree, there’s little feedback/remuneration in writing. We continue anyway because of the magic, the zing, we get as we release out words out into the universe. <3

  6. I loved this Kate! So true, anytime I look back on things I’ve written in the past in a notebook, I’m transported back to that moment, and sometimes I smile and say, “Did I really write that?” Writing is life for so many of us. <3

  7. Hi Kate,

    Much like you have wrote, my characters, all of them (good, evil, silly, dumb) are all in someway an aspect of myself. When I get to times where they clash in the story it is very hard for me to go to that final moment where a character might die. It feels like killing something, an essence in a way, of ourselves.

    I think that writing is magic – it is also the only way I can let others into my head.

    /thumbs up

    • The Dark Moment in storytelling is hard for a lot of writers to commit to. I know that in my rookie years, I always chickened out and didn’t make my characters suffer as much as I should have. But as I learned and grew, I realized I wasn’t holding up my end of the bargain very well, as far as telling the best story I could.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

  8. I love this. Probably the best part of writing is the magic that’s found there. That magic is everywhere and sometimes I think all we’re doing is siphoning it and hopefully somehow capturing it on a page. I’m glad you’ve been enjoying all the magic of fall too!

    • I’m a big believer in magic being a natural part of the universe. We all, writers and normal people, have access to it, we just have to learn how to discover it. That takes a lot of openness and honesty and courage. The magic of fall always gets me. Today was interesting though–so windy and rainy they cancelled school!

  9. I do that when I read. I can put down a book, sometimes for years, and when I come back, I can usually remember what I was doing when I last was reading that book. I have always marveled at it.
    When I write, it’s different. I pour through the writing and it flows, then, when I go back and read it, though I remember doing so, I usually can’t see how I wrote something like that. Poetry is the worst. I write a poem, almost always in one sitting (short, too). When I finished I know it was the muse because I can’t just come up with something like that unless I am in that special “mood”.
    I understand. It does feel good. I suppose others quit because they don’t have anything else to say.

    • Oh yes, reading a book affects me the same way. Certain scenes especially come back to me and I can remember what I was doing when I read that scene.

      I love the unstoppable flow of writing, or the organic writing, which is so pure and genuine. The rich matter that is yet to be touched by a fellow writer, editor, agent, publisher, or reviewer!

    • Welcome! So glad you stumbled onto my stomping grounds. 🙂 Pretty soon this blog will be moving to another URL, so I hope you’ll continue to follow me! Enjoying your blogging so far?

  10. You have a gift with words. I mean this sincerely. You made me dig up some older writings of mine just to find where I was when I wrote them. Great exercise – I’ll be back!

    • Tim, your comment means the world to me. Thank you so much. I’m tickled that you looked up some older writings–I’m also pleased because that means you didn’t throw them away! Too often we are struck with a recollection of something we wrote a long time ago, and then when we try a search, we realize we’d trashed it. I’ve done that more than once. What a depressing feeling. Now, if there’s something I can’t work on anymore, I just put the project aside in a box instead of in the wastebasket. At least that way I can refer to it when the mood strikes.

      So glad to have you stop by. Have a writerly day!

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