Accidental Spellcasting

The kind of creative magic that I’ve been talking about comes very naturally to kids. Because another word for creativity is just this: playing.

Put two kids in a room together, they will start pretending. Have you ever listened to a four-year-old playing with trucks? (I am doing this every morning and night so it’s fresh on my mind). You’ll hear them repeat and reuse and recycle everything that’s been happening in their lives — they use that play time to work out conflicts, figure out what they don’t understand, be the bad guy, be the good guy.

Think back to how you played as a child. Can you remember doing this?

One of the big questions I ask every day is: why do we stop doing that? Why are we in a rush to grow out of it and give it up? What happens when we make space for it as adults? For working things out, actively and creatively?

It’s the reason I put together the Creative Magic Workout: When we practice, when we pretend, when we play, we embody an alternate reality. And just like that, we’ve cast an accidental spell.

It’s easy to see accidental spells in retrospect – not always as easy to see them as they’re happening.

For instance: I cast an accidental spell eight years ago.

I wrote a post on my old blog in November 2009 (which I am not going to link to because I am not quite ready to give attention to the parts of it I’m embarrassed about).

Here is what I wrote — I was speculating about an imaginary world in which I might have a business:

My business isn’t really a business. It’s a weird combination of artist haven / social service agency. It looks like a kindergarten classroom, if kindergarteners had an amp/mic/delay pedal station. And a waterless shower where they get to sing their favorite songs and shout imagined rants / visionary speeches.

I am selling dreams and rainbows and story time and a place to talk about your fears and practice becoming the badass you already are but don’t know it.

Yeah. Um… is that something I can sell? What would make me qualified to provide that? Can I just say I want to do that, and it’s cool? Will anyone buy it? Am I wacky enough to pull something like that off?

I would love to get to where I can embrace my own wacky, woo woo, stumbling dreams. That is what I want: to believe in myself enough to go there, to lead people in wacky, crazy workshops where they spend half the time thinking it’s total bullshit and then have a breakthrough. To have a space where I can work on my stuff and other people can too. Where they can show up and I’ll make them a cup of tea and we’ll sit on a big old rug in the middle of the room and I’ll pull out a book and read from it and we’ll put some music on and dance out the stress.

Holy shit y’all. Eight years ago all I could do was articulate how much I wished I had the guts to do this totally impossible thing, and now I AM DOING EXACTLY THAT IMPOSSIBLE THING. Like that is for real what I am pursuing, with zero irony.

That, my friends, is an accidental spell.

I was casting a spell without realizing it – planting seeds deep in my unconscious mind for the kind of space I wanted to create, the kind of work I wanted to do, the kind of world I wanted to live in.

I cast it, and then forgot about it. And then life or my inner voice or my unconscious mind started moving towards that vision like a magnet. And now, eight years later, through rain and shine, through trolls and money mud traps and confidence-scorching dragons, through child-birthing and job-juggling and mom-guilting and the neverending tetris of childcare: here I am, doing this thing that I feel like I’ve stumbled into, and yet eight years ago described with perfect clarity.

That’s my exercise for you today: write / draw / speak out loud the biggest, goofiest, boldest, most ridiculous version of your impossible dream. Spend two minutes imagining it and seeing yourself in it.

Then put it aside and don’t give it another thought. Do NOT try and pursue it for real.

(This part is key, I think – it’s got something to do with how resistant my four-year-old is to doing anything I tell him he has to do, and how motivated he is to do something I tell him not to do.)

So whatever you do, do NOT start taking steps towards making your dream a reality. Just let it sit there, okay?


Using magical intervention to do your taxes

Lately I’ve been thinking about how to bring magical attention to the most mundane, minuscule, everyday activities.

Some things stubbornly resist magical intervention (though I’ll keep trying to figure out how to apply magic to clearing out my email inbox, wiping my kid’s poopy butt and doing my taxes).

But you’d be surprised at how many mundane things open like a flower when you slow down and look at them with magic in your eyes.

For instance, I decided last week to approach my kid’s toys with a magical eye, and try to Marie Kondo them, which I thought would be impossible. Hold each of the 1000 tiny cars and bits of playdoh in my hand and decide which of them bring joy?! But my four year old was totally down. I asked him, “Does this spark joy?” and he said, “What’s joy?” and we went from there.

What is the most mundane thing that you could approach with an eye towards creative magic? 

Maybe this sounds like a glib question but I’m for real! Can you do your taxes with magical intent? Let’s do some brainstorming about how that might work. We can use one of my favorite tools: the stupid solutions brainstorm. It is what it sounds like: we brainstorm as many stupid ideas as we can, and we relish in the stupidity, we embrace it. The stupider, the better. I’ve done it on all kinds of things (including truly impossible problems like gun violence but that is a topic for another day) so let’s try it on this:


+ Fill out tax forms with a feather quill and ink
+ Fill them out with invisible ink, mail them in to the IRS with a matchbook and instruct them to hold the forms over a lighted candle for the writing to appear
+ Use numerology to determine the magical significance of your gross income
+ Do your taxes in a wizard hat
+ Do them by the light of the full moon
+ …and naked
+ Get your 1099 in a foreign language and try to fill it out
+ Fill it out with your left hand

I’d love to hear your ideas, for magical taxes or anything that seems impossible to enjoy.

What to do with this sadness

It’s been a hard week, and like many of you, I’m struggling with what I see in the world around me. I wrote out some thoughts the other day and was able to pull myself out from the cloud of hopelessness — I share it in case it helps you too.

Last night I opened my eyes
I had fallen asleep holding my sweet baby boy
He kept sleeping while I reached for my phone
and let the information in

Cholera in Puerto Rico
Another shooting
Every day a fresh horror

What to do with this sadness rolling over me like a storm

And then I thought: this is not my sadness
I am not directly experiencing these losses today
Someday I might but today I am not

Those who are do not need my sadness
They need my help
They need me to hold theirs

So why don’t I put aside my imagined sadnesses
and get to work

Maybe it feels like running away – to escape into dreams
but in order to make a new world
We have to dream it first

It’s a radical act, dreaming
And to speak the dream out loud can be downright dangerous
So we must band together
For protection
For strength
For encouragement

And when we come together
In vulnerability and anticipation
Our new world is born