Last winter, my dear sweet husband started trying to teach me to play the trumpet. He played in high school and college and it was and still is a big part of his identity. I had fun learning the basics, he had fun teaching me, and it made for some very nice date nights. We eventually moved on to other things.
What struck me at the time and what has stayed with me is the way in which my husband relates to music. When he listens to music, he hears it in a very different way than I do. It hits him on a different level than it does me. I enjoy music. He understands music. Hearing him talk about and play music is almost like a kind of magic. It is something beyond my understanding.
My dad is a brilliant scientist and thinker. He is creative and curious about the world in a way that defies categorization. The way my dad sees the world and understands the science behind it, and the math behind that science, is to me a kind of magic.
My mom has loved photography for most of her life. She is very modest about it, but she has an ability to see pictures that others would miss. Her understanding of light and lines, and her ability to capture them, is a kind of magic.
I didn’t feel that I had any particular magic of my own. There were things I was good at, but nothing that came so easily to me that it felt like magic. And that was that. I didn’t think much more about it for the last year or so.
Then last week, I published my piece about becoming a grown-up and had more than one person ask me how I write like that. I had no answer for them. I just write. Words come easily to me and flow easily from me. It brings me peace and calms my mind. I am able to write honestly and without second-guessing.
And it struck me that maybe I do have a magic of my own. Writing might be my magic. This is not to say that I think I am a brilliant writer or about to change the world with something I write. But the ease with which I am able to write apparently strikes others as a kind of magic, in the sense that I use the word.
I know music and math and writing and photography are all things that can be learned. Magic involves learning. The magic is in that thing that lights you up. Once you find the thing that lights you up, you need to learn and cultivate it.
Magic isn’t something you just have and that’s that. It takes work and dedication. Not just learning how to do your bit of magic, but dedication to actually doing it. Your magic doesn’t do you or the world any good if you never actually do it. If you love music and love to make music, but stop making it, then you’re neglecting your magic. I love to write. It inspires and sustains me. But only if I actually take the time to write.
In Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic,” she discusses the idea of “permission slips.” You do not need to wait for someone to give you permission to be creative, to cultivate and enjoy your magic. You do not have to wait for a life or world changing idea or project to come along. You have permission already. You do not need to wait for it. You do not need to be the greatest or most original. There is no requirement upon your creativity and magic except that you give it a means of expression. There is an exchange in a song from “Sunday in the Park with George” by Steven Sondheim that goes,
[GEORGE] I’ve nothing to say
[DOT] You have many things
[GEORGE] Well, nothing that’s not been said
[DOT] Said by you, though. George.
I love that exchange. Don’t worry so much about being the best or being original. Worry is not helpful in creativity. Your magic is yours, and yours alone. It is good enough and original enough simply because it is yours. There has never been anything quite like it and never will be again. Isn’t that amazing? Figure out what your magic is. You have one. It could be dance or fixing cars or running or doing makeup or computer programming or invention or painting or gardening. If it brings you joy and lights you up, it is your magic. You do not need to explain or justify it to anyone. Learn all you can. Cultivate and practice it. Give it room to move and be.
For me, the hard part of my magic isn’t the writing, it’s taking the breath and finding the courage to share it with the world. I’ve always written. It’s the sharing that’s new. I hope that as you discover your magic, you will also discover the courage to share it. The world could use a little more magic, I think.