Writers Club Prompt: Where’s the Magic Right Now?

Lately, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about the kind of magic that makes up our everyday lives, and not just because October is the month when I feel it is my one true calling to watch Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman wearing the hell out of floral skirt/lace top outfits, c. 1998. However, this time around, Practical Magic has offered me something other than nostalgic campy-spooky comfort blanket sensations and autumnal outfit inspo. 

So many of my days recently have bled together in a watercolor hellscape of dark news and numb alienation, and I’ve been looking for a way to feel electric. I’ve found myself trying to emulate Sandy and Nicky’s (we’re on a first name basis after this many re-watches) ability in the movie to turn the everyday things of the world into magical, improbable delights and fiascos. I wondered how much magic I would notice and feel in my day to day slog if I wasn’t so numb, cynical, or distracted. I’m not saying I thought I would find an old love potion in my pantry that I had somehow forgotten about. I’m saying that perhaps there are all kinds of mysterious whimsies and wonders that I’m missing out on because I’m not paying enough attention. 

For example, if someone asked me to describe how a microwave works without using Google, I could give a word salad answer about water molecules sped up by microwaves that generate heat because… umm energy equals velocity something, something, Einstein? But in reality, the fact that I put some frozen fish sticks in a humming box for two minutes, and they come out edible (in the loosest possible sense of the word) is a mysterious miracle. Sure, if I had paid more attention in a class I didn’t/would never take, wherein they cover microwave science, this phenomenon would perhaps lose its magical wonderment dimension. But I didn’t, and so here I am, left with an experience of everyday practical magic as I’m redefining it for our purposes this month: 

Practical magic is the process of transforming something totally mundane into something mysterious and magical by shifting our perspective and looking at our lives with curiosity about all the things we do not know or can not explain. 

I don’t mean this prompt to sound like I’m being all touchy-feely, baby’s-first-acid-trip, universal-oneness about our lives right now, I’m definitely not on that vibe (you can ask my therapist if you need to confirm that I am constantly mired in polling data and dread). But I do offer this prompt as an invitation to experience our everyday lives with an attitude of curiosity, reckless wonder, and the seriousness of a child at play. For this month’s writer’s club, we want to hear about the practical magic you encounter in your everyday life. 

You can respond to this prompt in so many different ways, such as: Is there a curse on your family that you want to get to the bottom of? Did you once see someone on a train who looked like a long-lost twin/doppelganger and do you ever think about them? Did you re-meet your childhood best friend on the subway and realize you had basically lived parallel lives? Were you born with memories from inside the womb, and if so, how do you make sense of them? Have you ever shared a dream with another person or dreamed something that became reality? 

I want to hear about the fat raven that sits on the telephone wire across the street from your house and how you have started to wonder if he recognizes you and is trying to communicate. I want to read about how you’ve manifested love or transformed grief or re-created your late nana’s recipe for black-eyed peas just from the scent-memory. 

I want to hear about these inexplicable magics and I want to hear how you make sense of them now. I want you to 

Play with form! Take big risks! Tell that secret truth you never believed you could muster the stones to tell! I’ll be here, waiting to welcome you into the salt circle.

Please send your submissions (of 600 words or fewer) to [email protected] by Monday, October 12 at 9:30am EST. 

Graphic by Lorenza Centi.

Sarah Barnes

Sarah Panlibuton Barnes

Sarah Panlibuton Barnes is the internet version of your eccentric neighborhood recluse and Senior Editor at Repeller.

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