When the yellow knobs of aconite show themselves in February, they usually bring that feeling of, I’ve made it! Well, my aconite are sunny of face, the snowdrops are huddled in gossipy clumps around the garden and Sir Lawrence Olivier keeps muttering about my winter of discontent not being over yet, toots. It feels like a reality overload, to be honest. Never a good thing for a writer.
I’m quite happy that civilisation evolves but we as a race do seem to be detoxing ourselves of magic. Did you see Channel 4’s special on Richard III? Whatever the truth is, the story as presented by Channel 4 is that a woman named Philippa Langley runs an international organisation to study and promote the history of Richard III as a benevolent king. In this country, that seems a bit looney, which unfortunately is how Langley is presented. The show is moderated by a comedian and has several clips of Philippa becoming emotional when scientific information is given to her. By the end of the program, the scientists themselves aren’t making eye contact with Philippa and deliver their findings to the comedian instead.
What is said early in the program, but glossed over is that the Ricardian organisation did legitimate research to locate Richard’s grave, raised substantial money to fund the dig. Philippa stands in the parking lot and points out where she thinks the grave is, which causes titters, not least because the spot coincidentally has a large R over it. When the skeleton is subsequently uncovered there, Philippa says, without evidence, That’s him. And she’s right.
I don’t know Philippa Langley, but the therapist in me has seen too much magic in the most unexpected places, when it comes to anything human. What I am somewhat versed in is Carl Jung’s theory of personality. Most theories in the behavioural sciences get their share of the poo-poo, but Jung’s theory has an interdisciplinary acceptance in business and education as well as in psychology. A personality test based on Jung’s theories, the Myers-Briggs, is used by HR departments for screening perspective employees and team building. There’s even a TED talk on Jung’s concept of introvert/extravert in terms of learning styles.
What we don’t hear about much is Jung’s idea of the intuitive. This is someone who knows, let’s say, that an English king is buried under the parking lot over at Social Services without geophys or DNA results. A bit mad, you say? Not so, says the Myers-Briggs, but a measurable human function for processing information. Philippa Langley didn’t walk out her door and get a message from God. She did years of well grounded research and reached a conclusion using a roadmap the archaeologists don’t believe in.
Einstein said that, ‘The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.’ In my interpretation of Einstein, science is here to prove that intuition is right. The two need work together to find a king’s burial spot, to write, to make magic, to live.
As writers (or artists, actors, musicians) in a time when money is tight, culture of low status, we are asked more and more to count beans, to promote and market, to enter the world of commerce and sell our magic to the unbelieving. We are given less and less time to play, to ponder, to dance in fire pits and listen to owls. No one in the vast wasteland outside our offices, studios, attic garrets is going to give our magic a priority. We have to stake our claim, hold onto it as the life’s blood that it is.
In the frenzy which is the writer’s life, give yourself some calm. Resist interrupting your staring-in-space work with the pressures of housework. Give yourself suggestions before you go to bed to hash out that difficult scene or put some order to your blog on magic. Write a journal to the right side of your brain about what you’d like it to communicate to the left side of the brain. Face your demons and let them scare you. Remember to laugh. Congregate with other writers.
Our society needs magic. Don’t let anyone wrest it from your hands. Do your research. Hug a scientist. Balance your bank statement. Cite Carl Jung and TED talks to support your position. Then make your magic. No one else’s. Your magic. The rest of us need you.