The Magic of Words





Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion,

Our most inexhaustible source of magic.

Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.

                                        Albus Dumbledore (J. K. Rowling)


Health warning

Magic is not a substitute for rational living. It won’t actually change the color of traffic lights. It won’t change salt to sugar in your tea. Magic won’t make you able to run a marathon. Training will be the magic that does that.

It won’t fix a flat tire. It might feel like magic if the driver of the vehicle that stops to help is a mechanic who just happens to have a jack and a spare tire.

What is Magic?

Magic is not just what the authors of Harry Potter, Star Wars, the Narnia Series or the Hobbit can do. They can turn gravel to gold with words.

Our own imaginations are amazing. We can all create superheroes, whimsical characters and unlikely outcomes, not only in fiction, but also in reality.

We can transport ourselves from a state of anger to hearty laughter; from a funk to an inspiration; from a setback to leap of faith; from a boring task to a fun activity; from resentful victim to forgiving saint.

How do we know when it’s magic?

We know it’s magic by the feeling we have. The feeling is a surprisingly fresh unanticipated positive response. The outcome delights us. The reaction is a smile.

Magic is often initiated by pretending that you have already achieved your happy ending. Sometime between childhood and adulthood, we stop enjoying our pretending. We dampen our response to magic.

It seems when reason invades, imagination fades. We begin to focus on problems rather than possibilities.

When was the last time that you had that magical feeling that something was amazing? That something was unexplainable. That sense of awe that you may have described as astonishing, mind-blowing, mystifying, baffling or just sheer magic? When did you last open your heart to possibility, to the idea that seemingly impossible things sometimes change?

A magician amazes us with the unexpected. When the unexpected is unexplainable, we feel that magic moment. With amazement comes fun, a smile and often gratitude.

Where has magic happened for you?

            In music

For some, music is magic. Often lyrics are not even required.

Psychology Today featured an article, The Magic of Music: Music as therapy. The article lists 16 uplifting songs.

            In art

For some people, art lifts them to another realm. They feel what the artist felt; see what the artist saw; perhaps even hear what the artist might have heard. There are no words for being touched by the reality or beauty of a piece of art. Time and space are transcended.

            In nature

For others, nature is the enchanting sorcerer. Nature itself has limitless examples of how plants and animals magically adapt to changing environments.

Nora Roberts writes “Magic exists. Who can doubt, when there are rainbows and wildflowers, the music of the wind and the silence of the stars?”

To use the words of magic, we become spell bound by the beauty of nature.

            In treasured relationships

Nora Roberts, author of 225 romance novels, asserts that anyone who has loved has been touched by magic. It might be romance but it also might be the giggle of your first granddaughter. It might be a phone call from an old friend the very same hour you were thinking of him. It might be seeing the toddler you raised receive his wings on the tarmac of the air field.

            In the digital world

Arthur Clarke writes, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”.

For those of us that predate the computer era, the digital world feels like magic. Ordering groceries, taking a watercolor course, visiting with friends in Sweden, all without even leaving home, is commonplace in this day and age. Now if that isn’t magic, what is?

Flip a switch and lights go on. Change the channel that you are watching without leaving your chair. Start your car on a cold day without going outside. A voice named Siri tells you where to turn on your way to a new destination.

            In reading or writing

Words are magical in that they affect our hearts and minds. Words can inspire us to pretend a pleasant experience. They can engender compassion. They can move us to action. They can make our heart smile.

Do you have a favorite novelist, poet, story writer, or documentary journalist whose writing you love to read?

What do you read that feels like magic? That has led you to  see the world differently? What book has taken you to adventure or enchanted lands? How are you different when you read what you love to read? Theodora Goss says that a writer is very much like a wizard making magic with words, sometimes changing the world for the better.

Therapeutic writing is writing that changes our inner world, invites us to imagine creative solutions, consoles our despair, and heals our wounds.

When we write about what we love, we feel better. That is magic.

Researchers initially thought that in order for writing to be therapeutic, it had to address trauma. We know now that isn’t the case. Writing about positive outcomes is known to lift us up.

To use the words of Anias Nin, we write “to taste life twice”. She adds, “When I don’t write, I feel that my world is shrinking. I feel like I am in prison. I feel I lose my fire and my color. Writing should be a necessity. As the sea needs to heave, I liken writing to breathing.”

How does magic happen?

Magic often happens in a moment. A moment when we realize stressors are normal. When we define obstacles as opportunities. When we use words that inject fun into overly serious situations. When we notice and name the joys found in everyday experiences.

We don’t need a slight of hand or blink of an eye. We just need words – words we tell ourselves, words we say to others, and words we write.

The work of magic

Sometimes magic takes time. Lee Crockerell, a retired Executive Vice President of Walt Disney World for over a decade writes in his book Creating Magic, “It’s not the magic that makes it work; it’s the way we work that makes it magic.”

The words we use to define our lives create the lives we live. Redefining our experience with constructive language positions us to live our lives differently.

Our pen can be our magical wand

The “work” we need to do with is to notice the language we are using to describe our problems, our strengths, our delights and our discouragements. With that awareness, ask the question, “What words can I use that would help me to see this or that differently?”

How to tune into the magic channel

Creating magic can be fun. Play with ideas and words.

  • If by magic, tomorrow is a surprisingly good day, what would I have done differently?
  • When I tell this same story a year from now, how could I tell it with some humor?
  • Is there one word I need to hear right now? What would that word be?
  • Practice exchanging neutral or negative words with words that are positive, energizing, or humorouss. Instead of problem solving, try possibility generating. Instead of lazy, try motivationally challenged. Instead of mountain, try overgrown molehill.

Remember that our life can be changed in a sentence.

The words “tell me more” may change, not only your life, but someone else’s.


We tend to think of magic as moments in time and as individual occurrences. Can magic happen for groups of people on an enduring basis? Lee Cockerell believes it can. In his book Creating Magic,  he reflects on the success of Disney World. He describes how the core values of honesty, integrity, respect, courage, balance and diversity contribute to magic in our lives and in the lives of others.


People often ask, “Do I need to write about problems or trauma to receive the benefits of journaling?”

A recent study using Web based Positive Affective Journalling, an adaptation of the original expressive writing protocol, would suggest not.

Positive Affective Journalling was found to be effective in reducing some aspects of mental distress and improving aspects of well-being among medical patients experiencing anxiety.

Strategy of the Month: Magic coupons  

Imagine that in today’s mail, there was a curious envelope. Perhaps it is an unusual shape or colour. It has no postmark. In it is a dated coupon for each of the next 21 days. Each coupon bestows you with the ability to see magic during that day. You cannot accumulate the coupons. Each coupon is only good for that day -so no storing them up. Each day you can activate the next coupon by writing, if only briefly, about the magic you experienced.

There is magic in every one of our days. Take time to recognize it and document it.

Photo prompt of the month:



Pretend that the mother-ship in the photo above is landing in your back yard to deliver magic to your life. Pretend that you engage the friendly visitors and then write about the encounter and the plentiful positive outcomes.








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