Sometimes it doesn’t work, and you have to learn to be okay with that.
I’m not trying to tell you what to feel; I’m talking about my own experience as a magic practitioner. Sometimes my magic doesn’t work; sometimes it straight-up dies. And it’s taken me a long time to get to a point where I can be okay with that.
Coming to magic from not doing it, I saw it as something that would fix all my mundane problems. I saw it as, well, magic — but the Hollywood type, not what it is. Even when I swore up and down I didn’t see it as Hollywoodesque, I did. I believed it would work and do things that I could not. I believed that if it didn’t work, the fault rested squarely on my shoulders. Somehow, I’d fucked up.
The truth is sometimes you can do everything right and nothing works still. This applies to everything in life. There is no shame in failing. Failure always has a lesson — often it’s a lesson about where you screwed up. But if you didn’t screw up? Then the lesson is that even perfection in work won’t equal perfection in outcome. Life has too many variables.
The question becomes, when you accept that sometimes magic doesn’t work, how do you continue to believe in it? If belief is a solid part of magic,* how do you continue that belief when sometimes it fizzles?
*Ok, not everyone ascribes to this, and it’s not true for all schools of magic. But it’s true for some, and for enough, that I want to address it.
To address this, to find the answer, you need to look at your mundane life and the beliefs you hold about it.
Sometimes, running dishes through the dishwasher doesn’t work; they come out not clean enough. Do you stop believing in doing the dishes, or do you just run them again?
Sometimes, turning in a job application or resume doesn’t net you anything except infuriating silence. Do you stop believing in yourself as a worthy candidate, or do you keep plugging away?
Sometimes, the way you’ve found most effective to deal with people doesn’t work, and you have a severely unpleasant encounter. Do you stop believing in the efficacy of your social skills?
Of course sometimes the answer is “Ok, something here isn’t working; time to pivot.” Maybe you need to rinse the dishes first or update your resume; maybe your social skills aren’t as polished as you thought. But other times, there’s nothing to pivot. It just didn’t work.
And yes, we go through periods of disbelief when this happens often enough. I know frustration with the dishwasher has made me put off washing dishes for up to a week; I know applying for jobs is a particularly soul-sucking endeavor that makes me question my will to live. I don’t know much about effective social skills, but I do know there have been times when I know my behavior was not the issue and yet…people. They’re people.
The difference is after these small periods of disbelief, of losing faith, I get back to it. I do the dishes again; I send out more resumes; I continue interacting with other humans.
So why can I not apply that to my magic?
The thing is, I can, and I think I’ve finally gotten to that point. I don’t know how or why, but something finally clicked for me recently: sometimes it doesn’t work and that’s not your fault.
You just have to keep trying.
In the immortal words of Churchill: “If you’re going through Hell, keep going.”
Dealing with constantly failing magic can be like hell. But we need to keep going, or we won’t get through it.
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