The power and peril of magical thinking

Today I saw this little dead bird on the sidewalk, and I tried very hard not to think that it Meant something.

When you’re in the business of imagining things, it’s easy to develop everyday conspiracy theories. See signs and portents. Be very superstitious.

Sometimes, in fact, you use magical thinking to psych yourself up. Let’s say, for instance, you get it into your head that the way you spend your birthday will set a pattern for the year to come.

So you’re like, okay, I am totally gonna spend that day writing!

You carefully construct an edifice of belief predicated on the notion that doing something in a ritualistic way —  like writing on your birthday to ensure that you’ll get a lot of writing done throughout the coming year — will have real-world effects. 

But sometimes, you construct this edifice, and then circumstances come along and smash it. It turns out that you can’t actually do the thing you just spent so much time convincing yourself was going to be A Deeply Significant Thing.

That’s when magical thinking becomes your enemy. Because those circumstances are not a Message From the Universe That You’re Doomed Not To Accomplish Your Goals As A Writer. They’re just stuff you have to deal with. They’re obstacles to get past, not ominous prophecies. 

Have I mentioned lately that all my advice here is advice to myself? Yeah. This too.


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