Slice Of Life Story Challenge March 14 -How Writers Differ From Magicians

Writers Are Different To Magicians

I spend a lot of time thinking about writing. Almost as much time as I do actually composing thoughts and ideas. Today, I found myself ruminating about the difference between writers and magicians. It is a comparison I have thought about quite a lot over time.

As a student I was taught what to write, rather than how to write. The teacher frequently said -here is the genre, here is the topic, now show what you can do. 

As a consequence I have always striven to teach in ways that demystify writing, trying to build understanding through modeled, guided and independent practice. 

Much of my teaching life has focused on sharing the knowledge I have gathered from my sustained writing life with young writers and their teachers. I want to set these writers up to be successful, to view themselves as confident writers too.

Writers share. They willingly unpack their understanding about writing in the hope a less experienced writer may benefit from knowing important aspects of the craft. 

You frequently hear them say things like:
‘This is what I’ve noticed.’ 
‘This is what I’ve done.’ 
‘This is what I’ve learned from the experience.’
‘Guess what I discovered while writing this?’

Everyday on Twitter, writers share pearls of wisdom gleaned from their literary lives. 

From Kate DiCamillo I learned this priceless strategy.


Writing is essentially a problem solving process. Writers must be prepared to make decisions. And boy, do writers have to make lots of decisions. It is in the act of writing that a problem is resolved. 

When a writer shares this process, they shine a light on the writing life. This is the magical thing about writing. Secrets are willingly shared. My writing life is, wait for it -an open book. The mystique surrounding it is gradually removed. Confidence grows and the less experienced writer becomes just a little braver and bolder each day. 

This is what separates writers from a magicians. Magicians closely guard their secrets, their special tricks. They draw a veil over their craft. They hold certain knowledge close to their chest, believing it to be important to the essential mystique surrounding their work. They choose not to reveal the tricks they have up their sleeves. That’s okay. It’s just a point of difference.


  1. I often tell teachers and students that writing is the closest thing to magic that there is. It's a lot of hard work, indeed, but once the students - and teachers - get a good taste of the power of writing well, and the power of what they hold within them, the magic begins. I model the whole process, from the genesis of an idea to closure, particularly the thinking and decision-making that go into writing. All too often the authentic process is abstract to the kids - they need to experience it, and they need to write about what matters to them. I could not agree more with your words here and your contrast with magicians, who keep their secrets. So well said.

  2. P.S. My slices from the previous two days were on this very topic!

    1. It is amazing how often thoughts coincide during the slice challenge Fran.

  3. "Writers share. They willingly unpack their understanding about writing in the hope a less experienced writer may benefit from knowing important aspects of the craft."

    Yep. And I have learned much from your writing and sharing over the years of Slice of Life. I am grateful.

    1. Thank you yet again for your gracious words Kevin. We share this journey most willingly. We write, we learn, we grow.

  4. Yes, I agree that writers share their secrets and magicians hide theirs, yet in addition to listening, or reading, what writers "say" about writing, it's important to examine their writing itself to find the secrets within that speak just to you. That personal search helps grow writers. Thanks, Alan, thoughtful post.

    1. I agree Linda. We must all learn to look below the surface to the 'secrets within.'

  5. I agree that as a new slicer I am becoming bolder and braver everyday, now that I am writing daily and reading pieces from many experienced writers.

    1. When writers share, empowerment is spread across the writing community. It pleases me to hear of your increasing confidence Juliette. It is in the daily act of writing that we grow.

  6. Alan, you replied today to my post on Monarchs. Thank you. I read your post with much interest. What you stated is true. Writer's share. We want others to know the joy of the written word and how to produce stories that help a writer to grow in the process. I work with third graders in a writer's circle. This is our sixth year. Today, one of my students cried because he felt he couldn't do what I had asked. Oh, he was so wrong! Today, he taught me that sometimes, we (I) need to be gentler with our beginning writer's and our expectations for them. I so hope he continues to write.

    1. Thank you for your kind remarks. What you say is so true. We must tread carefully with these inexperienced writers, build self belief and keep them in the game. Invite them to take our hand and go forward on a learning journey together. Like you, I hope your young writer persists. Your awareness of his needs will no doubt foster self belief.


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