Every so often I look at the reviews people leave about my books. One of the comments that I see on occasion is that my work is great for idea generation. The reviewers, I think, wish my work wasn’t so oriented toward idea generation, because I get the sense that the comment is not a compliment, so much as a criticism. Regardless of what the comment really is or isn’t, I actually take it as a compliment. I’ve never wanted to write spellbooks or anything else that smacks of me holding the hand of someone else and walking them through how to do something. I didn’t learn magic in that way. I learned it by reading, practicing what I learned, and then generating ideas about what I could do, and it’s my hope that my work provides the same inspiration.
Now I realize some people want something different. They want someone to hold their hands and help them understand how to do something. And that’s an expectation that readers should have for a 101 book on magic or Paganism. But when it comes to an intermediate to advanced book on magic (which I consider all of my work to be) the expectation should naturally change to one where its understood that the reader is reading the book to get ideas about where they can take their magical practice. While I always include exercises in my books for a person to do (and I hope they do them), what I’m really presenting is where my own work has taken me and providing suggestions on how someone can take my work and extend it further. I want to help people generate ideas, which is why I also emphasize the importance of experimenting with magic and being your own authority.
Even in classes I teach, while I certainly teach a technique, I want people to come away with ideas of their own about what they could do or how they could do something. Generating ideas for people allows them to make what they’re learning something that becomes personalized. It becomes their own magical technique, instead of something taught to them by someone else. When you make something your own, you understand it in a way that is distinct from whatever you were taught. You learn it from your own experience, and without the filters and biases bring into whatever they are teaching.
I never had a magical teacher, beyond two very brief stints that didn’t work out. I read books, but I was always reading them with an eye toward how I could take the concepts and make them my own. Perhaps if I’d been taught by someone my books would be less oriented toward idea generation, but I think my readers would be poorer for it. Idea generation is a good thing because it indicates that the real value you are finding in the writing is the ideas you are getting from it, as opposed to whatever instruction is provided. I say read to teach yourself. The writing is just a platform to bounce ideas off of.
My latest article on Pagansquare explains why the question of why is so important in magical work.