You may be familiar with my free download, How to Read a Book The Magic School Way. It is a good bird's eye view of learning how to use fiction to alter your reality, but it is only Part I.
The purpose of this post is take you down the rabbit hole a little deeper. I am writing this specifically to aid those of you who join The Magic School Book Club, but I have decided to make this teaching public so that anyone who loves to read can benefit from this unique way of experiencing fiction. This is exactly the steps of my practice.
1. Select a fiction book.
(It matters very much to me which book I pick, but this is a topic in and of itself (one we get into more extensively in The Magic School 101.) The quick version is to say pick a book you believe you will enjoy thoroughly, and chuck it if at any point it reveals itself as less than satisfactory to you. Life is too short to read things that don't make your heart beat faster. This reading is for feeling pleasure, enjoyment, and hope.
2. Set a reading deadline for yourself.
What date do you wish to finish the book? For The Magic School Book Club members our goal is a month. Personally, if I don't set a deadline date, I don't read. My fiction reading has become paramount to my living. It is just as important to me as time spent with my family and eating a meal. I see too many people putting pleasure at the end of their list of to-dos. Pleasure is my number one goal in living, so pleasure reading is HIGH priority.
Let's work with a month long scenario so I can get really specific with how I would set my goals.
Let's say I am reading the book Harriet the Spy. My version of Harriet the Spy has 300 pages in it. 300 pages divided by 30 days in September puts me at a reading goal of 10 pages a day.
If it is a paper book (as opposed to a digital book) I read with two bookmarks. One bookmark marks where I stopped reading for the day. The second bookmark marks where my goal is for the next day. If possible, I try to end at a page break or chapter break, sometimes reading a page or two over or under my daily goal to allow for this.
3. Makes notes as you read.*
There are three kinds of books I have found myself reading:
Paper books I own.
For paper books I own, I will mark directly in the book and often dog-ear the pages. Usually this is just underlining, starring or highlighting a section. Occasionally I'll make notes in the margins.
Digital books on my kindle.
On my kindle I can highlight passages that stand out to me. I can even makes notes about them if I want to, but I rarely take the time to do this.
Paper library books.
At my library I can check out books for two weeks, and usually renew them again for two more weeks to allow for my month of reading. When reading a library book, I make sure that one of the bookmarks I use is a blank index card, on which I jot down key phrases and page numbers.
*A note about note taking. I have learned to get a feel for what to write down. If you are underlining every little thing this process is going to be entirely too tedious and you'll never stick with it. If you're highlighting too little, you'll get to the end of the book and think, now what?
Part of the reason I create my Make Belief Starters is so you get to see an example of 13 things in each fictional book that I found worthy of writing down.
SOME THINGS TO KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR WHILE READING:
- Things that would make good visuals or appeal to your senses.
If you are reading a fictional book with the plan to process it through an art journal (what I call my Book of Spells) then you want to pay attention to vivid descriptions. These vivid descriptions could carry you into artistic expression beyond the pages of an art journal as well - think home decor, fashion, make-up, culinary arts, etc.
- Quotes you love.
Words may inspire you to action, bring back memories, be secret messages you were wishing someone would say to you, or you could say to yourself or someone else. The right string of letters may feel like magic words, unlocking something in you. You may keep a journal of quotes or incorporate them into an art journal page. You could use them as writing prompts or mantras to take your living in a new direction.
- Action steps.
When I use the phrase "Artist as Magician" in The Magic School teachings, I am saying that an artist is a person who creates a way to get unstuck, and they make it look like magic. As you're reading, be looking for characters in motion who are doing something that intrigues you. Flag any sort of activity that looks like it might somehow make a good action step for you in your Real World.
- Things you love.
If you read something and it gives you hope, pleasure, tears of joy - mark it. 9 times out of 10 you can reverse engineer it (by asking yourself why you love it so) to find how you can give yourself the same hope, pleasure and tears of joy in your Real World.
4. Record your findings.
When I am done reading the book, I record the notes in an app called Evernote. I use Evernote because it is something I've used for years and I am comfortable with it. I have it on my laptop and my phone and it is a searchable database of my notes. Since you can add images in Evernote too, sometimes I'll even include a photo of a book with my finger pointing to the part I liked.
Since many of the books I read are library books, I like to enter my notes before I return the book to the library. This is the most tedious part, in my opinion, but I reference these notes like crazy, so it is worth it for me. Think of this step like your self-made cliff notes. Condensing an entire book down to the pearl within.
If I've read a kindle version of the book, I go to my Amazon kindle account from my laptop web browser where I access my Notes and Highlights from any book I've read. I then copy and paste my quotes from there into Evernote.
5. Create spells.
My Make Belief Starters are a perfect example of how you take your book notes and concoct a witchy brew from them. Or if that terminology doesn't thrill you, think of it as a mad scientist formula. When you take X (from this fictional Imagine Nation realm) and add it with Y (in your Real World) your get the result of Z in your Real World.
For instance, using Harriet the Spy as our sample, you could have a slice of cake and a glass of milk at 3:40 once a week for a month and use this date with yourself to evaluate what sort of daily rituals you would like in your life that would help you see to your own pleasure.
Or you could draw a clock in your Book of Spells art journal with the time set to 3:40 as a symbol that stands for your dedication to make time for what you love.
Don't feel like you have to use every note you documented from the book. I think you've done great if you can simplify a book down to one or two main spells that you can tuck in your bra or pocket for safe keeping.
And you've done the hard work of preparing your notes, so you can always return and play in this fictional portal again any time you desire.