When I first started writing Without Magic, I intended it to be quite short. Maybe 25 pages at most, so deliberately kept the premise as simply as I possibly could.
On the very first page I had Celestia seal away Twilight's magic and hide her Cutie Mark. I had her say exactly why she did it, and exactly what Twilight would have to do to break the spell.
Simple and easy, or so I thought.
A mistake that I made quite early on was to have Twilight misunderstand what Celestia asked her to do - She read too much into Celestia's letter and ended up thinking that Celestia wanted her to experience life like an Earth Pony - but not to make this clear enough to readers.
This has lead some people to become confused over what Celestia actually intended Twilight to do. Rather than following Celestia's explanation they followed Twilight's. So I'm, now that the comic is over I'm going to set the record straight and detail exactly what Celestia's task was, and exactly what the answer was.
There are no hidden agendas, no conspiracies, and no tricks, and no double meanings.Celestia's Task?
On Page 1
Twilight performs a number of tasks using magic. These are all simple tasks which could all be done by pretty much any adult Earth Pony, and most of them just required her to reach up and grab something (A ball on a roof, a kite in a tree, a pony with their head stuck in something). Instead, Twilight uses magic.
These tasks probably weren't very good examples, but they were pretty much all that I felt able to draw at the time as I was very new to drawing comics back then.
Twilight writes to Celestia and she tells her that she is using magic to solve every problem that comes her way.
Celestia reads the letter and although she is happy that Twilight is helping other ponies she is worried that she is automatically using magic to solve every problem, and that she is doing everything alone.
Celestia originally sent Twilight to Ponyville because she wanted her to make friends, and to see that there was more to life than studying magic on your own. So she seals away Twilight's magic and tells her to find out what "other than magic" makes her special. She doesn't change her into an Earth Pony, she simply seals her powers. She's a Unicorn but one "Without Magic".
The show's lore tells us that when a pony discovers what makes them special and unique as a pony they get their Cutie Mark, so Celestia also hid Twilight's Cutie Mark. Telling her that she'd know what makes her special "Outside of Magic" when a new Cutie Mark appeared. The idea being that the new Cutie Mark would represent whatever that thing was.
This was the entirety of Celestia's task: Magic is the thing that makes you special, but there is more to you than magic, find out "what else" makes you special.
Celestia didn't change Twilight's destiny, and she didn't want Twilight to change herself, she simply wanted Twilight to think about the other things in her life that make her special and unique as a pony.
In the comic, Celestia expected this to be a short task. Maybe something that would take a couple of days. But Twilight over thought things and went off in a different direction. Thinking that she was being asked to be an Earth Pony simply because she looked like one.
Spike and Rarity both tell her otherwise, but it takes her a while to listen.The Answer?
The answer to Celestia's task was equally simple. What "else" makes Twilight special?
Well ... Friendship.
It's literally spelled out in the pilot episode.
Rather depending on herself and her magic Twilight was supposed to get together with her friends and solve something using their shared bond of friendship to find a non magical answer.
That's it, that's everything. That' why Celestia thought that it would be a really simple task. There are is convoluted lore or logic, no conspiracies, and certainly no design by Princess Celestia to harm Twilight.
The reason that it took Twilight so long to break the spell, even after figuring out that it wasn't about being an Earth Pony, was that she was doing everything more or less alone. She was looking for something that she did by herself, like reading or studying, rather than something that involved her bond with her friends.
If Twilight had seen a cat struck in a tree and had called her friends together, and they'd gotten together to get the cat down as a team, that would probably have broken the spell. Celestia expected something like that to happen almost right away.
For example when she was staying at Sweet Apple Acres she was doing all of the farm chores alone. If the rest of the Mane 6 had been there helping her then that would have broken the spell. The same with the time that she spent at Sugar Cube Corner. She was with Mr and Mrs Cake most of the time. If the rest of the Mane 6 had been there it would have broken the spell.
Instead, Twilight over thought things. She tried to break her character down into smaller and smaller things, looking to see which of the things that she did was the right thing, she went round in circles, tying different things but making the same basic mistake over and over again until she more or less gave up trying. Which was where her friends got involved and how Applejack eventually figured out that the answer wasn't about the individual things that Twilight did, but rather the combination of everything that made her who she was: Their friend.