In this article, we’re exploring how to create magic tricks. We’ll discuss what it means to be creative as a magician—and how YOU can apply these insights to create more and more powerful magic.
Part 1: A counterintuitive method to become a more creative magician
There’s a simple way to attain near-unlimited creativity in magic.
What’s the secret?
Yes, we know it sounds counterintuitive—the way to attain near-unlimited creativity is to set
But it’s actually quite simple…
See, when you have zero limits on whatever it is you’re trying to create, it’s really hard to figure out where to start.
If you’ve ever sat down meaning to write something and felt intimidated by the blank white
paper in front of you—you’ve experienced the problem with having no limitations.
You could write ANYTHING on that paper.
There are so many options that your brain freezes and can’t figure out what to do first.
But as soon as we start to introduce limits and restrictions, we outline a set space for our mind to bounce around within.
Compare the following examples:
Example 1: We ask you to write a 500-word story.
Example 2: We ask you to write a 500-word story that is set in Jamaica, features a bank robbery, and contains zero dialogue.
Which is harder?
Example 2 features THREE limitations—but it feels so much easier to create.
Because we know we need to create something within the confines of those restrictions, our mind starts playing around with ideas and bouncing them off each other.
This method—creativity by limitation—is a great way to create new magic.
One of my favorite memories of this was when we set ourself the challenge to create an effect that had to use both a memorized stack and a Rubik’s cube.
(in other words, some pretty strict limitations)
Because we knew the exact parameters we had to work within, we were able to bounce around a ton of ideas at speed, and soon created an effect that looked something like this:
- The spectator freely names a card
- You display a mixed up Rubik’s cube
- They pick a color
- You take a blue backed card and put it on top of the cube, and cover both of them up
- You remove the cover to reveal that the blue backed card has transformed into a red backed card, and that the squares on the cube it was covering are now also all red.
- You then display that the red backed card has also transformed into their chosen card.
- You end by showing the whole deck has also changed from blue to red.
It was a little bit chaotic and probably too long of a routine…but it was very fun to work through—and it’s the kind of effect we would never have dreamt up if it weren’t for the restrictions we set.
Part 2: How to create the most impossible magic possible
Next, we’ll show you how to create the most impossible magic possible based on a piece of advice we first heard from Bruno of Joao Miranda Magic…
Here’s how Bruno described the creative process they follow:
“Oh, I had an idea for this effect. Is it possible to do? Then we come up with the most impossible way to do it. We always start from the most impossible. Is it possible? If it is, great. If not then we’ll drop a step, and try to make it the most impossible possible.”
Did you catch that?
It might not sound like much, but Bruno just revealed one of the most powerful creative magic techniques we’ve come across.
Here’s our more detailed breakdown of the idea Bruno was trying to communicate:
The team start by imagining what the desired effect would look like under the most impossible of conditions.
Perhaps it’s a card revelation done with a borrowed and shuffled deck, no forcing and no glimpses.
Next, they see if it’s possible to create a method that meets these conditions and achieves the effect. They try their hardest to find a way to make this effect work under these conditions.
If they succeed, great.
If not, then they remove one of the conditions.
In our example, maybe they remove the condition that the effect can be done with a shuffled deck.
They then see if it’s possible to create a method that meets the conditions now that we’ve dropped one.
If they succeed, great.
If not, they remove another condition.
They keep doing this until they come to their method.
By doing this, they do their best to ensure they create the most impossible version of the effect possible.
We love this philosophy, and it’s a technique we try to apply more and more to our own creative process.
Part 3: why Mozart would have won FISM
We’ve all heard of legendary musicians like Mozart, Beethoven and Bach—composers renowned for their ability to create some of the most beautiful music ever penned.
But something a lot of people DON’T know is that these musicians weren’t just great creators.
They were also prolific creators.
Not only did they create some of the greatest classical music of all time, but they also composed some of the MOST music of any composer, ever!
Mozart composed over 600 works in just 35 years, Beethoven over 722 in his lifetime, and Bach a staggering 1,128 pieces!
It seems that these master musicians loved the craft so much that they just couldn’t stop creating.
And the more they created, the higher their chances were of creating masterpieces.
(which is exactly what happened)
Now, this approach to creativity doesn’t only work in music.
Some of the best magic creators of all time are also some of the most prolific.
(Marlo himself wrote over sixty books and manuscripts, and contributed over 2000 tricks to card magic!)
It makes sense—keep creating, keep putting out new stuff, and you’ll strike gold sooner or later.
Part 4: why most magic sucks
Most people have BIG misconceptions about what makes great magic creators so good at their job.
See, it’s easy to imagine the world’s best magicians are great because they are full of good ideas.
In fact, it’s usually the opposite.
We would bet that the best magicians in the world have more BAD ideas than everyone else.
…they just have more ideas in general!
If the average magician has 2 good ideas and 200 bad ideas, great magicians have 20 good ideas and 2000 bad ideas.
Magic consultant Rory Adams once gave the following statistics:
- 1 in 100 magic ideas will be good.
- 1 in 1,000 magic ideas will be great.
So if you want to be a better magic creator…
…create more magic.
It doesn’t matter if what you’re creating isn’t any good.
The simple fact that you’re constantly tinkering, innovating and trying puts the odds in your favor—and sooner or later, you’ll find your way into a truly great idea.
We like to call this the ‘brute force’ method.
You don’t need to be more naturally talented, you don’t need any fancy education, you just need to be willing to spend more time having ideas than anyone else.
Daniel Garcia is known for being one of the most creative magicians in the world. We remember once hearing that he writes down all of his ideas—even the bad ones.
He knows the secret—that in order to have good ideas, you need to be willing to have a LOT of bad ideas.
Part 5: The Edison ‘sweat’ technique to magic breakthroughs
We recently listened to a podcast about Thomas Edison, and we discovered something very interesting…
See, although Edison was responsible for bringing electric light to the masses, a scientific breakthrough that changed the history of the world—he wasn’t a scientist.
He was just obsessed with building things.
Now, don’t get us wrong—Edison knew plenty about science. But he wasn’t classically trained and educated the way many of his peers were.
He was more of a ‘hands on’ scientist, gaining his knowledge on the workbench.
While other people were theorizing about which material combined with which other material should hypothetically work in order to sustain an incandescent light bulb, Edison was at his desk actually testing those materials non-stop.
As a result, he would often brute force his way into solutions that the ‘real’ scientists couldn’t find their way to.
Because he didn’t have the same ability to theorize about what might and might not work—he just tried everything until he found something that did.
In other words, he sledgehammered his way to a breakthrough.
Edison himself said it best:
“Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.”
We’d bet a similar ratio is true in magic.
Rather than theorizing about the perfect effect, just sit down and start creating.
Don’t overthink, just keep creating—and like Edison, you’ll sledgehammer your way to
Part 6: Stop waiting for inspiration (do this instead)
One of our favorite books on the topic of creativity is called ‘The War of Art’, by Steven Pressfield.
In this book, Pressfield makes the case that the most important part of creativity is just showing up.
See, none of us have control over when inspiration might strike—but what we CAN control is whether or not we are at the desk trying.
By being consistent and trying to create every day, when inspiration does strike…we’ll be ready to receive it.
Imagine if a mechanic didn’t show up for work one day and said, “I’m not working today because I don’t feel inspired to do it.”
Not only would they not get much done, they probably wouldn’t have a job for very long!
Yet so many ‘creatives’ feel like they have the right to not show up and work unless they feel like it—which often turns out to be rarely.
Pressfield insists that creatives need to treat their craft like a profession, and give it the respect it deserves by committing to it day in, day out.
One of our favorite quotes on creativity comes from William H. Murray:
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans. That the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves, too.”
If you quit worrying about being inspired and instead just show up every day, put your head down, and commit to your work—you’ll be surprised how often you find inspiration coming to you.
Like all the creative methods we’ve been studying, it boils down to this:
Consistency and effort are by far two of the most important factors in creativity.
This is definitely true in the work of great magic creators.
if you’re struggling to create new magic, do THIS…
We once spent a few days obsessing over a performance video we’d watched that seemed like an impossibly clean effect.
You deal through the cards face up, stopping on a seemingly random card. The spectator does the same thing.
When the two chosen cards are displayed you show you have a perfect mate!
(e.g. 6 of hearts and 6 of diamonds!)
We had NO IDEA how such an effect could work.
When we learned the method it was solid, but not what we were expecting and didn’t quite fit our style.
However, we still REALLY wanted to perform this effect.
And with a combination of intense practice on the second deal and hours of talking about this performance video we were able to come up with our OWN methods.
This is often one of the funnest ways to generate new ideas and methods.
- Begin with an effect description.
- Brainstorm and come up with methods for how it could be done BEFORE you read the actual method.
- Learn the actual method.
Give it a go and see what happens!
Alright, that’s it for today.
Thank you for reading this article!
Did you know?
This article was created by compiling 7 days worth of emails we sent to our mailing list on the topic of creativity.
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