Creating an effect ?

Josh Burch

Elite Member
Aug 11, 2011
If you were to create a new toaster you would do a lot of work right? You'd research other toasters, you'd get a basic knowledge of how to wire a toaster. You'd check out what you like and don't like about current toasters. Then once you created the toaster you'd test it and see if other people like it. You'd get feedback and make the necessary changes.

In magic creation I expect the same amount of effort as it would take to make a toaster.
Aug 17, 2010
We don't ask aspiring guitarists to make up their own chords, scales and modes; we don't value creativity in new guitarists right away - they learn by playing someone else's material first.

Bach learned by being a copyist. The Beatles mastered their craft by being a cover band, and playing a ton of gigs like that.
Dec 18, 2007
Northampton, MA - USA
It almost as appears if you believe that any beginner should stay away from trying to create their own magic, until they are properly equipped with the experience, knowledge, and fundamentals to do so successfully. I see this as being very flawed.

Not at all, the student should “dabble” and learn as they create, keeping notes throughout the process. The problem is, every newbie will reinvent the wheel dozens of times, believing their epiphany is something earth-shattering and unique. In truth, very few magic lovers with less than 5 years of solid study and direct experience have the ability to do this – there is no path to instant gratification. What there is however, is a notebook (when things are done “properly”) filled with personal experience and experiments; a tool created by the students own mind and effort that will allow them to cultivate material that is unique to them. It might just be a move that they’ve changed a bit or changed where and how certain actions are or aren’t taken, but all these little things are stepping stones toward the greater destiny; the one I know for fact, every serious & focused student WILL reach.

Let us make another example, separate to R1's cooking example. Take a children's dance class for example. Do you believe a dance instructor will tell their students to not try and choreograph their own little dance on the premise that they lack the experience, know-how, technique, and knowledge of what makes a good dance?

Actually, some of the highest paid dance instructors & studios will do exactly that; a student is allowed to choreograph routines until they’ve had well over a year to as much as 6 years direct study and practice – they must prove themselves capable. This was quite normal in the magic world until the loss of the old styled Brick & Mortar stores.

The kids will create, and the finished product will be something that matches their level. It may be seen as extremely low level in the eyes of much more advanced dancers, but the creation process was successful in that it 1: challenged the students to think differently and create on their own, not just absorb what is given, 2: perhaps lets them see that they have a long way to go before they create anything of high level, and 3: most likely gave them a fun time and good memory.

While you are correct, there is likewise the fact that certain top-end “Masters” if you would, will not allow the student to demonstrate what they come up with as part of the class (though some exceptions obviously exist, just as you have in Martial Arts and graduation from one level to the next by trial or skill level competition). Yet again, using your analogy of dance, there are those instructors that will not allow students with less than a given number of years worth of study with them, to do any form of public exhibition. Just two short generations ago certain masters would discipline those that broke this rule in some rather “harsh” ways, sometimes crippling the student.

The creative process is not only to aim for success. Now I don't believe someone will purposefully go out and aim to fail, but there is much to be learnt from someone trying to create something themselves and come up short.

Correct, this goes with what I said previously.

Understand, my “directness” in this sort of situation stems from the plethora of young people that have studied the art for less than 5 years, have little to no practical experience but believe themselves worthy of pooping out an eBook or new effect for “the market”. This has resulted in an overly saturated market rife with redundant brain farts. Very little of what these folks produce has been thoroughly tested on the streets by working pros of merit, let alone being properly researched so that credit goes where it MUST. I’ve pointed this out recently in regards to Paper Crane and a heck of a lot of their products but they aren’t alone.

Another side of this problem is what I call the “clique marketing system” in which a group of individuals pat one another on the back with quotes and thumbs up reviews while in reality, no one outside a given forum has any idea who these Bozo’s are. There’s a rather large forum in the UK that’s outrageous for this, not to mention a certain green monster that serves as a café to various bottom feeders. Things are so bad when it comes to the butt kissing practice at that latter forum that top end talent deliberately exploit the membership and its willingness push material for their “chums” or the VIPs they want to have a connection with, when it comes to marketing their products.

As a white belt in Karate, when I was 5, I had to create my own Kata... do I believe it was great? I did at the time yes, but slowly but surely learned it was extremely limited. I worked hard to progress.
Why can this not be so for magicians? Perhaps the OP knows a double lift, and say... the tilt? Perhaps he only knows the glide... Should that stop him from trying to utilize those tools in a new way, to accomplish something on his own? I believe no.

I think I already stated this and I agree. Sadly, with the internet situation today’s aspirants no longer have access to those old dogs that hung out at the Magic Shop. While they do have access to a great number of amazing people they must weed out the arm chair experts in order to find the guys that really do know their stuff, few of whom don’t have a firm hand. Part of the reason is because they need the student to prove themselves first. I’m bombarded by those wanting me to mentor them and while I’m receptive up to a given point, it’s ONLY those that can prove to me that they will put themselves into the task of learning; actually digging into the materials that will give them the foundation needed that I will finally accept them as an actual student . . . ask William Draven, David Gamut or Robin Pendranti here and at E, while I’ve always been in their corner it took a few exchanges before they impressed me enough with their knowledge and initiative.

Given my experience in the Martial Arts world, I know of more than a few “Masters” that do the same exact thing. . . the student must be ready before the teacher comes. . . so to speak.

I would hope that experienced magicians would try to nurture this idea. R1 did clarify that the all caps "DON'T" might have brought about the wrong impression, and that is mostly what gave me doubts to his advice, so I am glad we cleared that up.

I’m not certain why R1 uses caps; I use them to emphasize specifics. It might seem dogmatic, and to a certain degree it is, but at the same time such emphasis is based not just on personal experience but what my teachers as well as my peers believed and still teach.
Dec 18, 2007
Northampton, MA - USA

I do agree with you that many young magicians who speak of creating new magic, are looking for quick and easy progress paths, where little to zero effort is required. However, speaking down to that level from a higher pedestal usually only accomplishes one thing, disent and disrespect for those who actually deserve it. Just look at how many "enemies" mr Harry L. has at the Magic Cafe for his constant condescending attitude and self-promotion.
I don’t know who Harry L is, but if he stirs the pot too much over there (unless he’s an actual celebrity or advertiser) the Café Gestapo will boot him, they don’t like people that cause waves (one of the reasons the mere mention of my name has cost people their membership . . . they hate me over there because I tell the truth about their dirty little secrets). Even Banachek was warned a couple of times because he was stepping “out of bounds” when it came to the “Management’s” comfort level. . . then again, they really don’t like most Bizarrist & hard-core Mentalists.

Your advice and wisdom is truly valuable and I mostly agree with what you give. With this situation though, the OP mentioned nothing of marketing, or putting out publicly the creations he is trying to work towards. He looked for advice on how to start the creative process, and the two most experienced/ long lasting forum contributors clearly stated - "Don't do it". Starting out advice by shooting down the original question only masks the true wisdom you are trying to give, that being your advice to practice, read, learn, fail, improve, in other words - take it slowly and build your foundations.

I understand what you’re saying and I also know what it means to “assume” things. Nonetheless, we old guys get gun-shy after seeing the same general post week, after week, after week and almost always by someone with less than 2 years study under their belts (and more than not, incomplete study. They may have read through two or even 3 of the primary books we would all suggest up front, but they haven’t actually STUDIED the material and too, they haven’t followed through when it comes to rounding out their understanding of things; most stopping their journey after finding Royal Road or maybe Bobo.

It would have been better to give your opinions on how a beginner could use the creative process to assist his growth in magic, and THEN proceed to tell him the importance of focussing more on the learning aspect first.

Again, I understand what you’re saying; the problem is that we live in an era in which everyone wants an instant fix. I’ve blasted a handful in the past two weeks because they won’t do the foot work I and others have told them to do even when we give them links to FREE or very inexpensive resources that will answer their questions. It gets overly frustrating even for a normal person, when it comes to me the issue is compounded because of medical issues and how I get overwhelmed at times (look at my posts and you’ll see good days over bad as well as how I drift off on topics).

The other point is that some of us came up through the school of hard-knocks and as such, we think we are being kind and gentle when compared to how we came up through the ranks. For me it was mainly carnival type environments and that’s a very tough world to grow up in (but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Every aspiring performer should do at least two seasons traveling with a circus or carnival unit and learn how to do all the pitches and side show gags. If you can survive the rigors of that world and the learning curve it entails, you WILL succeed). Carney’s are loving and giving people when it comes to “their own” (which takes time) but they are very blunt, very hard when it comes to teaching. Not for the sake of being “mean” but because they want you to get it, to actually learn what you’re doing instead of going through the motions.

I’m rambling now so I’ll leave it as is with the hope that you and all others will have a better understanding of “things” and more so, why I can be a bear at times. Like the old Doberman I used to have, I will growl and snarl and bear my teeth until you call me on the bluff and finally reach out and come to my level of expectation. When you understand what I’m expecting (and no, it’s not belly rubs, such as the dobbie desired) then good things happen.



Elite Member
Nov 1, 2009
New Jersey
I'll be honest.. The "DON'T" was meant to provoke a response. To make people uncomfortable. To challenge people's views. To make people think.

TokyoUW, I'm glad you responded and did so in an intelligent and respectful manner. This discussion is much better because of your response. You challenged both Craig and me to expand and clarify our ideas. Hopefully, the dialogue helped you to clarify your ideas too. My original post was intentionally short on details, in the hope that the OP would react and ask questions. By asking questions it shows that you are ready to learn. The DON'T response was also designed to break through comprehension barriers. Many of those new to magic only comprehend what the want to hear. If I gave tips on how to be creative along with the recommendation to learn fundamentals - I think the reccomendation would be lost.

Ultimately, our advice isn't that different. The process you describe as exercising creativity while learning is what I would call critical thinking while learning or active learning. Essentially, drawing connections between what you are learning and what you know.

I have a lot of ideas on creativity in magic (and how it is sadly lacking in most effects performances). If there is any interest, I'd be glad to start a new thread. Just be warned... It will be filled with strong opinions and designed to provoke discussion.
{[{ searchResultsCount }]} Results