An Impractical Guide to Casual Magic: Advice

Sound advice for hobbyist magicians.

Illustration of young magician shuffling cards

Magic has an interesting dynamic between those who do it professionally and those who do it as a hobby. Firstly, the majority of the people interested in magic are hobbyists and don't actively pursue a career as a professional performer. Secondly, when you look at the magic marketplace, most ads talk about professional-level routines and road-tested ideas.

Another aspect of this is how many magicians learn the performance of magic from professional magicians. Meaning their presentations, jokes, and methods were developed by someone other than themselves. So, you could be having a completely ordinary conversation with a friend, next thing you know, they are telling you that the deck of cards is whispering the name of your card into your ear.

When I was in my early twenties, I gave up my desire to be a professional magician. Instead, I took jobs as a writer and consultant. I even hold down a day job in finance. But I never gave up the hobby of magic - although the way I perform now is much different than how I used to.

This is mainly because I saw opportunities and advantages in performing in coffee shops, living rooms, and dinner tables. I found that with the right techniques, presentations, and patience - my magic could feel more impressive to my audience. So, I have pursued that for the last seven years.

While it would be impossible to go over all the things I've found in that time, I have struck on what I consider to be the big three ideas central to my magic. I can't promise they will change your magic, but they have changed mine!

The Big Three:

  1. Consider the Plot.

I spend a lot of time reading and writing short stories. In a short story, the characters are important, but the plot and the structure are king. Casual close-up magic is essentially the same.

Anytime I have a trick I think is worth showing, I spend time thinking about what story I could tell with it and how to structure the story. Not every story needs to be the hero's journey, but you need to have a why. Why did you learn this effect? Why are you showing it to them? Why this environment?

Think of it this way: you don't want to perform at them. You want them to be engaged and want to see the trick. A story of why you are doing it can give them something to latch onto. I work as a writer and consultant, so grabbing a friend's opinion on a trick is a common theme. I've also been known to make completely ridiculous stories involving CIA mind control devices. Obviously, it's played as a joke - but it's better than telling them I've trained the jacks to be acrobats.

This post is for paying subscribers only

Already have an account? Sign in.