I’m always being asked how I learned magic. Usually this is asked out of pure curiosity. On occasion it’s asked because someone wants to learn as well, and they want to know the path I’ve taken. For the former I tend to make up elaborate stories, for fun. For instance, an owl once dropped a letter through my mail slot… Then I tell them the cold dull truth: I read a lot. I practiced a lot. Then I read more and practiced more.
For the latter, people who have the desire to learn magic themselves, I point them in a few different directions, depending on what they think will work best for them. I’ve written about this elsewhere on the site, but not from this viewpoint. So here are the key directions I tend to point people towards. First, take a look at the internet and see what tutorials you can find there. Here’s a hint: You’ll find many. This really is a great place to start but don’t get carried away. The important thing to know, and I can’t stress this enough, is that videos and instructions you find online are great to get you started, but will completely backfire once you want to advance.
This means you can learn a basic coin vanish, but don’t start learning complicated or advanced routines and moves. Simply put: online instructions stink for this! Now, even I’ve posted instructional videos, but they are targeted at beginners. Most of the advanced instruction you find online is put together haphazardly by people that don’t really understand what they’re doing, let alone how to teach it. The other place to start is in your library or bookstore. Pickup a copy of a magic book, such as Mark Wilson’s Course in Magic, that are geared toward beginners. The things in these books are usually quite practical and involve tricks and theories that professionals put into use.
Explore this learning material. Then learn. And practice. And try. And repeat! You’ll soon have a few effects mastered, but more importantly, you’ll have a sense of what kind of magic you like. Now you know what direction to take for your big steps ahead.
If you live in a big city, you may have a magic shop there that you can visit. Go. Talk to the people behind the counter. Tell what you’ve been learning. Tell them what you like. They’ll easily be able to guide you from there.
If you don’t live in a big city, hit up some online magic stores. Frankly, these aren’t exactly the busiest retail places on earth, so you can even email them questions about what you should learn next… and they’ll probably reply!
When you do this, the trick is not to get caught up in the store-bought magic tricks. Get some of these, of course. For instance, an “Invisible Deck” if you like card magic, or “Hopping Half” if you like coin magicians. These will work wonders for you with a little practice.
These props will also keep you motivated as you do the real learning. That learning will come from books and DVDs. The magic shops will offer books your local bookstore couldn’t get if they tried. These are books and videos made specifically for magicians and to be sold in magic shops. This is where you’ll find advanced material to learn, and where you’ll really start discovering some of the big secrets.
Remember though, through all of this, respect the magicians that came before you. Centuries of thinking has gone into what are now standard magic tricks. Don’t perform them for your friends until you can do it well. Don’t start spilling secrets left and right. You owe this to your teachers, whether these be authors or magicians you actually know. Besides, you’ll get a lot more out of your new skills when you keep the mystery alive.