Blog with Paul Gertner

Five Tips for the Creative Process

Developing Your New Magic Trick

table filled with tools and props to create a new magic trick

So you want to create a new magic trick, but you’re not sure where or how to start? This past month I’ve been in what my wife Kathryn calls “The Magic Zone” working and building a few new illusions for an upcoming project, so I made a few notes on some of the methods I find helpful and hopefully you will too.

If you are really new to magic, I would suggest that you don’t even worry about creating something new. First off, there is a lot a great material all ready out there and if you are new to magic that is where you should begin. They are called “classics” for a reason—magic tricks that have stood the test of time. Linking Rings, Torn and Restored Newspaper, The Ambitious Card, Card in the Wallet, the Egg Bag, Cut and Restored Rope, the list goes on and on. Now why am I suggesting this route for the new magician? Because to create magic you need a toolbox, a skill set, an understanding of magic principles and techniques, and learning how to perform classics of magic teach you those skills. You will begin to understand why they are “classics” and what make them work, why they are deceptive, funny or amazing. In the process, you are beginning to learn skills that you will eventually use to create your own magic in the future. But for now, my advice to the new magician is to learn as many classic magic tricks as possible and you will begin to have a base and a skill set you can build on as you advance to the next level and begin to create in the future.

For those who have been around magic for a while and are looking to create a new routine or come up with and original trick here are a few tips that might help you on that journey.

1. Find a Motivation to Act.

It might be an upcoming magic contest you want to enter or a show you booked for the summer and you want to do something new. Or perhaps you want to audition for America’s Got Talent next year. Anything that will help you set a specific deadline and goal so that you have a set objective that you need to meet. Creating magic is not easy and if you are not motivated it’s all too easy to throw in the towel and go back to the same old routines that everyone is doing. Find a goal that will push you to action.

2. Tell Your Story.

If you are creating a new magic illusion, have it reveal something about you to your audience. Share a personal story, a dream, a desire or something funny that happened to you. Don’t just do another version of the same old tricks that all magicians are doing… this is your chance to make a trick that is personal and related to you. Audiences are fascinated by magic and are curious about what it is like to be a magician so share your story with them through this new magic illusion and you will have a trick that no one else can copy… it’s all yours.

3. Go Where It Leads You.

Even if you have a specific trick or effect in mind that you want to create, be ready to go where your idea or story leads you. You never know where the creative process will lead you. Be ready to follow your idea to a different location or ending than you originally imagined. You might be guided by the story you create, by an interesting prop, or by a novel method but the creative process does not follow one path. And sometimes you will find yourself in an unexplored area that you did not intend to visit… don’t be afraid to explore it… you might be surprised at what you find.

4. Solve The Problem One Step At A Time.

Finding a solution or creating a method to accomplish a new trick is overwhelming if you try to solve it all at once. Approach it step by step, analyzing each individual step along the way. What are the material options for making the prop? Could we make it lighter? Stronger? In two parts? Could it be made to secretly conceal another object that we will produce 30 seconds later? What happens if we turn the object inside out? How can I make the base of the prop thinner? Can I use paint to mask the cut line? Each small detail can be solved one step at a time and then when you put all the solutions together you have a final result.

5. Persistence. Keep On Keeping On.

There is a solution to the problem; you just don’t see it yet. Many magicians give up way too soon or become satisfied with the very first answer or idea they come upon. There are also multiple methods to most effects, but the truly deceptive ones will take some work to discover. You need to keep at it and don’t accept the first answer that pops into your head. The key is to keep on pushing for a second, third and fourth answer to the problem because each new solution will open another idea that just might be a better answer or better yet, it will take you into a totally new direction. When you see a magician perform a truly amazing piece of magic, they have worked on it much longer than you would ever imagine and chances are it changed and evolved over time. Persistence is the key.

Paul Gertner is nationally recognized speaker and corporate magician, whose honors include multiple Tonight Show appearances, performing at a presidential inauguration, and winning three international competitions. He can be hired as a trade show magician or keynote presenter. For more information, visit


Posted in Magical Thinking, Magicians Only on February 15, 2017 by Paul Gertner.

10 Responses to Five Tips for the Creative Process

  1. Eric P Meredith: February 16, 2017 at 7:08 am

    Ed Catmull, head of Pixar Animation, and winner of 5 Academy Awards wrote a book titled “Creativity, Inc.” about the topic of creativity. He agrees with you on the topic of going where the story takes you. During the development of the movie Up! (a great flick), he says that the only two items that remained from the original story are the title, and the blue bird.

    Naturally, if you’re trying to (i.e paid to) deliver a particular message, you have to “keep your eye on the ball”, but even then, there is need to let the intuitive, sub-conscience mind flow. I like to think of it as trusting yourself. Another good post Paul.

  2. Paul Gertner: February 23, 2017 at 2:33 pm

    Thanks Eric. On this recent project I’m working on what appeared to be a roadblock ended up creating a better solution. Hope to be able to announce it soon… magicians will get a kick out of it.

  3. Gary Wollin: February 21, 2017 at 8:27 am

    GREAT IDEAS !!! You are always the first with the best ideas.

  4. Paul Gertner: February 23, 2017 at 2:31 pm

    Thanks Gary. I’ve always appreciated your ideas and input over the years. I’ll be using a few of them soon… you’ll see.

  5. jeffrey neveaux: February 21, 2017 at 4:59 pm

    Another good avenue to explore is to read lots of books on magic ,study them,absorb the individual elements that make up a move or routine.take notes on the routines ,categorize the effects,and organize old catalog instruction sheets on magic effects,like the Floyd Thayer instruction sheets.the more knowledge you have for a wide variety of tricks,the more tools youl have to create a workable solution to a problem your trying to solve.

  6. Paul Gertner: February 23, 2017 at 2:30 pm

    Great point Jeffrey. In addition to learning the classics… just learning about them and studying the routines teach a lot even if you never perform them. Illusions ideas can be used in close-up and vice a versa so it pays to study all types of magic.

  7. Daryl Howard: February 23, 2017 at 1:18 pm


    Thanks so much for the helpful tips. You are an inspiration to us all. Enjoyed your performance on Penn & Teller Fool Us!

  8. Paul Gertner: February 23, 2017 at 2:28 pm

    Thanks Daryl. Glad you enjoyed Penn & Teller, it was fun to do.

  9. Steven Schneider: February 24, 2017 at 3:38 am

    Hi Paul,
    You’ve been a inspiration to me for years. You lectured at our club, (Ring 68) . My favorite is the C&B. Your routine with the steel balls is awesome. I’ve done a version with glass balls since we are the glass capitol of the world (Toledo) but never in the public eye. Just for personal satisfaction. Nice to hear from you. Will you be t the IBM/SAM convention in Louisville? Hope so!

    Best, Steve

  10. Paul Gertner: March 21, 2017 at 3:52 am

    Steve, thanks for the nice note. Not going to be at the Louisville convention due to a gig during that time frame… but it should be a good one. I was at the last combined in Louisville and it’s a great venue. I’ll have some news on the cups and balls soon that you will get a kick out of. Paul

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