Many of you will know this scenario well: you’ve finally managed to get some time to practise, but find yourself in front of a wall of magic books, shelves of DVDs, drawers full of tricks and a hard drive full of files at a complete loss. It seems impossible to know where to start, which is frustrating because everything there was bought for a reason. Perhaps you visualised yourself practising and performing the effect, or you wanted to read and learn in order to develop your expertise.

The allure of the new can be very strong (which is why you’re standing in front of that wall of stuff) but we all know that it takes a long time to learn and master most professional level routines. Even something methodically simple can still take weeks, months and even years of performance to ‘work in’, which is something we seem to selectively disregard when faced with a lovely new and shiny product. 

So knowing that whatever we choose to learn is going to take time (which many of us already feel is scarce), it’s not surprising that we waste so much of it staring at the wall in a kind of confused funk. Often by the time you decide, it’s game over and the best you can hope for is a vague plan to come back to it later. Unless of course something new catches your eye adding to the general confusion and you’re back to square one. So what can we do about it?

Be honest with yourself.

To be a world class magician requires learning material, which is of course why I constantly convince myself that adding more to my collection will increase my expertise. It all makes sense, other than the fact that, if I were to carry out my master plan of learning it all to become some kind of Yoda of magic, I would probably manage about three per cent of my collection. I really do want to read and learn everything from all of them, but it’s time to sit down, have an honest word with myself, and admit that I can’t. 

For most of us, it’s lunacy to think that we could learn everything in our collections, especially if we keep adding to them. Creating conscious awareness of this, and admitting it, can be quite liberating.  But if we’re not going to learn it all, what’s the point in having it? This is a difficult question to answer, especially if, like me, you’ve invested a great deal of time and money. 

For me, my collection is about more than learning, it’s about having the option to learn and having access to books and DVDs, full of hundreds of routines, that offer the potential for growth when the mood takes me. Seeing my books fills me with the kind of joy that many feel from whatever art form they prefer. Sometimes just the knowledge of what those books contain is enough, and of course, they have an aesthetic beauty that, along with the secrets they contain, make them irresistible. 

Part of me being honest with myself was having to struggle with some tricky questions: Am I a magician or a collector? An amateur or a professional? A student or teacher? But for me, the freedom came with a liberating awareness that I am both. It’ll be different for all of us, and there is no right and wrong. More important is that the answers are honest. 

These questions, along with those discussed in a previous post, will help the next stage of goal setting. Once we know exactly what we are (and what we’re not) trying to achieve, we have something to work with. We can make a more informed decision on how to spend our time and our learning choices. 

Only when I began to explore this, did I begin to overcome the stagnation of staring at shelf upon shelf of magic, feeling I should only learn routines for practical performance. I began to consciously divide my time between random reading and learning (play) and finding and rehearsing tricks for performance (work). I’ve had to move time around and approach things differently. For me, the ‘play’ has to replace the odd night of Netflix, and the key has been to not think too much about what I’m learning. I just pick up and start reading and before long I’m into that world of discovery I missed for so long. Paradoxically, more often than not I find performance material I never would have found had I been overthinking things. 

In terms of ‘work’ practice, I’ve been looking at what is lacking in my performance, and again have had to be honest.  For now, I don’t really need any more card routines – frustrating because I love learning card stuff. However, that need is simply satisfied in the ‘play’ side of things so I can get on with looking for other effects that will strengthen my performance (and stop me getting bored). 

Again, I provide my example to encourage a similar thought process for you,  as it’ll no doubt be different for all of us. The important thing is that we are starting to THINK about our improvement so that we don’t just end up adding to the confusion by buying more stuff and spend all our practice time simply wondering what to practise next.


In the next post, we’ll be looking at goal setting, which can have such a profound difference to your development as a magician. 

Thanks for reading, and remember that sharing is caring.

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    6 replies to "How your magic collection could be doing you more harm than good (and what to do about it)."

    • Allan Simmons

      Bang on point! The “need” to find the book that an effect or move is referenced in when reading another book is incurable. I’ve so many books that all I have read is ONE EFFECT or MOVE because it was referenced elsewhere is bonkers. It’s like a bloody rabbit warren and you find yourself compelled to keep going. I love it and hate it at the same time, as like you suggest, I will NEVER read, let alone work through properly a fraction of the material I have. I believe it’s been called an “Anti-Library” I’ll leave that with you. Thanks again Steve, great article and motivation.

      • Steve Faulkner

        Thanks Allan, and yes I am VERY familiar with this process. The Anti-Library! Brilliant! Thanks for your continued support 😊

    • Mark

      Could you recommend a top 10 books that would cover most bases?

    • Martin

      You nailed it my friend ! Exact same problem here !
      x M

      • Steve Faulkner

        Thanks Martin! So glad it’s not just me. Have a great day 😊

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