Starting Over From Scratch

“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” - Carl Sagan

Depending on where you are in the world, you’re either just getting back to the possibility of doing live performances, or can at least see the potential on the horizon.

It’s a great time to reinvent yourself as a magician. We’re all starting from scratch again.

In preparation for his first live gig in over year one friend mentioned he was watching his own lecture video to re-learn his repertoire. I feel like I’m in a similar boat. Before my next show I will have to learn everything all over again.

I see this as an opportunity.

My working repertoire of magic routines has been cobbled together over my 25 years as a magician. A good portion of my go-to tricks are ones I first learned decades ago. Frankly, it’s a bit of a mess.

We all start out as magic toddlers, wanting to try and buy everything. It’s a chaotic process of sticking your fingers in every pie to see which tastes you like.

I chose my core routines from an extremely limited pool of resources and experience I had at the time, and they’ve been grandfathered in ever since. I don’t think they’re bad tricks, but it seems far less likely they’d be my top choice now, when I can draw from a much wider knowledge base.

I’ve grown as a magician, but my repertoire has lagged behind.

Starting from scratch allows me to drop all the baggage, and start over as a first-time magician. When people say “If only I knew then what I know now,” this is the now you’ve always wished for. You get to be both the beginner and the master.

Reboot, start over from a blank slate, and rebuild yourself to be the magician you want to be!

Make every routine in your repertoire earn its spot. Previously I wrote about a system to score routines according to your personal magic criteria. I’m willing to bet your criteria has changed since your early days in magic, so your repertoire is long overdue for some objective analysis.

Fix Problems: I know I have tricks I do regularly, even though there are things I don’t like about them. One phase of my sandwich routine uses a half-pass colour change. I’ve never really liked it, as I’m always having to bend my hands awkwardly to present the best angle. If you can identify those trouble spots, you can improve them.

Diversify: Card tricks are abundant, and generally easy to learn because they recycle core skills and techniques. As a result, we all know too many card tricks. I’ve got a number of non-card close-up routines “not quite ready for prime time” because they require extra effort. It’s a good time to put in that effort.

Rewrite Your Scripts: Look for routines to connect with your humanity. Instead of just doing a card trick ‘because it’s cool’, you can raise the bar and create little works of art, vehicles through which you can express something about yourself and your world.

Learn the things you've always wanted to do!

It’s a physical law of the universe; the best time to change direction is when you have zero momentum.

Published: May 3, 2021

Channel: Blog

Access: Public



Great thoughts, Ryan. I did review my repertoire and am actively trying to diversify from cards, cards cards as my everyday carry. I recently added a couple of effects with dice (John Carey material), rubber balls, and rubberbands to great results! And the change has been fun for me too!


Great to hear, John! I always find the hardest part about working in a new trick is that moment, in front of the audience, when I have to make the choice between the "risky" new routine, or the tried-and-true classic. Is too easy to fall back on the safe choice.


You are right on. When called upon to do a set I have a honed group of tricks I have been doing since my 20s. That is long ago in a place far away. But they are like old friends we can get right into entertaining with them. I constantly learn new magic to keep myself aware of what is out there. It really helps to learn new ideas. But, new stuff takes a long time before it goes in to a paid show.

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