Creatively Conjuring

Whenever I begin teaching a new group, especially in primary schools, I ask students whether they believe in magic and always ask volunteers to do their favourite magic tricks for us.

The thing is, you have to have an almost childlike belief in magic if you are going to become a good writer and I tell the children that I am here to show them some very special magic tricks that will enable them to write.

You can test my theory here! Just see for yourself the magic that happens when you do some very special conjuring. But first, begin by trying this very simple magic trick.

The Self-Tying Handkerchief

A knot instantly ties itself at the end of a handkerchief!

REQUIREMENTS: One cloth handkerchief with a knot tied in one corner.

Tell your friends that you can tie a knot in a handkerchief using only one hand!

Pull the handkerchief out of your pocket, keeping the knot hidden in your hand (Fig. 1).

Pick up the opposite corner of the handkerchief with the other hand, and grasp it as in Figure 2.

Snap the handkerchief, releasing the end without the knot. Pick up the hanging end with the other hand as before and repeat, again releasing the end without the knot. On the third try, let go of the knotted end as shown (Figure 3), instead of the expected corner.

The movement of the hand conceals the switch, and makes this a very baffling effect.
Magic Trick courtesy of Conjurer

Word Conjuring

If you attempted the self tying handkerchief trick then you are clearly receptive to the notion of conjuring.

Most writers will tell you that they conjure up their own metaphors to meet their needs, that they have learned to summon words as if by invocation or incantation. But just as a skilled magician needs to practice magical arts so does the writer and artist. To refine the art it is as simple as working with words or images every day. It is a simple matter of making conjuring a habit.

Now I am not about to give away all my tricks but this is one that was a real favourite with students at Haig Street Primary School some years ago. My students at LaTrobe also loved conjuring the muse.

Conjuring the Muse.

"When that time comes, I try to be alone and silent for several hours; I need a lot of time to rid my mind of the noise outside and to cleanse my memory of life's confusion. I light candles to summon the muses and guardian spirits. I place flowers on my desk to intimidate tedium and the complete works of Pablo Neruda beneath the computer with the hope they will inspire me by osmosis. If computers can be infected with a virus there's no reason why they shouldn't be refreshed by a breath of poetry. In a secret ceremony I prepare my mind and soul to receive the first sentence in a trance, so the door may open slightly and allow me to peer through and perceive the hazy outlines of the story waiting for me." Isabel Allende Paula.

Make a sacred space to be with your muse. The children at Haig Street Primary School never forgot it when we invoked the muse in their classroom. We set up a special table with all sorts of humble, ritual offerings.

Set up a plate with some candles and stones on the desk where you write. Then you can light the candles and invite the Muses to be with you. Your invitation can be as simple as 'Calliope, please hear my call and be with me today.'

You can go a step further and participate in a guided imagery where you wander up the sacred way at Delphi and sit in the Temple of Apollo, waiting for the Muse to see you, to give you the poet's staff that Hesiod speaks of. Make sure that you take a gift with you. The Greeks traditionally gave honey and milk and seed cakes but given the wealth in the treasure house at Delphi they came bearing more valuable gifts as well. Herodotus describes how Croesus 'caused a statue of a lion to be made in refined gold, the weight of which was ten talents.' Croesus sent 'two bowls of an enormous size, one of gold, the other of silver, which used to stand, the latter upon the right, the former on the left, as one entered the temple.'

After an invocation ceremony a year twelve student wrote, describing a fog clearing to reveal Calliope 'seated in a brilliantly polished seat of gold. She is covered in jewels that I could only ever imagine owning. Brooke knew not to approach her muse without a gift if she hoped to be shown 'what she knew inside'.

Be prepared to make real sacrifices and actually give away something of great meaning to you.

More about Magic and Conjuring

The Art of Magic
Rare Portuguese Conjuring Card Pack
A History of Conjuring
Abra Cadabra