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
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.
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
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.
"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
Be prepared to make real sacrifices and
actually give away something of great meaning to you.
Art of Magic
Conjuring Card Pack