Magic & Creativity

Guest Blog on Magic & Creativity

*Guest Blog from magician Jeff Quinn

“Write a guest bJeff Quinn rslog,” they said. “It’ll be easy,” they said.

That’s more easily said than done. This is about the 7th revision I’ve made. I’ve scrapped several pages and started anew. Can any of you relate to that? When it comes to magic and creativity, I know what I do; I just have trouble explaining how I do it.

But I’ll try. I really, really want you to gain an insight on what I do and I hope it may in some way help you in your writing.

Magic Moments

I’m sure you’ve experienced the times when creativity just flows from your fingertips. You can do no wrong. It’s almost like the words are being sent from the heavens directly to your fingers. Those times are rare for me, but I relish them when they do happen. I’ve found these periods of genius usually occur after I’ve sacrificed seven pure white rabbits to the cackling spirit of the Great Houdini. (Dear PETA people: the previous sentence was a joke. I DO NOT and HAVE NOT ever sacrificed seven pure white rabbits. Three or four, maybe. But NEVER seven.

The spark of genius can hit me at any time. Once I was driving down Interstate I-680 trying to come up with a funny, clever name for a fake snake that was part of a trick. The writing gods cracked open my skull, dropped a golden nugget of an idea in and then sewed my head back up. I had to take the next exit to find a place to park so I could dig around for a piece of scrap paper and a pen to write down this gem. “This is my snake, Rocky. Rocky is a very rare breed of snake. He’s half Ball Python and half Boa Constrictor. That’s right…(wait for it) Rocky Bal-boa.”

And the Other Moments

More often than not though, my creativity has to be coaxed. One method I’ve found to be very effective is to look at a certain prop or trick, set some parameters and then let my mind wander.

Let me give you an example. Years ago I was putting together a Summer Reading Program show for the libraries. Their theme that year was “Make a Splash at Your Library.” So, I determined that every trick I would do in that show would have something to do with water. I found myself staring at trick called the “Die Box.” The Die Box is a wooden box with two doors in the front of the box. It’s a comedy routine where a large die (as in one-half of a pair of dice) seemingly slides from one side of the box to the other. The audience thinks they have the trick figured out until the magician opens both doors to reveal the die has vanished and then reappeared someplace else. It’s a classic magic trick and a great routine.

So, my job was to somehow relate this wooden box and die to water. I sat down and started thinking. Then it hit me. What if the die wasn’t a die at all? What if it was an ice cube? That’s a form of water, right? Two coats of white paint later and I had myself an ice cube and the Die Box became the Ice Cube Box. It’s exactly the same routine, just a little different presentation.

Let Your Mind Wander

Finally, I like to let my mind do some “Free-Range” wandering. It’s sort of like the method I just described, except I have no specific thing I’m focused on. I find myself doing this when I go to Hobby Lobby. Goodwill is also an excellent place for this exercise. My wife will attest to this. Many times we’ll be wandering through Hobby Lobby and she’ll say something to me. When I don’t respond, she turns around to find that I’m two aisles over staring at some box or chalkboard or other odd item. She’s told me she can almost see the wheels turning in my head as I try to figure out how I can use that item in my show.

A Bright Orange Jacket

On a related note, I recently became the owner of a bright orange jacket. I mean this jacket is Douglas County Detention Center Orange. It’s no surprise that it was on the clearance rack at Kohl’s. My wife caught me staring at it. She tried her best to dissuade me from buying it. Her efforts were in vain. I knew it had potential. The jacket will be worn at my Pumpkin Patch shows this fall. I’ve already written about 10 jokes that use the jacket as a punchline.

Let the Magic Play

I think my advice on creativity would be this: Let your mind wander; whether it’s controlled wandering or free-range wandering. If you have a story idea, don’t carve the plot is stone right away. Play with the “what ifs.” See where that playing around takes you.

But I swear to God; if I read one of your stories and there’s a character who wears and orange jacket, has dice-shaped ice cubes and a snake named after a character in a movie, I’m going to be very suspicious.

Now, go forth and wander.

About Jeff QJeff Quinn at Fine Lines Camp for Creative Writers June 2014uinn:

Jeff Quinn was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska. His childhood was pretty uneventful. He wasn’t abused as a child. His parents weren’t raging alcoholics. He didn’t have any inappropriate encounters with priests. Any shortcomings Jeff now faces cannot be blamed on anything that happened in his childhood. They are entirely his own fault.

Jeff’s first career path was radio broadcasting. He started his radio career in Marinette, Wisconsin and later worked at radio stations in Martinsburg, West Virginia; DeKalb, Illinois and Washington, DC before spending 8 years working at KFAB & KGOR in Omaha. When those stations made the biggest mistake in the history of radio and let Jeff go due to downsizing in 2000, Jeff started performing magic full-time.

14 years later, Jeff is still going strong. He is currently the 1st National Vice President of the Society of American Magicians and is slated to become the 100th President of that organization in July of 2016. He performs between 300 and 350 shows per year in a variety of venues. He was also named the February 2014 Small Business of the Month by the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce.

Today, Jeff lives in Elkhorn with his orange jacket-hating wife, Tammy and their borderline-psycho Chihuahua, Daisy.

He loves you all and hopes that you love him enough to check out his website, www.jeffquinnmagic.com. He’s also on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and probably about another dozen social media sites that he’s forgotten about. After finding him online, hire him. Or if you can’t hire him, find someone who can. Looking for something for your kid’s birthday? Hire Jeff Quinn and you’ll be the favorite parent. Get your company to hire Jeff for a corporate event or holiday party and you’re bound to get that corner office. Hire Jeff for your town’s fair or festival and they’ll make you the next mayor. Chances are really good all of that could potentially maybe kind of happen. And that’s a promise.