Almost 400 pages of original illusions… 10,000 hours of work

Here’s a shot of all three of my original books on illusion design. (I have another book called “The Event Illusionist”, but that does not contain illusions but is a guidebook on building and marketing an illusion show for the event industry).


Three books of over forty different illusions in almost 400 pages. Someone joked and asked me if I would release a special hard cover edition version with all three books in one. That would be as thick as a dictionary! Maybe I’d do it for myself and a few special people. I can’t imagine how many hours these books took to write collectively. I do know that each time I finish a book, I always say I never want to write another. The last stretch of completing the latest book “Urban Illusions” was a non-stop 16-hour effort with no breaks. I worked from 9.30pm to 1.30pm the next day.

In reflection, as I flip through the books, I also see just how much work, effort and thought went into the original designs and presentations for the illusions. I sometimes surprise myself when I reread some of the designs that I have almost forgotten about.

While the books have sold very well (by magic standards in our niche cottage industry, especially for illusion books), I write them more for myself as it is a tremendous exercise in visualization, abstract thinking and creative problem solving. It also helps me work through designs that have not been built yet. For e.g., one of the illusions in”Urban Illusions” called “Wind Passage” took me literally 3 years to just conceive the working method and subsequent design that I’ve finally been happy with and feel is worthy of releasing in a book. I must have redesigned that illusion at least 30 times and spent 100 hours on it alone.

I started writing my first book “Illusionary Departures” in 2003. Its six years on… This got me thinking about what best-selling writer Malcolm Gladwell dubbed the 10,000 hours of work.

Like most people, I was first exposed to Gladwell through his first best-selling book “The Tipping Point”. In his latest book “Outliners: The Story of Success”, he talks about how successful people are often not successful because of their own genius, talent or hardwork. He examined how social, cultural, generational and elements of chance played significantly to one’s success. He also noted one important constant in all his research. He found that that all successful people from musicians to chess players to surgeons to sportsman who were very good at their craft all had put in at least 10,000 hours of work/ practice. That is roughly 4 hours of work a day for 10 years.

I think it is especially true in the case of magic because of the complexity and difficulty in the mastery of magic. Although, personally, i think one needs 15 years in magic to really get good, and that alone is no guarantee. Even if you look at the top commercial successful well-known magicians, they all took more than 15 years to be as good as they are known for or attained significant commercial success. So, I’m still working…

Everything in life is the same. You have to work for it relentlessly. There will be good days, tough days and even tougher days. Even if it takes 10,000 hours… that’s what is needed and you don’t give up. I guess the good news is, if you work at it 24 hours a day, it won’t take 10 years… just slightly more than a year. Hang in there.


About J C Sum

International Headline Entertainer, Content Creator and Investor
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2 Responses to Almost 400 pages of original illusions… 10,000 hours of work

  1. kirk says:

    Whoo-ey! I guess few people ever understand the whole large amount of work especially in stuff like illusions. 10,000 hours of work! WOW… Looks like i have a lot more to work on till i get there!

    I like your last para… Perseverance… Guess most times, it is never easy, and things get really hard, but it just depends on whether one keeps working at it! Like you said: Hang in there!

  2. Pingback: 2009 in Review « BACKSTAGE BUSINESS: The Art, Science & Business of Showbiz by J C Sum

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