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DIY Magic: A Strange and Whimsical Guide to Creativity

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DIY MAGIC offers series of reality hacks encompassing self-help, philosophy, psychology, and inspiration, that will help artists, writers, and any creative types find new sources of inspiration.

This is a book of magic.   This is a book of mind hacks.   This is a cookbook for creativity.
In DIY Magic, Anthony Alvarado provides readers with a collection of techniques for accessing deeper levels of creative thought—for hacking into their subconscious. From Salvador Dali's spoon technique and ornithomancy (divination by crows), to bibliomancy and using (legal) stimulants, the exercises in this book will help anyone chasing the muse—from artists and musicians, to writers and more—as they tug at the strings of everyday reality and tap into the magic of their own minds.

263 pages, Paperback

First published March 9, 2012

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About the author

Anthony Alvarado

8 books23 followers
My latest book is about creativity and also magic. D.I.Y. Magic comes out in April, it explores the interplay between perception and reality. And how altering one alters the other. It is sort of like a manual of how to get high/inspired/creative without using drugs. Reality is psychedelic.

Language, as the poet knows, is intoxicating. Words can elate, inspire, teach. Words shape our innermost ideas and ways of seeing. Therefore they have the power to mold, shape, and change reality. I became a writer because there is no more powerful thing that I could aspire to be. To shape words well is to shape reality.

Of course, the beginning to becoming a writer is to read a lot. As a child I grew up in the middle of nowhere and I read everything I could get my hands on at our small town library. I haven’t stopped reading since. Writing is just an extension of being a reader.

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5 stars
71 (36%)
4 stars
58 (29%)
3 stars
48 (24%)
2 stars
15 (7%)
1 star
5 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 25 of 25 reviews
Profile Image for Kathy.
Author 1 book19 followers
December 4, 2014
This is book is not about magic, in the traditional sense. It is more about opening the magic and power you have within yourself so you can be more creative, peaceful, crazy...whatever you wish.

This is not an earth shattering book and you will most likely not learn anything new, but it is good to get you motivated to do things you have forgotten about. I already have done most of what is suggested in this book, but there are some new goodies, like The Ganzfeld Technique, or "the poor man's isolation tank." My favorite essay is "Surfing waves of Synchronicity and the Interpretation of Random Events." The essay talks about common ideas and thoughts, but Alvarado presents them in such honest and digestible ways that it is hard not to be inspired by them all over again.

This book is a good starting point for someone who wants to be more open or for someone who wants to rediscover actions they once used to do. The further reading section and quotes scattered within the book are great for pushing the fire that this book lit.
Profile Image for Chloe.
6 reviews17 followers
July 26, 2012
The book I wish I'd found when I was a spooky youth interested in the occult and the esoteric.
Profile Image for Kara.
Author 24 books72 followers
March 22, 2016

Unfortunately I have to take knock points off for the unintentional theme of unexamined privilege that I felt runs through the book.

Many of these exercises in encouraging creative thinking assumes the reader has the time, money and safety to pursue them.

For example, one exercise is how to be invisible in a crowd, which involves a psychological trick of making eye contact with strangers to make them look away. Um, there are plenty of people who work very hard every day to stay invisible in public to maintain their physical safety – and staring down strangers could theoretically put someone in serious jeopardy.

Several of the exercises require being alone in silence, which is an unaffordable luxury for many, many people.

Having said all that, there are some good ideas here for trying new thought processes and expanding the mind to increase creativity – just not all of these exercises are feasible.
Profile Image for TPK.
82 reviews7 followers
February 1, 2020
This book might just as easily have been titled "Brain Hacks," because that's what it is really about -- figuring out ways to alter your consciousness, to enter states of being that are different from those you experience in the everyday world. (Yes, some of those altered states of being involve the ingestion of certain substances. No, none are illegal, though my specific religious beliefs preclude trying a few of them.) As the subtitle suggests, this is "a strange and whimsical guide to creativity," and if you're looking for ways to be creative, this book offers a lot of jumping-off points -- everything from scrying to becoming a flâneur to lucid dreaming to floating in a sensory deprivation tank -- that will lead you into a highly creative (and, the author avers, magical) state of mind.

Some of these tricks are potentially dangerous (and the author admits as much), so exercise discretion and consider the benefits of moderation, especially if you intend to try flirting with danger... or whiskey.
Profile Image for Kent.
238 reviews6 followers
June 4, 2016
This book is so much fun! It reminds you how some things in life really are magic. The definition of magic has been lost in the world, and this book is sort of a rumination on that fact. Hollywood has trivialized magic and this book works to demystify the concept. I try to go over this sort of thing with my daughter all the time, to tell her that the point of magic in movies is to point you towards a celebration of our wonderful imaginations and ability to create and organize symbols with our brains, just the same as super hero movies are about celebrating courage and honor and those concepts in metaphor. Want to cast a spell on yourself? Listen to white noise and white out your eyes with ping pong balls. Boom, you've got a poor-person's sensory deprivation tank and after an hour you might start getting weird in your head. Want to think with a super human quick mind? Drink a pitcher of strong yerba mate and lemonade. Magic. My particular favorite "spells" are the creativity rituals, like the spoon technique popularized by Salvador Dali where he would gorge himself on a big lunch and then go sit in the sun with a dish in his lap and hold a spoon over it. When he drifted off to sleep the clatter of the spoon would jolt him awake and he could write down or sketch his dreams in a rush. Lore says this is where the elephants as tall as skyscrapers came from. I also like the life line walk. You walk five miles or a couple hours away from home thinking hard and serious about your past trying to uncover every little detail and feeling. Then on the way home try to imagine your future, month by month and year by year and all the moments in between. You are sure to have profound journaling when you get home if you aren't totally exhausted and tripping a bit. If I can ever learn how to draw I will totally construct my own tarot deck. I have been inspired to try fasting. I'm growing a huge mustache (yes that's magic!). And I totally believe in neuro-linguistic programming. I used to gorge myself on a particular writer and then I would write just like him for days. I am going to take the book's specific suggestion and sit at home for literally five hours of reading nothing but poetry. It is sure to cast a spell.

All in all, a very good time. I wish I had come across this when I was a teenager and had whole days with nothing on the agenda. I think if I knew someone who was graduating instead of giving them a book about how they should get to work or avoid depression and all that jazz I would give them this book and ask them to always remember how to play.
Profile Image for Christian Patterson.
61 reviews4 followers
February 24, 2013
This book is great if you can look past the more preachy parts. If you can't, then I'd give it a 3. A lot of it is very useful, and is closer to alternative psychological experiments than any "real" magic. But I also think Alvarado's point is that the depth of an individual's mind is real magic. This book basically functions as descriptions of tools for artist types to unlock different aspects of their imagination.
Profile Image for R.
99 reviews2 followers
December 30, 2013
Anthony Alvarado wrote a perfect book for the High School graduation of any misfit, artist, or special child. Chapter by chapter practical and humorous suggestions ranging from low cost kicks to involved wok with senses, perception. I a strange time when coming of age is left to institutions, this book is a summmer of visits to your wild shaman uncle's shack just on the edge of the city.

Oh, and it's independant press too.
Profile Image for Iceberg.
29 reviews
January 29, 2022
3.5 stars for me. As promised by the subtitle, this is "a strange and whimsical guide to creativity," divided into maybe two dozen exercises. I think it would make a particularly good 8th grade graduation gift, for a certain kind of young teen.
Profile Image for Rosie Amber.
Author 0 books115 followers
November 1, 2015
D.I.Y Magic is a non-fiction read about tapping in to an inner and outer great source of wisdom. It's about finding a place where you can relax and send feelers out into the Universe of knowledge and discover awareness and a whole new world. It's aim is to help any creative artist find new sources of inspiration.

The book is set up in simple easy to read small chapters which cover a wide range of techniques which may take you out of the current material world we live in to a different place. There are no great depth of instructions or discussions on theories, these are quick ideas from which the reader can expand their own thoughts and experiences. A few examples of methods to reach magical discoveries are meditation, automatic writing, dreaming, memory quests, and bibliomancy.

This book tries to re-kindle an awareness that we are more than just our material objects but we are part of a larger experience which our ancestors understood and which many of us have lost but which our inner souls know. We find these moments in pockets of experience in a huge range of emotions such as peaceful connections with nature to adrenaline junkie thrills, but they are times when our brains disconnect with our day to day lives and reconnect with a much larger and inspiring feeling.

This book opens your eyes and makes you think about a whole universe of possibilities.
Profile Image for ~Anita~.
387 reviews
April 16, 2015
The author is writing about the field parapsychology and the occult but hasn't done his research. He defines black magic as any magic that attempts to contact an external entity. By that definition Christian prayer, is black magic. (Yes, prayer is a form of magic)

I recommend Real Magic by Isaac Bonewits instead.

Making your own tarot is not a bad project but it requires a thorough knowledge of the tarot and it's a project that will take months, not a few hours.
Profile Image for Marissa.
Author 12 books8 followers
January 9, 2013
I discovered that this book includes a few things I do already, so it's not all new to me, but is a nice guide to finding a special sort of possibility in the everyday and poking at the seams of reality. I'd recommend it to anyone who needs a little bit of something else.
Profile Image for bepassersby.
378 reviews2 followers
December 14, 2022
This purports to be a list of creative ways to “con your own brain” to bring yourself to “a state of transcendent awareness.” I saw this recommended from an atheist pagan, and picked it up at the library for fun, but what a waste of time this was to read! This will sound like a joke, but the chapters seriously cover such deepities as making eye contact with passersby, going for long walks, enjoying nature, drinking strong black coffee, doing an activity out of your comfort zone, and keeping a dream journal. Wow. Some of it was especially stupid, like exploring total darkness in city sewers (wtf?), breaking into abandoned buildings, climbing to the top of water towers, and getting lost in a large city’s downtown area. Complete dreck, unless rolling your eyes for hours on end is also magical.
12 reviews
May 23, 2021
This book is fun as it holds a million thought experiments however, it is both true to the time period it was published (2012) and written by a man in infuriatingly obvious tones. I dislike the way he frame tarot and other forms of divination as a “trick” and one of his experiments involves walking at night. Very lukewarm.
Profile Image for Amadeus.
6 reviews2 followers
March 26, 2019
This book is great! Fun easy ways to alter consciousness in little, mundane life. Good for people looking to incorporate into everyday living.

Profile Image for Scott.
30 reviews3 followers
May 11, 2021
Excellent dip into varies subjects. The book I had hoped to write. You beat me to it!
Profile Image for Madison.
11 reviews1 follower
August 10, 2022
Quite good. Really helpful for anyone choosing to grow, reinvent or think outside of the box. Really, I think that just about everyone could find something helpful in this book.
Profile Image for M.A. Stern.
502 reviews6 followers
November 14, 2022
There’s a lot of interesting exercises I look forward to trying out in here.
Profile Image for Michelle Ryles.
1,131 reviews78 followers
November 3, 2015
Firstly, it took me a little while to open this book as I couldn't take my eyes off the cover. The way the door is illustrated gives it an almost 3D effect and there's something so very soothing and heavenly about the blue sky on the other side.

I love quirky books and this was no exception and I found myself trying out the mind hacks as I went along. They really work! I was always the person walking along the road with her head down hoping to go unnoticed. Little did I know that I was going about my quest for invisibility completely the wrong way. Along came Anthony Alvarado and his mind hack number 8: the Cloak of Invisibility, so off I went to Newcastle with my head held high and looking disinterestedly at approaching strangers. It actually worked - I looked at them first so they didn't look at me - it was amazing!

There are some really interesting ideas in the book that actually made me think about life (and death) and simpler times - I definitely want to walk more than drive and I will try the switching off from the internet for 1 day per week, although it does sound a bit daunting I am from the pre-internet era so how hard can it be?

With inspirational quotes at the start of each chapter and mind-boggling illustrations throughout, it's full of food for thought and life-enhancing tricks. I know I will refer to this book time and time again and my life will only improve because of it.

I am indebted to Amy from Souvenir Press for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for GruelCarp.
88 reviews17 followers
November 9, 2016
There are plenty of things for which I suspend my disbelief, but this book is silly and sells itself as something it's not. Although I enjoyed the intro and first chapter, there is no magic here. I didn't even like it enough to give it to my nieces and nephews who are young and look at the world with different eyes.

Some books can bring about a range of emotions, but this book was just frustrating. All it made me wish for was better ideas.

I hate to give any book one star, but there it is.
108 reviews
December 31, 2016
There are a few ideas I really enjoyed to help increase creativity and break out of routine, such as poetry as an intoxicant, making your own tarot deck, "time traveling" by avoiding technology, automatic writing, bibliomancy, memory exercises (including memory palaces), and memento mori to take control of your mental state. There are enough ideas here that most people could find something.
Profile Image for Paulie Streeter.
26 reviews1 follower
January 3, 2017
kindve interesting has a lot of creatively imaginative approaches reminds me ofvthe artists qlway and a great local read different topics related to changing one's perspective of the world around them and their outcomes in life also has good tips on creative and meditative practices kindve a read as you go along illustrated throughout
Profile Image for Carolee Wheeler.
Author 8 books43 followers
December 4, 2012
None of it is exactly earth-shaking, but the author's voice is so unpretentious and relatable that it works better than many more serious, more in-depth works.
Profile Image for Nate.
817 reviews8 followers
January 15, 2014
Pretty much what I expected. Aiden was very interested in this one. So, we'll see.
Displaying 1 - 25 of 25 reviews

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