Read a lot. Familiarize yourself with all practical methods for accomplishing effects. This will form a large part of the body of knowledge with which you'll attack the desired effect.You are reading to develop a solid background in methodology. Without this exposure to what is already available, you will spend countless hours reinventing the wheel.
I know of at least one exception to this rule. Jerry Andrus read very little of others while he was developing his own very unique style of magic. This allowed him to create and pioneer many sleights and concepts. This was very successful for him. I often wonder what would have been the result of applying his creative talents to the wide body of knowledge already available. Also, keep in mind that Jerry had to start from scratch. He not only had to invent the effect and the method, but he also had to construct the sleights which made up the method. If it's the effect that you're after, you don't need to spend your time creating sleights. There are already more than enough sleights to accomplish just about anything imaginable. If however, you want to develop your own brand of magic, you might like to try it Jerry's way. Remember, there are no hard core rules.
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