I was so lucky to receive a copy of Anthony Alvarado's D.I.Y Magic from Amy at Souvenir Press and I can't begin to express how grateful I am. This is a book that can really change your life, and I wasn't even in the market for a self-help book. You can read my review of this amazing book here but first I have a fascinating Q&A with Anthony Alvarado.
What’s the idea behind DIY Magic?
DIY Magic is a collection of activities that readers can try for themselves. It is a cookbook of experiments to be experienced. So, even though it is a salmagundi of philosophy, esoterica, modern psychology and ancient wisdom, it is unified by the idea that these are all things the reader can try out for themselves and then make up their own mind about. If creativity is a fire, DIY Magic is a box of matches. The fuel is up to the reader.
What’s your favourite mind hack?
Going for a walk. It is one of the best ways to stimulate the creativity in the world. People may be disappointed in this “mind hack” because it is so simple, so easy, so everyday. But that is what I love about it! (Charles Dickens, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Charles Dickens, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Einstein, Erik Satie, Beckett, Darwin, Tchaikovsky, Steve Jobs, Thoreau, Aristotle, and Goethe were all prodigious walkers.) It is free, requires no equipment, it is enjoyable, good for you, puts you in a pleasant mood, and it’s eco-friendly. There is something about walking that relaxes the mind into a receptive state that is open to inspiration and new ideas. I think because you are moving, and the scenery is changing around you, it is impossible to really brood, or for the mind to get stuck in old ruts. And yet it is a gentle contemplative activity that allows one to really have an inner discourse and develop your thoughts. Always bring a notebook with you when you go for a walk, so you can bag the big idea!
You name quite a few authors in DIY Magic, has their writing had a strong influence?
Yes! All the writers I name-check contributed their ingredients to the stew! Writing is an ongoing conversation that incorporates the ideas of the past and hopefully passes the baton on to the future in a new form. Especially these weirdo magical ideas— there is a golden thread of esoteric thought you can trace through the ages (I think Aldous Huxley referred to it as the Perennial Philosophy.)
I like to think of it as being a bit like the album cover for the Beatles Sgt Peppers Lonely Heart’s Club Band, in that you can squeeze in the ideas of Burroughs, Carl Jung, Steve Jobs, Shakespeare, Carlos Castaneda, Kerouac and Lao-Tzu all in one kaleidoscoping chapter.
What prompted you to write DIY Magic?
I think the initial impetus grew out of the experience I had while working as a counselor with mentally ill clients. I worked with people who had schizophrenia and for various reasons experienced a quite different reality from the one we usually all agree upon as being real. This work got me fascinated with the philosophical question ”what is reality?”
There are quite a few mind hacks, how long did it take to practice them all? And write them all down?
It was an ongoing project that developed over a couple of years. I didn’t just sit down and write DIY Magic in one go. It was the culmination of years of reading, musing, daydreaming, journaling, and lots of weird late-night conversations with friends over a beer about philosophy and ideas. Really the process was like this: I would get some strange idea and try it out and play around with it, and then if it worked, I simply described how it worked so that others could try it.
Ebooks or paper?
Paper! I haven’t actually read an ebook yet. I love the feeling of curling up with a good book—the physicality of it. And also collecting the books you have read feels good. A bookshelf is a sort of trophy case for nerds. Studies are finding that our brains retain information better when we read on paper rather than on screens. (When you read something on the internet, you are always one link away from some distraction; when you pick up a book you are in it for the long haul, you get the full course meal, rather than some overwhelming buffet of options.) Books are a more immersive technology. New doesn’t always mean better! Plus, a well-made book is nice in and of itself, it is a real thing, it has weight, and a smell, and sometimes a nice cover. I love being able to hold a physical object that has its own existence and is filled with ideas.
Anthony Alvarado has been a forest fire fighter, a high school science teacher, a library delivery truck driver, a telephone psychic and a mental health counsellor.
About the Author
Anthony Alvarado lives in Portland, Oregon, and spends his time writing when he is not busy daydreaming.
Read my review here!