Back in the primordial era of the mid 90’s, a young, creatively frustrated Brian Brushwood sent an email to one of his childhood heroes, Raymond Joseph Teller, asking the usual questions that young, creatively frustrated people ask: Where do you get your ideas? How did you find your style? How can I find mine?

Teller responded with a lengthy, passionate email addressed to his “bastard son” (I don’t want to give that in-joke away, read the article). Brushwood credits the email with changing the course of his life. Using its advice, he worked his way up from a struggling young performer to an award-winning stage magician, TV host, a successful comedian and a YouTube creator with nearly two million subscribers. 

The email is brutal, raw and excruciatingly honest. You should definitely give it a read, especially given that Teller’s sage advise goes for any creative medium, not just magic. Here’s one excerpt that rings particularly true:

Love something besides magic, in the arts. Get inspired by a particular poet, film-maker, sculptor, composer. You will never be the first Brian Allen Brushwood of magic if you want to be Penn & Teller. But if you want to be, say, the Salvador Dali of magic, we’ll THERE’S an opening.I should be a film editor. I’m a magician. And if I’m good, it’s because I should be a film editor. Bach should have written opera or plays. But instead, he worked in eighteenth-century counterpoint. That’s why his counterpoints have so much more point than other contrapuntalists. They have passion and plot. Shakespeare, on the other hand, should have been a musician, writing counterpoint. That’s why his plays stand out from the others through their plot and music.  

You can read the rest of Teller’s email, Brushwood’s original email that prompted it, and learn the secret behind their hush-hush father son relationship here.