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How social media star Zach King builds creative momentum

The internet’s favorite “magician” explains how he stopped holding himself back and found a rhythm to his creativity.

How social media star Zach King builds creative momentum
[Photo: courtesy of Zach King]
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Listen to the latest episode of Fast Company’s Creative Conversation podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, RadioPublic, Google Podcasts, or Stitcher.

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One of the long-standing tenets for social media creators is that consistency is key. For some, feeding their feeds is made easier by hopping on the latest challenge or trend.

But for Zach King it’s a little different.

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King has made a name for himself as a digital illusionist, using seamless editing to create mind-bending videos. He gained popularity on Vine and has translated his brand of “magic” to TikTok where he’s one of the platform’s most followed creators. It’s easy to get caught up in the wow factor of King’s tricks, but what’s truly impressive is how he seems to never run out of new ideas, given the originality of his content.

In each of his videos, King solves everyday problems (or winds up creating problems for himself) using some means of sleight of hand. Not only is he tasked with coming up with new scenarios, but there’s also the variety of illusions to consider.

And King admits that pressure to produce new content is something he’s battled throughout his career. “I started having these nightmares where I was out of ideas,” King says in the latest episode of Fast Company’s podcast Creative Conversation. “That was my biggest fear: Are my best ideas behind me?”

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King says from 2017 to 2018, he didn’t post as much content because he felt stuck: “I was waiting around for inspiration for months on end because I wanted it to be perfect. But that idea of perfection was really holding me back.”

Now King and his team abide by the idea of building creative momentum, i.e., staying as consistent as possible even when the content may not be as impressive as he’d like.

“We commit to two videos a week no matter what,” he says. “If you look at my feed now, it’s interesting. When I self-rate the pieces, some are average. Some fall a little below average, but there’s also some really great gems in there too. I don’t think we would’ve gotten to all those great ideas without committing to creating all of it. It’s a process.”

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Check out highlights from King’s Creative Conversation below, and be sure to listen to the full episode wherever you enjoy your podcasts.

On building a team versus working solo . . .

“One realization I had was that my best work isn’t just when I’m by myself. Although I covet sometimes the idea of being a lone wolf again, creating on my own time and my own schedule. I love that some of the best bands, the artists by themselves aren’t necessarily great, but it’s when they’re combined together they’re greater than the pieces. I really love playing jazz with my team and having that language. It’s so important. I don’t have a fear of being removed from the process because I really lean into the parts of the process I’m best at.”

On revealing (most of) the secrets behind his videos . . .

“For years we never did. A great magician—whether I’m one or not by definition—they don’t reveal their secrets. But we had some new employees join the team a while back, and when they walked in the studio their jaws dropped [and they said], ‘Wait, this is all for real? When you’re climbing up a wall, the room’s actually rotating and you’re in a 30-foot mechanical rig? People have to know this.’ Everyone thinks it’s green screen and editing, which, we barely use green screen. While we’re not revealing all the secrets (we’re never going to tell you, for example, the editing techniques; you can go figure that on your own) . . . for me, it is showing this is actually really practical and there are creative solutions to figure out how to do this.”

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@zachking

Let me know if you want me to keep posting these #behindthescenes angles ????

♬ original sound – Zach King

On how he views creativity . . .

“When I look at the creative process, it’s about birthing a new idea into the world. It doesn’t have to be original, but it’s your version. But ultimately, I wonder if creativity is about following up on your curiosity and actually executing on it. I think that’s where the magic of creativity is. I think about it all the time, like what a shame, how many great ideas are dying with the person in the grave? If only a few had been executed the world would be so much richer.”

Listen to the latest episode of Fast Company’s Creative Conversation podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, RadioPublic, Google Podcasts, or Stitcher.

About the author

KC covers entertainment and pop culture for Fast Company. Previously, KC was part of the Emmy Award-winning team at "Good Morning America," where he was the social media producer.

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