In order to be good at magic you have to do magic. Practice makes perfect remember? You don't have to do anything earth shattering, just conduct rituals. Celebrate the sabbats and esbats, do rituals of thanksgiving to your deities, cast a circle for your morning meditation, take any opportunity that arises to practice. Put your energies into it, when you cast a circle concentrate on your visualization of the cold blue flame coming from the end of the athame or wand. See it, clearly see it. Visualization is vitally important in magic, as is concentration and the ability to listen to your inner voice. We will discuss some ways of developing these skills next.
During the day, when you find yourself at loose ends, practice your visualization techniques. Visualize a series of objects, you choose the objects, and practice until you can do it reliably and hold the image in your mind. I use a relaxation method that I learned years ago of visualizing the colors of the rainbow starting with red and ending with violet. First I visualize something red, a fire truck is what I usually pick. Then I visualize something orange, I use a tangerine. Then yellow, I usually use a flower like a daffodil. Then each of the remaining colors in turn, green, blue, and finally violet. Work on this exercise or something like it that you prefer, whenever you think of it until you can get the image quickly, it's real to you, and you can hold it as long as you want. Make the image clear and realistic, as if you could reach out and touch it.
Besides visualization skills, you will need to work on your concentration. It is important to be able to keep yourself present in the moment without drifting off to mundane matters. It won't do to be at the vital spot in a spell and suddenly the fact that you forgot to put out the trash pops into your head! What you want is that feeling you get when you're at a theatre seeing a really good movie. You are absorbed into the story and the images until you are no longer in a theatre, you're in the movie experiencing it with the characters, who have ceased to be actors, and are actually the people they are portraying. When the credits roll you have to take a few minutes to come to yourself again. That is the type of concentration we want to develop. So that once you are into the flow, everything around you melts away and you are completely, totally, in the magic.
Meditation is a wonderful means of developing your ability to concentrate effortlessly on the exact moment you are in and tune out everything else. If there is a class or group in your area that teaches meditation, by all means, go. The ability to still your mind is difficult for many people to learn, it was for me. I'm still not nearly as good at it as I'd like. It's a matter of emptying your mind of everything except your focus and each time a thought tries to intrude you simply dismiss it and go back to your focus. Some people are quite lucky and can do it very naturally, if you are one of those persons, great! If you are not, just keep practicing at it and you will get better with time.
It is important when you are starting out not to sabotage yourself. Take the phone off the hook or let the answering machine get it. Turn the volume down on the ringer and the machine so you don't just sit and listen to the caller leaving the message! Turn off your pager, put out a do not disturb sign on the door, send the kids to their Grandmas, and put the cat in the other room. Do what you can to lessen the chances of everyday life intruding on what you are trying to do. You may reach the point when you can be the peace in the midst of the storm and ignore the distractions, but it's very difficult to do and when you are just starting it's too much to expect. Give yourself every opportunity to succeed and eliminate as many potential interruptions as possible.
Another important skill in magic is the ability to hear the small voices that give you the answers you seek. The messages from your subconscious that guide you to the result you are trying to achieve. In order to hear these, you must be listening and in order to listen you have to have the ability to hear. You will need to begin to open yourself up for them to have any hope of getting through. As a child we were all open and listening for the little intuitive messages we received, it's time to try to be that way again.
Please understand, I'm not talking schizophrenic, the voices told me to jump, sort of voices. I mean the nagging feeling in the pit of your stomach that you get when you're about to make a big mistake, and you sort of know it. I'm talking about the sort of thing where a thought or feeling just comes to you out of the blue. Some people call it intuition, some call it psychic, some call it a 'woman thing'; whatever you call it, you want to develop it. When you ask your deity a question, this is how they will answer you, if you aren't listening, you may as well not ask!
In order to develop this ability and retrace your steps to the time when you were a child and it came naturally, you will have to practice. Begin by paying attention. I mean to everything that you feel, sense, hear, or experience. When you are conducting ritual pay attention to the sensations of it. Smell the incense, feel the ambiance of the circle, notice anything that seems different to you. Take a few moments in each ritual to just be there and experience the sensations. I don't mean struggle and strain, I mean relax as completely as possible and let the experience happen to you for a moment. Listen to the inner voices you may hear, that intrusive thought that you should change the incense, or the feeling that you get of not being "in the world anymore" may be important. You may get other strong feelings regarding questions you have asked or actions you have taken as part of the ritual. Pay attention to them, there may be something there.
As I said earlier on the site, if you conduct a ritual to find a new apartment, and one day when you're out running errands you get a sudden urge to turn down a street you've never traveled before, don't be surprised if you see a Vacancy sign. How did you think your desire would be fulfilled, An apartment would drop out of the sky on you? You have to be open to hear the answer if you're going to ask the question. By doing a ritual to achieve something you are asking the universe to provide it to you, you're asking a question. You must be able and willing to hear the answer when it comes or your ritual was pointless and you shouldn't have wasted your time. This is a common mistake beginners to magic make, they conduct a ritual and then assume that it didn't work, when in fact they got what they wanted but ignored it.
To avoid this, you need to pay attention, to allow yourself to experience things and open your mind to the possibilities of receiving the answer in this way. Those little feelings or intuitions are there for a reason. Most people are alot more psychic than they think they are. Just because you can't communicate telepathically or bend spoons on TV doesn't mean you aren't psychic. It just means that you probably take it for granted and don't pay close enough attention. Begin to listen and you will be surprised what you will hear. If you are about to make a decision and you get that sick feeling that won't go away, pay attention to it, your intuition may just be trying to tell you something.
So basically, you need to develop your ability to visualize an object, action or desire in your mind clearly and realistically and hold the image. You need to be able to concentrate on what you are doing to the exclusion of all extraneous diversions. And you need to be able to hear and pay attention to the messages your subconscious sends you for your benefit and enlightenment. Practice these things and you will get better at magic, there's no doubt. They are all important to success with spells and rituals and without them your magic will absolutely be missing something.