The weatherman predicts significant fog in the afternoon as I proceed to make my daily cup of coffee…
I came to the realization the other day that my magic was missing something.
Don’t get me wrong for someone who has only been practicing the craft for 3 and a half years I’ve actually done pretty well for myself. For example I was privileged enough to have been in the presence of some of the art’s most beloved elite, lucky enough to have performed at quite a few bars and cafes around the city to ecstatic reactions. Arguably I have done better than a lot of magicians I know who have been practicing magic for much longer than I have (just my opinion though).
But when I say that something is missing from my magic, it is something that goes beyond these things. What I am currently struggling with is arguably one of the most common yet complex issues which at some point in any artist’s career will eventually surface and rear its ugly head. I’m sure this is an issue that pops up in areas beyond the artistic realm but for the purposes of this discussion let’s limit it to the arts.
The issue is one of identity. Amongst the millions of practicing magicians, what is it that makes me distinct from the crowd? What is it that makes me unique as a performer? Why would someone choose to have me perform at their venue over some other magician who can do the exact same tricks?
The deeper one plunges into the world of magic, the more one comes to realize that having a standout identity is crucial to success. In business the practice of singling one’s unique features from the other businesses in the marketplace is called differentiation and often is a prominently cited step towards gaining more market share. So too does this principle apply to the realm of magic. This thought process ultimately has given me fresh perspective on what it is to realistically be a stand-out entertainer.
Take, for example, how ‘new’ tricks are created these days. Dai Vernon – a Canadian born magician regarded unanimously as being one of the finest magicians from our age (resulting in his popular title as “The Professor”) – very famously stated that in magic there are only ever a small handful of actual “effects” or magical acts that can be woven into a trick. Everything else extra is just presentation and acting on top of it. A card disappears. The card reappears in an impossible location. A card gets visibly destroyed. The very same card gets visibly restored. Etcetera. There’s only so much you can do in the realm of magic.
This is why presentation (and hence being a unique presenter) is of utter importance in the art. Presentation and personality are what arguably separates the boys from the men in magic for it adds a sophisticated angle on age-old tricks. And if done well enough, can cause spectators to believe that they have witnessed a genuine miracle in front of their eyes and will swear to the originality of the trick.
So in order to find my unique persona I’ve had to delve into what it is that makes me unique as a person. Because this is fundamentally what fuels the progress of a unique identity.
Sunshine occasionally glimmers through the fog
To this end I had to let go of magic to a certain degree. I’ve realized that I relied on magic too much as a social crutch and hence haven’t given both my own personality and my magic the space that they needed to breathe by forcing both of them to be inextricably attached to one another. Now that I have separated them, this space will eventually form the fertile foundation for growth in both aspects.
So I’ve recently been focused on myself and what I enjoy to do. Like I said in my last blog post I’ve been going to cafes and places around the city to explore my introverted interests. This week I got a few books out on writing fiction and how to be an enthralling storyteller – as I imagine this will feed very nicely into any stage magic I may do further down the line. I also got a few books out on writing music. There are lots of ideas I have had for magic but at times I realize that some of the ideas I have would be much more expressive and therefore suited as a song than a magic trick, so I’ve decided to look into how to make songs.
Everything was going well and good. I was feeling better and I could slowly but surely recognize positive signs of development.
Storm clouds gather and rain begins to fall…
However, in direct contrast to this, I felt an overwhelming sense of inadequacy. See I haven’t performed any magic really since the end of my last set of exams (around middle of June). I’ve tried, but every time I think about approaching somebody I ended up choking and going home. The extra bit of salt in the wounds was realizing that I used to be able to do this flawlessly merely a few months ago.
Then yesterday I was reading a few magician blogs detailing how well their performing careers were going and, in contrast, I was just sitting there feeling sorry for myself cause I couldn’t muster up the courage to say hi to someone at a cafe and perform some basic card tricks. Enough was enough – I had to force myself to do something. The YouTube strength coach that I follow, Elliott Hulse, once made a video about facing our fears and how throwing ourselves off the cliff is the only way to true growth and development (see video at the end). So that is what I figuratively did.
In the evening I went back to the Coffee Club which I had choked at the last 3 times I visited, and I didn’t think about it I just grabbed my cards and approached the first group I saw and launched into my well-rehearsed spiel. I prepared myself for a harsh rejection but they ended up actually wanting to see something. Then that was it, I was back into my performing flow and performed for 3 other groups that evening. Everything was as it should be. It wasn’t anything too big of an accomplishment but I am happy with myself that I was able to break out of my mental rut and perform again – it had been way too long. A small victory, but a victory nonetheless.
…rain has ceased. Mist fills the air – fresh and crisp…
The bus ride home was actually quite glorious – I was feeling really good about myself. During the ride I realized that a lot of my happiness is linked with how my magic is going and how much I’ve been performing lately. Through it all, to see the priceless reactions and the shocked look on people’s faces is a reward in itself and never fails to make me feel good about myself because I brought a moment of impossibility into someone’s life and, even if just for an instant, the impossible became a tangible reality in their eyes. Ultimately my happiness stemmed from the fact that I set a goal for myself with regards to magic and then I proceeded to not only achieve it, but go way further than that and smash it.
…and with that the mental fog lifted. Ushering in the light of a new day.
P.S: a note about this video: a little harsh however it was one of the most important catalysts that set my career in motion as a magician. Without this video I would still be what’s called a ‘bedroom magician’ performing only for a mirror and family/friends. The point of the video is not to get a reaction from people, it’s targeted at people who refuse to take responsibility of their lives and moan about it when life turns sour for them because of it. Enjoy.