Until recently, I spent a few years in a kind of magic slump. I wasn’t enjoying the practice and learned only a handful of new routines for the stage. It seems as though magic and I had fallen out of love, (when in fact we were just on a break). Dai Vernon would repeatedly warn about this happening in his Genii column, The Vernon Touch. I remember scoffing at his advice that if you wanted to stay passionate about magic, you shouldn’t become a professional. I couldn’t imagine that happening to me, but here I was, rarely picking up a deck, magic book, or DVD unless at work. Not good.
And then I realised that in the last few years I had only practised tricks and routines that I saw as ‘commercial’; that I could see working for a lay audience. Nearly every trick I read or saw didn’t fit the criteria, and so I got bored of looking. However, I had forgotten something fundamental, which was that a magician can’t help but see tricks through a magician’s eyes, and much of the time, strong reactions are completely unpredictable because of this. A good example of this is Roger Smith’s Maxi Twist, a trick with repeated Elmsley Counts which never fails to get a strong reaction. If I had read this trick in a book a year ago, I would have ignored it and moved on because it didn’t seem commercial enough.
As mentioned in the previous post, I wrote about the need to reconnect with what got us into magic in the first place when deciding what to practise. This will be most useful for those of us further along in our magic journey, especially if we’re suffering from analysis paralysis. But don’t just leave it there…those who are new to magic understand the joy that comes from that initial phase of exploration – and perhaps us more established magicians need to go back to some of those tricks we may have initially overlooked. This way, we are open to the possibility of finding those unexpected gems, or inspiration to create our own tricks and routines.
Many of us either overthink our practice or, every time we pick up the cards, just play. To avoid becoming jaded, the key is to do both and split your practice time between work (routines specifically for performance) and play (exploration). How much time we spend on each is dependent on how much time you have to practise, and what it is that want to achieve (if you’re not sure, I recommend the exercise in the How to Practice course session on Motivation and Purpose). It’ll be different for all of us, but if you’re not getting as much out of your practice as you once did, take a close look at this balance. In my first few years as a magician, I saw myself as a passionate hobbyist and for the last twenty years, a professional. I now realise that the reason that I am more passionate about magic than ever, is that I now know that I am very much both.
In the next post, I’ll share my current approach.
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