It’s the question we all get as magicians, whether we’re working pros, or passionate hobbyists (or maybe like me you’re both) – what actually got you into magic?
I remember it so well. Unlike many, it wasn’t the magic set given as a kid or the late Paul Daniels on Saturday night TV that did it: I found magic sets mostly confusing with their flimsy little cards and badly written instructions (nothing much changes) with only the vanishing coin box and the ball and vase making any kind of sense. Magic on TV was ok, but I was way more into the chaos of The Muppets and the ‘hilarity’ of Different Strokes (google it and accept my apology).
For me, it all started with juggling – the draw of learning something difficult, and in my eyes beautiful…just for the sheer hell of it. I picked up my first set of juggling balls at the age of 17 and two years later, found myself in Australia, with a lot of time on my hands, loitering outside a juggling and magic shop.
But I had no interest in the magic stuff – it looked bitty and tedious, not beautiful at all. The coloured knives and white billiard balls looked fairly interesting, but the leather wallets and little metal gimmicks looked a bit like the contents of my dad’s tool box, which was, to me, the most unexciting thing in the world.
Then I was shown a simple coin vanish. And a card trick. And that was pretty much it.
It wasn’t so much the amazement of the trick – it was more the elegance and beauty with which it was performed (exactly the same thing that attracted me to the juggling). Though I didn’t know where the coin went, or how the card trick worked, it was the aesthetic of the process that got me (the little pinch of WTF just finished it all off nicely). I wanted to learn it, and the endless journey into magic began.
So what has this got to do with meaningful magic practice? The quick answer is everything. These days (Christ I sound old) we have a lot of choice when it comes to deciding what to practise. Many of us collect books and DVDs and this, along with low priced downloads and the odd cheeky file-share, creates even more of an issue when choosing what to spend our time learning. Like Netflix, I love it but sometimes feel the need to return to the days of Blockbuster, as over-abundance can be a crippling thing.
There is no one solution. The best we can do is implement some approaches and tools to help us focus on the things that we want to learn, and not what we should want, as we are constantly showered with ‘advice’ from well-meaning, but slightly misguided ‘experts’ on forums and even in rather costly books.
But the first step is to reconnect or connect with what moved you when you first discovered magic. Not necessarily as a very young child, but when things started getting serious. Was it the more structured routine, the visual aesthetic, the feeling of wonder and amazement or perhaps something else? Though we have much in common as magicians, this will be different for all of us.
I’ve lost count of the hours I’ve spent learning something because someone at a convention told me it would be a worker, only for it to die on its arse. It’s often not the fault of the trick, it’s just that it’s a bad fit for me. Back in that shop in Australia, I ‘listened’ to the thing that moved me. Life might have been very different if I hadn’t.
So spend time listening to your responses and go towards those things that work for you.
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