Something’s Missing

October 15, 2010

As the faire draws closer and I think more and more about my routines, I can’t help but feel like something’s missing.  I don’t need a new trick, or a new prop or anything like that, there’s something missing from the entire show in general.  What’s missing is (dramatic pause) me.  By “me” I mean my own personal touch, my own slant.  When it hit me today it was a major forehead slap moment.  I’ve been so worried about the tricks themselves since I haven’t done a show like this in a while that I forgot about me.  Maybe forget isn’t the right word.  I think (I know) what happened is that I got so worried about the show being liked and going well that I didn’t want to risk being myself in front of the audience.  It’s like I got scared and thought that just being generic magic man #1 would give me the best chance of not being disliked.  Yes, that’s it: I was willing to sacrifice the potential to be great as myself for the certainty of not being bad as just another magician.  Oh what a fool I’ve been.  I didn’t even realize that I was doing it.  But now, I’m realizing that this is it, my big moment to give this thing a shot.  I’d rather fail being myself than succeed as something I’m not.  And, it’s not really about succeeding or failing anyway.  To paraphrase Jay Sankey, it’s about saying, “I might succeed and I might fail, but if I do fail, I’ll be OK and either way I learn something.”

I know what you’re saying, people reading this blog from the 1970s, you’re saying, “That’s pretty heavy, man.”  Maybe your right, but this issue of being myself* is more important to my future in magic than just giving me a sense of artistic integrity (which along with a quarter will buy me half of a “Homies” figure from a gumball machine).  Being myself is also a sound business decision. How so? I’m glad you asked.  Let’s say you are planning an event.  Why would you hire one magician over another?  What makes one magician different from another?  The tricks they do?  Surely different magicians do different tricks, but if you’re planning an event, I bet you care less about which tricks will be done and more about keeping people entertained.  It really comes down to the magician’s personality.  Who, as a person, is going to be the best fit with this crowd?  Being unique in that way is far more important than doing the newest and fanciest tricks.  Being a unique personality amongst a sea of mediocrity will get you hired more often.

Another good thing about having a very clear performing persona and style is that you probably won’t get asked to do shows you don’t want to do anyway.  No one’s going to ask Criss Angel to do a show for a preschool and I bet he doesn’t want to.  He’s made it very clear what type of people he wants to perform for (people who like being on camera and don’t mind being “freaked” in one way or another).  If you make it clear, the shows you want will come to you and the shows you don’t want won’t.  In theory that is.

So, as I continue to practice, my job is to not try to not be myself.  I don’t want to force it, just let my personality come through naturally where it can.  This won’t be easy, but for my sake and the sake of my “Homies” collection, I’ve got to try.

*Hey look this blog has a footnote, that’s weird.  I just wanted to say something about the phrase “just be yourself.”  “Just be yourself” is the most useless and perhaps, harmful, piece of advice anyone could ever give anyone else.  It’s an extremely dismissive response to what is a very complex, deeply personal problem.  Making such a difficult process sound as if it’s so easy it can be turned on with a switch just makes the person feel extremely frustrated and desperately lost. Let’s never say “just be yourself” again.  The more you know…

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