• You Are Your Own Worst Enemy

  • April 22, 2019

  • When it comes to performing magic, there are more hurdles than you can throw a deck of cards at, and it rarely helps, believe me, I've tried. However, one barrier will be the most difficult one to scale, especially since you'll have to climb it several times in your magical career. Your own self-doubt.

    As with many things in life, there is no more significant battle than the one you fight against the little voice inside your head. For me personally, it almost always followed the same pattern. I would see a bit of magic I loved and would think about adding it to my repertoire. Up pops the little voice.

    "You're not good enough to learn that, it's far too difficult!"

    "What about that other trick you wanted to learn?"

    "Stop wasting your time [imaging how awesome it would be to perform]"

    So I would have to knock that little voice back down and strive forward to learn whatever had captured my attention. I'm going to be using my chop cup learning arc in this example, which to this day is one of my favourite bits of magic!

    I managed to save enough money, I was a struggling university student at the time, to buy the lovely high-quality version and was incredibly excited when it arrived. I started playing with it, getting a feel for the props, trying out the sleights and even going so far as to start trying to write my patter to go along with the routine I had begun to put together. Oh, look who it is, my favourite little voice...

    "Ha, dropped it again, told you that you were wasting your time!"

    "Please, there's no way a spectator won't be able to see that! It's so obvious!"

    "You thought that was funny? Only you could make a joke so bad that someone under the full effects of laughing gas would actually stop laughing."

    On I would push regardless, practising, re-writing the script, tweaking the timing and working on how to manage pocket space. So I managed to soldier on, continually refining my performance until I thought it was ready to show to a live audience, of which the first was my ever-supportive and long-suffering family. I was nervous, though, so it wasn't perfect, but they enjoyed it: Though, who should show up, but my favourite little nag.

    "Well, that was awful."

    "See, now you're not only wasting your time but other people's as well."

    "Surely you can't show that to strangers? They'll just laugh at you!"

    "Why don't you give up, at least you can succeed at failure."

    Next up was more practice and improvement of every detail I could think of to help my performance be all it could be. This went on for a while until I finally felt comfortable to show it to a real audience while I was performing at the restaurant, which hired me as their resident magician. So, the next time I was to go in, I loaded up, and I wasn't sure where to put the chop cup itself. For those of you who don't know, it's a cup (no surprises there), that is a bit too big to sit in any pocket without looking far too bulky on, at the time, what was already a suspiciously bulky outfit! My solution then, which it still is to this day, was to have it tied to one of my belt loops and hang at my side. Now, of course, was the time for an update from our regularly scheduled guest, that idiot in my own head.

    "That looks ridiculous, how can anyone take you seriously looking like that?"

    "You're going to embarrass yourself and the restaurant; they're definitely going to fire you after tonight."

    "Why are you even bothering with this, just stick to what you already know."

    Ignoring the gremlins inside my head, I continued, as usual, performing to the guests in the restaurant that night and lo and behold they loved my new effect. People laughed at the right moments; their eyes were drawn away by the misdirection and were surprised by the climax. Sure there were a few mistakes, where one thing appeared too early, or a load was revealed by a curious spectator with grabby hands too soon, a misdirection ultimately failed which resulted in a sleight not working, or a joke fell flat. But for the most part, the magic worked. Sure, I needed to go back to the drawing board and do a lot of work to help this effect be all it can be, but the important thing was I had done it.

    A quick tip for any magicians struggling with a new effect they want to perform, but they aren't sure it will work. If you do have a few bits of magic in your repertoire, simply sandwich them around the new effect you want to try out on your audience. That way, even if it falls flat, your audience is less likely to remember, as memory is a funny thing and it tends only to recall the first and last effect you perform. That way, you can "practice" in front of a live audience, and feel safe knowing that whatever happens, they'll remember the great stuff you did either side!

    Amazingly enough, the little voice didn't have very much to say anymore—something I have found to be the case time and time again. The best way to shut the voice up is to ignore it and carry on anyway! Funnily enough, that voice has been popping up a lot of late when it came to writing this article, and the others I've started writing. Always telling me to doubt myself, give up and go back to playing video games, at least there I can't screw up to massively and embarrass myself.

    So whatever you're doing, ignore the doubts and push forward, you'll find it all gets a lot quieter after you've proven to them, and yourself, that you can do it!

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