It came from someone who doesn’t want to be recognized. I have no idea who he is, but I’m publishing his letter, because I think it strikes a universal chord among aspiring magicians. I hope some readers will learn some lessons from it and from my response.
Good day Sir Leodini,
I just wanted to send a friendly email and say hello. I hope you don’t mind if I do not introduce myself as of the moment. I want to remain anonymous for the time being, as I feel ashamed with my current state.
I have been practicing magic for about 5 years now and, sad to say, I am not at a level I envisioned myself to be.
When I hear stories of you and other members of IMC, I cannot help but feel sad. Don’t get me wrong. I love the fact that our country has skillful magicians who know how to entertain. The heavy feeling that haunts me is probably envy— envy of not being able to spend time doing what I love most, magic.
I’m 23 years old. Ever since my grandfather David Barnes taught me basic card sleights some 5 or 6 years ago, I got hooked in magic. I think magic all the time. The problem is that it is all I have been able to do. I rarely get the chance to perform for people.
I heard about IMC when I started to venture deeper into the art. I wasn’t satisfied with just the handful of sleights I knew. I had the opportunity of meeting really good magicians, not just in skill but in wisdom, who gave me pointers in performing. One of them mentioned IMC and got me interested in joining your Club. I’ve always wanted to meet the great magicians of the Philippines, some of whom I even have no idea of or have only heard their names but have never seen them perform.
Sad to say I am not that literate when it comes to magic history. I never did get to join IMC though. Excited though I was, it was only matched by intimidation. I feared that I would make a fool of myself being with such skillful people. I can definitely perform for lay people, but for fellow practitioners, my hands tremble and my voice starts to rattle due to nervousness.
I never got to join, as much as I wanted to. I just thought that I was too busy with work, as I was now 19, a college under-graduate trying to earn a living and fund the hobby I loved. It’s a hobby I hope someday I can do professionally.
That day never came. People around me always said it was a foolish idea, that it was absurd to make a living as a magician.
Kind of harsh don’t you think? I thought it was unorthodox, the worst being impractical, but not absurd. I always imagined it would be fun. I bet you have a lot of fun when you perform.
My work tends to take all my time. The free time that I have goes to trying to find a way to get a better job with less hours. Whatever free time I have I spend with the magic community I joined, but I have lost time for that as well recently. I feel like one day I’ll just toss everything up in the air and just go on with the my pursuit of being a magician.
What do you think?
Well one day, when that day comes, I will meet you in person, shake your hand, and say, “Its nice to finally meet you (and everyone else from IMC).”
Looking back at this email, I feel like I’ll end up looking foolish.
Well, until I get to meet you, or hear from you.
Let me assure you that you don’t “end up looking foolish.” Your case is not unique. Many aspiring magicians pass the stage of inadequacy. I sure did when I was still starting out. Not only was I in awe in the presence of the masters of magic, I was also intimidated by their skills.
The reason why the art continues to attract hordes of would-be practitioners is that it affords them a thrilling trip every time they perform.
It’s like hopping onto a roller-coaster. It’s scares the heck of you, but it is so much fun that after the ride, you’d like to jump in and do it all over again.
Well, performing magic is like that. It scares you to the nth level. But you would like to do it again once you have tasted the sweetness of entertaining and amazing an audience.
I have been performing magic since I was in grade three. Today, I still feel butterflies in my stomach. I still visit the bath room while waiting for my time onstage. Always, I suffer near incontinence. I quake in my pants looking at the audience before my show. Will I entertain them? Will I amaze them? Will I make them laugh with my jokes? Will they like my show?
These questions always lurk in my mind and torment me. The experts say the feeling is called stage jitters. That’s an understatement. What I experience is stage terror, not just jitters.
So you see, unless you are already a corpse, stage fright will affect you. But it is a normal thing, a part of the experience of performing.
Don’t shirk from it. Nobody can outrun it. Instead, face it. If you do, you will find it will recede a minute or two after you begin your performance. Then you will be engulfed with a feeling of liberation and euphoria. After the performance, you would like to do it all over again, just like someone who has just finished his roller-coaster ride.
Magic is a performing art. You are not a magician unless you perform it. If you just read about performing magic, or watch DVD on how to perform, you are merely an armchair magician, somebody with knowledge to perform, but does not perform or would not perform.
Remember this. Knowledge is not power. Applied knowledge is. You may know all the theories of performing and master dozens of sleights, but until you apply this knowledge, you are just living in an ivory tower. You are so alone on top, because the action is below you.
But, you may say, how could I perform as often as I could, when I have no steady supply of audience?
Well, that’s why you need to join IMC. We help members become performers by giving them the opportunity and the venue to perform.
Right from his initiation period, the aspirant is already required to perform. Once accepted, he can perform to the guests of the Club, or patrons of Pepeton’s Grill and Restaurant (where we hold our weekly meeting), or with fellow magicians.
We have also a monthly Pasiklaban, where members can show his old, new, or still half-baked magic routines. The purpose is, of course, to keep everyone in tip-top performing condition by encouraging them to perform frequently.
Every month we hold a magic competition, where a member can join, win awards and cash prizes. Every year we have one big public show which we usually hold in a theater. Working in the theater, as performer or member of the backstage crew or technical support, is always an experience a magician never forgets in his lifetime.
You said that you are intimidated by other magicians. Well, most aspiring magicians feel that way only if they can’t take constructive criticism. Instead of fearing comments from the more experienced performers, accept the fact that you are still a student and you need help to improve. Take the comments as lessons to take to heart, not put-downs to embarrass you. Believe me, it will take you years to learn on your own the same lessons you can learn in an instant if shared to you by seasoned performers. If you are a member of the Club, they will share it with you for FREE.
So why would that scheme of things intimidate a student in magic?
It shouldn’t unless he lacks the humility to accept constructive criticism.
As to your plan to go into professional magic, only you can decide for yourself whether it is the smart thing to do. Of course, we professional magicians are happy with our job. It is exciting. We get to attend parties every week. But so are other people in other careers. They are also happy with their jobs.
I think what you are feeling now is akin to the illusion “the grass is greener at the other side of the fence“, or “the other line is moving faster than the line you are in.” Alas, many people who jump fences find out the grass there is not that green at all, and people who switch lines discover that the line they left is the one that is moving faster.
Magic as a profession can pay well if you are good both as an artist and businessman. Magic is “show business.” First you must have a show commercial enough to make people willing to pay you good money. Next, you must have business savvy to market your show, find prospects, balance your account, invest in research and development and keep ahead of the competition.
All this is by no means easy. For every magician who is doing well, there may be several just doing fine, and scores of others scraping the bottom.
If you want to jump into professional magic, you may want to do it in stages. Be a semi-pro first. Learn your craft well, study entrepreneurship, then accept paid gigs on weekends, when you are free from your day job. When you have enough experience, have established a network of agents and built a pool of clients you can draw gigs from, then you may try to go full time.
Not to scare the wits of you, but it took me 23 years before I went full professional. For the most part of my life, I had a regular job in the corporate world and performed magic only as a semi-pro. And to think I started in magic when I was still in grade three.