Become a Better Magician
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Earlier this week, I found myself deliberating about whether or not to enter the Magic Circle Close-Up Competition. My hastily compiled mental Pro’s and Con’s list was as follows:
- I am not a performing close-up magician.
- I am not a performing magician.
- I have little to no competition experience.
- I have no idea what tricks I would do.
- Sometimes when I’m performing, I get nervous.
- Sometimes when I’m nervous, I start to uncontrollably urinate.
- I really want to win the competition.
- It would be a really fun thing to do.
- It seems like a great challenge.
- It would be hysterical if I got so nervous I pissed myself during the competition.
Ultimately, one big factor has swayed my decision as to whether or not I should enter: ‘I really want to be the Close Up Magician of the year because I think it would be awesome. If I enter, either I’ll win (good news), or the whole thing is rigged, and therefore I’ll lose (bad news). The only way I can guarantee bad news (losing) is by not entering.’
The philosophy I’ve forced myself to adopt over the past few years is just ‘Doing The Thing’. It might turn out great, or it might turn out fine. The only surefire way it turns out bad is by not even trying.
This, for me, covers my approach to all aspects of magic.
In 2019, I released a trick called Folderol. It’s a paper-folding prediction based on Sid Lorraine’s work. At the time, I had never released anything before and didn’t even really know where to begin. All I knew was that I wanted to have a trick on the shelf in International Magic, and so at a certain point, I had to stop fantasising about this and actually take action. I got the trick made up, made all the packaging myself, and wholesaled it around. It did fine. It’s an okay trick. Sweet, but ultimately not my best work. There’s a huge amount I would do differently in hindsight, but it was a start.
Earlier this year, I released my ESP Testing Set. This, in contrast to Folderol, I am hugely 100% proud of. This isn’t to dunk on Folderol (although this is a better trick for sure), but I was able to take the lessons I learnt from putting out a trick and just guessing my way through, and apply them, correcting where necessary, to improve to quality of my output. The feeling you get from knowing you’ve learned something, especially if you’ve done it all by yourself, is on a level with that once-a-year-day when you get up at 6 am, go for a really long run, reply to all your emails, and cook a lovely meal too.
The point here (other than loosely veiled self-promotion) is that I wouldn’t have done the thing I’m really proud of if I hadn’t have done the thing, to begin with. Had I not have just bitten the bullet, I’d still be fantasising about having a trick out rather than actually being able to see it on the shelf at International.
My actual job is as an Actor, and inventing magic is a brilliant hobby and passive income for me. I am, however, largely terrified of performing close-up magic in front of an audience. I am in complete awe of my friends who are able to do this multiple times a week and not really think about it. It makes me feel sick. On the other hand, the few occasions I’ve been able to perform Stage Magic have been nerve-racking, but I’ve loved them.
One day, I’d like to be able to show a friend a close-up trick and not start sweating so heavily that my friend is compelled to say: ‘Are you okay? You’re drenched in sweat, and I think you might have pissed. Should I get a teacher to make sure you’re okay?’ (This dream is happening in a playground btw ((I’m also young in this dream, not an adult hanging out with primary schoolers))).
Instead of: ‘Wow, that was incredible. You know what, dinner’s on me.’
I know deep down that at a certain point, I just have to Do The Thing. Maybe that’s not today, maybe that’s not even this year, but at some point, I need to take the plunge and start performing for friends. Otherwise, I’ll spend my whole life wishing I just did it.
I am the son of the Actor/Magician Andy Nyman…
(Unrelated - last year, I tried to track down a man called Andy Nymanson and ask him if he wanted to split the cost of a domain name with me. The homepage would redirect to both our sites, asking the visitor, ‘If you are looking for Andy Nyman’s son, click here. If you are looking for Andy Nymanson, click here.’)
…and last year, we organised the first annual London Magic Convention.
For years, we mourned the loss of the McMillans Convention, which took place in November in London every year since 1972. We have enormously fond memories of going as a family, the most important one being how it absolutely marked the start of our Christmas period. It was a brilliant convention, and when they stopped putting it on years ago, we were gutted.
Every year since then, we’ve gone: ‘Wouldn’t it be amazing to do a convention in that McMillans’ slot?’
Staggered that one of those mystical Convention Organisers hadn’t snapped it up and done something with it. During lockdowns, me and Dad came to a huge realisation:
There are no mystical Convention Organisers. They are just ordinary people who want to put on a good event. They also have other commitments and probably not enough time to organise it. We would love to have a convention like McMillans that runs for 40 years. Every year we put it off, that time frame gets further and further away and, ultimately, narrows.
If they can do it, why can’t we?
We Did The Thing, and it was a huge success for us, emotionally as well as event-wise. We immediately booked a bigger venue for this year (in which very, very limited tickets are still available at the time of writing! Buy tickets) and decided that if we Did The Thing once, what’s to stop us upping the stakes and Doing The Thing again? The worst that happens is it’s a weird day. The best that happens is it’s a dream come true.
Ultimately what I’m trying to say is that I’m not a very smart guy (I got a C in A-Level Music. My teachers urged me not to get it remarked because they were almost entirely convinced my grade would go down if I did), but if I can do it, there’s a pretty good chance you can too.
(P.S. In the time it’s taken you to read this article, I’ve been able to trademark the term ‘Do The Thing’ after a lengthy legal battle with Nike (open your eyes, Phil, it’s clearly a different saying). So to reiterate, Do The Thing, unless your thing is using the term ‘Do The Thing’ in conversation or print, in which case I’ll come at you guns blazing. See you in court.)