Where the magic happens
I’m currently working on a magic routine that terrifies me. It’s ridiculous. It’s called the Multiplying Balls (if you are creating a hilarious joke at this point in your head, it’s been done, to death). It’s an old classic which I have always found to be beautiful, and it’s putting me way out of my comfort zone. Actually, let’s be honest, I’m putting myself way out of my comfort zone. The routine and the props are nothing alone, it’s my decision to spend years working on the thing, and now performing it, which is keeping me up at night.
The other silly thing is that I have actually performed this a good few times, not enough to really work it in, but enough to feel a little more confident with it, but then there was bit of a blip, followed by enough of a break for the fear to set in. And the props were moved further into the back of the case and then finally put back on the shelf.
So why does this scare me so much? The first thing is that it isn’t a comedy or humour based piece, so if things go wrong, I can’t cover with a joke or a self-depreciating line to make it look as though it’s all part of the fun. Secondly, this routine is physically difficult for me. My hands and fingers have to move into some pretty awkward positions with precision timing, and at any moment a slight misstep can severely decrease the effect. There really isn’t much room for error. And finally there is the knowledge that this is an early draft. Nearly all of my tricks and routines have been performed hundreds of times, resulting in unconscious competence. Basically, I know that, barring an unsuitable performance situation or audience (this can happen), they will work well and run smoothly. But this is new, and no matter how much practice I put in, it’s never going to be as good as it will be after hundreds of performances, and it’s been a while since was in this situation, with magic anyway.
Though we all know that the above contains nothing to really fear, we also know that our amazing but sometimes irrational minds are wired to fear things that can’t really hurt us. We can tame and control this response, but a response there will always be. So why am I doing it? Why don’t I just stick with what I know and enjoy the comfort of walking on stage with the knowledge that all will be fine. Because I have enough experience to know that comfort and short term pleasure has nothing to do with long-term happiness.
I truly believe, and have observed in others, that contentment usually comes when we are achieving things that are on the boundaries of our abilities- this is not a new idea, I’ve written about this is in my Flow post. In our culture, there seems to be a strong assumption that contentment is linked to comfort or inactivity. Though we do, of course, need times of quiet and complete rest, there can be issues when we take too much. This amount differs between individuals, but feeling comfortable and unchallenged for too long can result in apathy, boredom, feeling of stagnation and even depression, and once these feelings are there, they can be pretty hard to shift. In my experience, the longer the period of comfort, the harder it is to move out of.
For me this performance routine is a good example, because I had reached a point where I couldn’t imagine picking up these props again, let alone taking them on stage. But I remembered the years I had already put in, and I then remembered how much this meant to me. I also became aware, again, that the main thing stopping me was a completely understandable, but irrational fear. For me, I know that I have to move into that place of discomfort and vulnerability again to feel creative and really alive, because that’s where the magic really happens.
Of course I’m talking about a performance here but in my experience, many have similar challenges-those things that we really want to do, but feel so out of character for us that we don’t know where to start, or that we put on hold because of the short-term feelings of discomfort or vulnerability. When we learn to ignore these little gremlins in our head that steer us back into comfort, and away from our dreams, we begin to feel truly alive. So I urge you to think of those things that you keep putting off and take the first step. It really isn’t easy, but once you do you’ll realise it’s not as hard as you thought. I’ve been there, and I am there much of the time.
If there is anything here that connects with you, please comment, share on social media or email me. I would love to hear your thoughts and address them in future posts.
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