I’m currently writing a book on performing and have been thinking about the reason why I chose to perform magic. Yes, it’s because I love the art-form. But do audiences? Aside from me enjoying myself, was there a good living to be made? Would my audiences enjoy it as much as I?
And then I got thinking about the other things I’ve done. Writing for instance. And that led me to think about the artists, magicians, entertainers and authors I know who don’t actively pursue their passion. Perhaps they think ‘what’s the point?’
If the end result is money, then to me you have the wrong agenda baby. You’re creating solely for the end result.
The enjoyment, satisfaction and reward should be the experience itself. It should be self-fulfilling.
When I perform magic, whether in practice or paid play, time passes by and I’m totally absorbed in the moment. The act of magic. When I write, same applies. And now after a few years sabbatical, I’m playing with pencil and paint again.
This complete immersion in the activity makes you lose your sense of self. You become ‘one’ with the creation. When I write my fingers flow over the keyboard and should the door-bell go it actually shocks me back into myself. When I draw I find myself flowing with the pencil.
Sound to woo-woo?
If you’re creating for the sheer enjoyment of it, for yourself and for no other reason then you’ll know what I mean. If you’re creating for an end result of money or recognition, then perhaps you’ll not feel the difference between a true act of creation and the commercialisation of your talent for other ends.
Talking to artists and performers there’s a clear difference.
The key comes to being paid to still create for yourself. And that is what my forthcoming book aims to address. Ever onwards…
Can this be right? No, surely not. Every inspirational-cum-leader-guru-self-help-The-Secret-and-other-such-cackery tells us that the key to success (whatever that may mean, usually undefined, but often referring only to monetary gain) is to set goals.
Having given this a lot of thought and reflection, I’ve long reached the decision that the setting of goals is pointless.
I’m currently writing a book on performing and have been contemplating the effects that goal-setting, or rather the lack of it, has affected my life. Whilst I wont go into the depth I will in the book (shameless plug, although it won’t be available until sometime 2018) it’s enough to say that I think goal-setting is pointless as it is currently understood in our society.
We all want everything instantly. We want a six-pack in days. We want a pill to get rid of our back ache right now. We want instant gratification. Want to be famous? Simply go on a TV talent show. Want to be a magician? Jump on YouTube and learn.
But long term mastery of a subject, art or career is something that will take time, effort and dedication. Setting a goal to be, for example, a kung-fu expert is only going to mean you don’t truly reach the goal. And the end result? One of feeling like a failure (whatever that means, usually undefined, but often referring to not having made considerable monetary gain).
So, if you really must set a goal, then put it in a realistic time-frame. E.g. something you will master over the next 20-30 years. Suddenly that’s not as promising as the self-help books would have us believe. Hence the fat folks still carry on trying to lose weight year-upon-year, the employed folks try to become their own boss and the gym is full of wannabe weight lifters who stop going after the first week or two.
Mastering anything takes a lifetime.
For me there’s another, bigger down-side to goal setting and I’ll come on to that in a future rambling.
For now, do you set goals and if so why? Sounds a daft question, but setting them to achieve something usually has the opposite effect; we rarely achieve what we set out to and so feel deflated. What was the point then?
As a creative person, I’m fortunate enough to meet and correspond with many other ‘creatives’ and that brings up many interesting theoretical discussions. Leading on from a recent discussion with my theoretical sparring partner D.M.Kruger (a superbly talented musician and producer), what makes art art?
I summarise it as the skill being made manifest as a creative object, be it painting, magical performance, writing, sculpting or otherwise, but having two key components brought to the process; namely poetry and love.
If either is missing then the result becomes a shallow representation of skill.
But a painting expressing the poetry (or we could say grace) and love of the artist, makes it a work of art.
What do you think?
A thought for you. ‘Creativity demands solitude’.
Do you agree?
As a magician, I find I create the procedure in isolation. But the plot often comes through collaboration with other performers, my director and magical friends (yes, I actually have magical friends!).
As a writer, I create in solitude, writing being, for me, a very personal experience.
As an artist, I work in solitude.
But in all disciplines, I know I can’t make it happen on my own. I need to team up with others. But at what stage is the creative journey done? Before making it a reality with others? Or during that phase, organically working and developing the concept?
Hmmm… An answer can’t be found in solitude. Or can it?
So, I was thinking.
We hear of visionaries wanting to create colonies on Mars. A conservatory on the Moon. Anywhere other than here. And with our growing want for shiny new play things, devices that numb us, dumb us and separate us from ourselves and each other, will we cope with these grand visions for the future?
As we become more cemented in, moving away from nature and the balance we have living in reciprocity with others on Earth, the more we see mental illness rise, suicide and depression on the increase.
Whilst conceptual images of a happy, thriving society adorn the pages of visionary websites, with their glass walls, robots fulfilling our every need, shiny surfaces and minimalist white spaces, flecked with the subtlest hint of colour, shouldn’t we be asking ourselves why this eagerness for disconnect from the natural world?
We work to save our money and celebrate those two glorious weeks in the sun. The Sun. A source of energy. A natural presence which we cannot live without. We lay be the sea; that natural and awesome shifting mass, waves coming in and out, sighing with its own gentle breath. We seek shelter from the palm trees, and breathe the clean sea air.
Fire, water, earth and air.
Where’s that in our future vision?
The more we think ourselves as all important beings who’s thirst for technological advancement has far more precedence and importance over the naturalness of what we truly are, the more we will cease to be.
So, next time you’re wowed by the latest vision of the perfect future, with flying cars, huge multiplex societies living in their glass domes, the whiteness of nothingness surrounding us, take a moment to go hug a tree and ask yourself if the future we appear to be chasing is the one which will allow us to truly thrive?
Thanks for Blackpool Gazette for the feature! Read it here: http://www.blackpoolgazette.co.uk/whats-on/magic-of-blackpool-attracted-talented-couple-1-8690565
If you won £1m would you still go to work tomorrow?
Or, re-phrased, if money wasn’t an issue would you start living your dream and fulfilling your ambition?
If yes, then consider something my friend George Parker calls ‘distilling the essence’.
George talks about a client of his who dreamed of taking his children to the desert to spend a night camping under the stars. But money, time and responsibilities stopped him from doing so. George broke the vision down into its main elements and thus allowed his client to achieve the essence of his dream; a sand-pit in the back garden on a clear, star-lit night.
Consider the key elements of your dream and then bring those elements into the here and now. You may just surprise yourself with what you can achieve.
And it won’t cost the Earth.
And you won’t be using lack of money as another excuse to stop you from taking action and simply doing it!
Pouring with rain. Bike out earlier, I cycled around the nature reserves near the house here in BlasVegas (e.g. Blackpool). And felt free. I love that feeling. It comes when we’re in nature, immersed in the elements and everything is stripped back to simplicity. I could cycle naked and probably feel even more alive, but the saddle rash would be a nasty after-effect.
Less is more.
As a magician, if I performed one piece of magic to you as a stranger, it would have a powerful effect. But what if I then did another? And a third? Maybe even a whole sequence of magic tricks? Guess what, you’d grow bored and I would weaken the impact of the first magic experience created just for you, in that moment.
Less is more.
I have gifted so many books. Thrown the TV away years ago. Learned a lot from managing the Shaolin Warriors UK. The less material possessions I have, the less stressed and cluttered my life becomes.
Less is more.
And I could write on with many more examples. But guess what?
It’s all in the mind. For most ideas that’s where they stay.
A few posts ago I talked about the importance of carrying a notebook and pencil with you everywhere you go. Plus, keeping one by the bed (how come those best ideas come right on the edge of sleep? Although, in the cold light of day they seem not quite as brilliant as they appeared at the Witching Hour!).
Putting your idea down on paper is already far more than the vast majority of us do.
But then what?
Leaving it there the idea will simply never have chance to breathe and become fully realised. And before you know it, you’ll be jotting down your latest, brilliant idea. And that too will soon be trumped by another.
Creating the habit of recording your ideas is the first step to being more creative. Now you need to take the next step; the periodical review.
Choose a time-frame; weekly, monthly, bi-monthly and put it in your diary! Schedule time to revise your notebook and re-consider the various ideas you have had.
And then decide on one, just one idea, that you feel energised to develop, explore and bring to life.
Get in the habit of doing this. Bringing ideas off the page and into existence. Otherwise you’ll never experience their potential, your potential, and they’ll forever be all in the mind.
Until there too they are forgotten.
One of my favourite books is Mystery School. A collection of essays on magic, ritual and philosophy, it is a document of the work being done by the founder Jeff McBride and the faculty at the Mystery School in Las Vegas. I’m delighted to play my small part in their monthly offerings.
In Mystery School the book are many wise words and wisdom. One piece in particular I’ve copied below is from a leading thinker on magic and culture, David Abram.
‘Western industrial society, with its massive scale and hugely centralised economy, can hardly be seen in relation to any particular landscape or ecosystem… our society’s relation to the living biosphere can in no way be considered a reciprocal or balanced one. With thousands of acres of non-regenerating forest disappearing every hour and hundreds of species becoming extinct each month as a result of our excesses, we can hardly be surprised by the amount of epidemic illness in our culture, from increasingly severe immune dysfunctions and cancers, to widespread psychological distress, depressions and ever more frequent suicides, to the growing number of murders committed for no apparent reason by otherwise coherent individuals.
‘From an animistic perspective, the clearest source of all this distress, both physical and psychological, lies in the aforementioned violence needlessly perpetrated by our civilisation upon the ecology of the planet; only be alleviating the latter will we be able to heal the former. This may sound at first like a simple statement of faith, yet it makes eminent and obvious sense as soon as we recognise our thorough dependence upon the countless other organisms with whom we have evolved. Caught up in a mass of abstractions, our attention hypnotised by a host of human-made technologies that only reflect ourselves back upon ourselves, it is all too easy for us to forget our carnal inherence in a more-than-human matrix of sensations and sensibilities’ (© 2003 David Abram / The Miracle Factory, Eugene Burger, McBride Magic)
This really connected with me on a recent re-reading. We’ve paving over nature. From covering up the grass with our new driveways and decking, to new housing estates of carefully pruned plants and shrubs. The increase in digital technology gives us escapism to other realities, none of which are as textured or vibrant as our ultimate relationship with nature. And the more we pursue this, as David says, the more we see an increase in psychological and physical ills. Why are we seeking that escape?
I’ve been thinking what I can do to get back some of that connection with the bigger picture. I live by the sea, and near parks, lakes, hills and woodland. But in the closer community, in our own homes, how can we bring about a better and healthier balance?
Worthy of five minutes contemplation I feel. What are you waiting for; Dig up a paving slab and grow a plant!