Friday, January 15, 2010

Coping with the January Lull

Behold the fool saith, "Put not all thine eggs in the one basket"--which is but a manner of saying, "Scatter your money and your attention;" but the wise man saith, "Put all your eggs in the one basket and--WATCH THAT BASKET."

-Mark Twain

Being a professional magician, you get just as many highs and lows as any other self-owned business. Statistically, January acts as the preparation month for the rest of the year, primarily because you don't have much else to do (And although the whole Conan v. Leno thing is intriguing... there's not too much I can do about it...Go Conan). So I've spent my January doing a few random gigs here and there, redoing the website, sending out press kits, and preparing for a lecture to Magicians in NY.

The untrained eye might consider this "keeping myself busy" or "waiting for something to come up" but the truth is that it's actually keeping myself focused on the job. I think the biggest downfall of magicians trying to make it professionally is that they lose focus. So many take these low points as an unsolvable problem and just "wait by the phone" or worse, take it as a sign they should take a second crap job to "soften the blow"... then they start relying on the second job. They turn down magic gigs because they can't miss work and then BAM... they make the transition from professional magician to hobbyist in denial. Then eventually, after a few years, just a hobbyist.

Now, please know I have nothing against hobbyists. In fact, I know some awesome hobbyists who have created some great and indeed legendary magic... but they're not running a magic business at that point. And to be in show business, you have to embrace both parts; Show AND business.

I have been told by some that to run a business, you have to compromise your art and I certainly believe it's not so. In fact, there is an altogether different art to running a business. But aside from that, I think if you you're focused on the type of art you do, then you will find an audience to buy it. In my case, my show is highly adaptable (I am a Shameless Whore, after all), but I often have to find ways to tell new clients that. It sometimes took a bit to tell corporations that I was what they were looking for and didn't want a suit & tie type performance. Luckily, they usually end up listening.

I'm eternally grateful to have a better half who slaps me back into focus when I fall into the occasional Am I a Failure-type depression that plagues many of my magician cohorts. I also have a great family that helps in this problem. And it's not like I don't do other things to supplement my income aside from performing magic. I've built websites for other magicians, I host karaoke, I've done tarot readings for corporate parties... but I've never let it get in the way of magic. And the fact that all of those side jobs are connected very wholly to performing or the business doesn't hurt either.

What's my point? Keep focused on your goals. Don't let the low points scare you away. If you put a fall-back profession into place... you're more likely to use it. Much more likely. Maybe it sounds pessimistic to some, but the idea of not having a net keeps me much more focused on the high-wire.

To leave you folks with a really cool TED talk that focuses on the subject of success. It's only 3 minutes but it's very interesting.

(If you don't know about, this is a great time to learn. It's VERY cool.)


  1. TED is awesome and support is KEY!
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  2. I kept my fulltime job the entire time I was writing and self-publishing my work -- although after my position was eliminated, it was lot easier to feel that much less valuable. (I'm still getting work, just not fulltime, and at nowhere nearly the level I'm comfortable with.)

    I'll have more to say about the "show and business" side of things later on, I'm sure.

    (BTW: I was at a previous WickedFaire, but I have been forced to put events on hold due to my current finances.)