Alright so one thing that I noticed not too long ago was that many people, magicians or performers of any kind deal with one issue that affects everyone, from whatever age, skill, experience or background. That issue – is nerves.
Allow me to elaborate on what gives me the experience to discuss this subject. As well as being a professional magician for numerous years now, I am also an avid Theatre Director, having directed 14 different theatre productions, dealing with actors of various skills, taught different performance workshops and at the same time as mentioned before been a professional magician, performing to crowds of numerous hundreds of people, and then performing in bars and clubs to individuals. One of the things that I have noticed is that a lot of people especially actors (and a LOT of magicians) suffer from nerves. The question then arises with how to deal with the nerves. I’ve got my 7 tips on how to deal with nerves.
1 – Self Esteem
I know that a lot of people when they look at themselves basically think they are rubbish. I know a lot of performers myself included have this issue sometimes. We wake up, look in the mirror and the first thing we see is “Dear me, why do I put myself through this” or “I cannot perform” This is a very negative attitude (if you haven’t guessed) and is something that needs to (and can be) worked on. My personal advice to you is to try and do some of the exercises below which may help
Look at yourself in the mirror and simply say that “you CAN do it.” Repeat it to yourself until you believe it. Either that or replace it with another positive phrase like “I am a good magician” or “I am confident.” When you repeat it enough you will eventually believe it.
Another good exercise is to get a pen and paper and write down all the good things about you – nothing negative. Even if it is something simple like “I am good at card tricks”. It doesn’t have to be anything complex, but when you feel like you cant do anything look over that list again, you’ll never know what you’ll remember and what will stick with you.
If it is anything deeper than that I would seriously suggest getting professional help
2 – Practice
That’s the simplest thing. Practice makes perfect and when you do that it also means that you should be confident in what you are doing. Take one of my personal stunts for example. I often am asked to do fire-breathing. This is something you should NOT try at home under any circumstance, it is incredibly dangerous. The only way that I am confident enough to do this kind of stunt is through practice. Yeah I have nerves; more than you would believe, but I know full well that I have practiced this skill enough that I can perform it blindfolded and upside down (not that I would do such a thing as it is suicidal as it is). When you are confident with a trick or a routine from rehearsing it, the nerves go eventually. You become confident with something when you learn it.
3 – Planning
Plan everything. From how you say hello to someone, to when they think they know more than you, to when things go wrong. Even then plan even more. When you are ready for anything then the confidence grows and nerves subside.
4 – Confidence
I am guessing that as you are reading this, what I am about to say is incredibly relevant. So read this very carefully...
YOU CAN DO THIS
Simple as. When you are performing, you can do it. It is all up to you. You don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to, or you can show everything. It is up to you. Have confidence with yourself because if you are serious about magic then whatever you are doing you will be able to do it. This is kind of thing that ties back to point 1.
5 – Control
Whatever happens, whoever you client is remember you are in control. You can do whatever you want. If you want to perform a trick then perform it. If I want to do a certain stunt like a straight jacket escape then I will do it, if I don’t want to do it for whatever reason I don’t have to. Don’t let others pressure you into doing stuff you don’t want to. When you have control, nerves go down. Remember whenever you are performing you are the boss, after all you are the person who is entertaining them, you are in charge.
6 – Friends/backup
Ever had the issue of not feeling confident with something???? You’ve just bought the latest Jay Sankey DVD and you think that you have got something prepared, but you are too nervous to show it to the public, try showing it to your friends and family. They will be honest with you but not too honest and will be supportive. They should give you constructive critism on your performance. I often ask my family, friends and partner what they think. I know I can trust them but at the same time they can give an honest opinion. This means that when I perform it for the first time to the real world I feel good
7 – Mistakes
Yeah we all screw up. Thats it. Things go wrong and we should expect this. It is always a big concern for people when they are performing you get the typical “what happens if I screw up?” This is something I have discovered from working with numerous performers. Simply think – it happens. And if it happens there is nothing I can do to change it. Once it’s done it’s done. When you screw up the best thing to do is just to move on. That’s it really. Don’t be afraid to walk away going “gee that went bad” or “maybe I shouldn’t do that again” but don’t worry about it. Remember, Fear is Just an Illusion. Its only something that POSSIBLY may happen.
And that’s my seven points of advice on nerves. But there’s something else as well. Nerves can be good. Whats that I hear you cry? Nerves, good? Here’s the plan truth. When you get scared it increases adrenaline and your concentration. The example I can give for this is fire breathing.
Whenever I do any fire performances I am nervous. I am scared that I may screw up, injure someone, or it could just not work. But these nerves help out as well. I become more confident as the biological effects of nerves kick in. But at the same time I have a healthy respect for what I am about to do. I know that I can do these dangerous skills, but at the same I don’t want to do anything too stupid. It’s good to have a respect for what you do, magic, acting or whatever enough that you don’t get too cocky. If you get too over confident it can lead to accidents. I know I am going back to the fire performing, but it is the clearest example I have of his.
A few days ago I was doing some fire eating and was getting over confident slightly. I did some fire breathing shortly beforehand and did not realise that I had been stupid enough to still have some paraffin on my face. I was too overconfident thinking that I could do anything. I didn’t realise that I had a slight bit of fuel on my face which was quite happy to ignite. I became too confident and lost my respect for the flame (and the skill) and ended up getting first degree burns to my face. I’ll soon recover but I have learnt my lesson. Respect your skills and be happy to be nervous. Nerves are good, but don’t let them control you.
And thats about it, so just to quickly recap
1 – Work on Self Esteem
2 – Practice, Practice, Practice
3 – Planning
4 – Be Confident
5 – Be in control
6 – Ask friends for advice
7 - Don’t worry about mistakes
And finally use nerves to your advantage. They can be healthy but don’t let them control you. Hope that helps.