Evolution of a Magician
In high school, I took a class called Wildlife Management, in which we learned, among other things, the five stages a hunter typically experiences as he, or she, evolves(yes, there are female hunters). In the first stage, the hunter just wants to get out and fire a weapon, he doesn't even care if he hits anything. In the second, he just wants to kill something, anything. As the hunter arrives in the third stage, he is eager to kill his limit, without regard for quality, until he gets to the fourth stage, in which he is strictly hunting for trophy animals. Finally, in the fifth stage, the hunter is just in it for the journey. A hunter at the fifth stage enjoys simply going out to the woods and being in harmony with nature. The sport no longer holds disappointment for this hunter, even if he never gets to fire a shot. In fact, he may now carry a camera instead of a gun.
I was just thinking of these five stages today, and I realized that magicians experience similar stages. When we first step across that line between spectator and magician, we just want to perform, all the time. We don't care how lame the trick is, or how similar it is to the last twelve tricks we did, or even if the spectators are really enjoying it. Those of us that don't tire of this art and quit, pass to the next stage, in which we seek genuine astonishment. Here, we really want to surprise our specs, to know that we really got one over on them. In stage three, we start collecting tricks. We want a huge repertoire. We need hundreds of tricks, and they all have to be mindblowing in-your-face effects. We want the specs to think we traded our soul to the devil for unlimited power to alter space and time in any way we see fit. We must buy every new effect that comes on the market, because God help us if our friends ask to see some cool new effect that we can't do. When we mature, we reach stage four. Now we want to be really good, and we have the tools to get there. We focus our energy. We discover who we are as magicians and we choose magic that suits us. We realize that we don't need every single effect because we don't need to be all powerful. We're just entertaining, not trying to take over the world. We practice until technique becomes automatic, almost subconscious. Patter becomes natural, not forced. At stage four our magic persona and our everyday persona begin to blend. At stage four we begin to believe again. At stage five... Is anyone at stage five yet? Stage five is where the magic gets as real as it's ever going to be. We've gone in a circle. Now we just enjoy performing again, but now we're better. Now we get that astonishment we longed for back in stage two. Now the specs almost believe. They want to believe. And we want to let them.
I think everyone can see a bit of themselves here. Those who've progressed through these stages can look back on them and smile. I remember an early phase where I hated tricks with stacked decks. I only wanted to do impromptu magic, nothing with setups. Then I learned to do false shuffles and controlled shuffles, and suddenly I loved stacked deck tricks. Later I learned to stack a deck right under the specs' noses and I really fell in love with the stacked deck. Finally I learned to maintain a stacked deck even after a spectator has shuffled the deck, and I thought I was living the dream. Then one day I realized that I was performing difficult sleights that were entirely unnecessary. I was passing out decks to be shuffled even when no one asked to shuffle the deck, just to prove that all was fair. The result was that often people who were previously unsuspecting were now wondering why I insisted on them shuffling the deck. It never ruined an effect, but often dampened it, reducing the impact. Now I don't complicate things. I keep my effects as simple as I can, and my magic is better for it. I still use advanced sleights, but only when nothing less would work. If someone asks to shuffle the deck, I let them, but since they asked it's not suspicious, and only enhances the result. I'm going through the same thing with coins now. I've studied magic for about 24 years now, but I've only recently become serious about coin work. Now I find myself doing difficult sleights during performances for no other reason than because I can, that it's new to me and I enjoy being able to execute difficult moves. I smile to myself, and just realize that it's a stage that I will pass.
We all must go through these stages, some faster than others, and some will even repeat them. Don't rush through the stages, just pass them at your own pace. If you're meant to be a magician each stage will pass naturally. If not, you'll stagnate, become bored with magic and move on to a hobby that interests you more. In short, you'll evolve, or you'll become extinct.