Three years ago, I decided I wanted to become a serious writer. I’d dabbled at it for years, writing poems and little stories for which I’d pat myself on the back, but I never really tried to develop my skills into a career. Finally, I sat down and started writing a book. It took me two years to finish my first draft of The After Wars because I’d never written a book before, and I had no clue what I was doing. Some days, I want to throw that book in the trash. Other days, I really want to finish editing it and get it published.
At the same time I decided to crack down on my writing endeavors, I started studying magicians. Why? I had no idea. One day I watched a video online of a British performer named Derren Brown, and the next day I started studying everything I could find on the man. He incorporates little lessons about how he does his tricks into many of his performances, and I was hooked. I soon expanded from him to others, and learned they each have their own styles and skill sets.
Recently, I realized why studying magicians has helped me in my goal of becoming a writer: They’re great role models. These people are self-employed professionals. They don’t go to a desk job every day and punch a clock. They live their craft 24/7. They dedicate their time and energy to their careers with enthusiasm and persistence. They may spend hundreds of hours to perfect one trick that only takes a minute to perform. They know how to expand that time with patter and engage their audiences. They do magic because they love it, and they cannot imagine not doing it. As a writer, I want to develop these traits in myself.
Magicians also have a tight-knit, well-developed community. They help each other grow their business and learn the trade. They praise each other, support one another, and cheer their colleagues on. Their profession is naturally an extroverted one which compels them to connect with others. In contrast, many writers – like me – are introverts who only want to engage the world from behind the comfort of their keyboards. The writing world is vast, and it’s difficult to know where to start. Following the careers of magicians taught me valuable habits to develop as a business owner whose product is oneself, while not tempting me to make unhelpful comparisons of my own work or achievements to theirs. I learned and had fun doing it!
Because of their example, I sought out other writers. I joined an online writing group this year that is very supportive, and I have already learned ways to improve my writing. Still, I wish I knew writers with whom I could meet in real life as friends. I think simple camaraderie with peers would help many writers develop confidence and be less neurotic, myself included. Developing my social skills may also help me to better connect with my readers.
As a writer, I enjoyed reading the blogs of two of the magicians I’ve followed: Matt Cooper and Vinny DePonto. I made a bit of a nuisance of myself with them, actually, because I enjoyed what they wrote but still felt compelled to point out the odd typo in their blogs to them. (I was like a little kid slugging people in the arm because I liked them and wanted to get their attention. Dreadful of me, I know.) I’d highly recommend reading their blogs, but please don’t be like me! Be kind and just enjoy it. What they’ve written are two entertaining blogs regarding their lives and their love of magic.
It was a happy accident on my part to have stumbled across Mr. Brown when I did. Watching him and other magicians has helped me stay focused on my own goals, and not give up. As I improve in my own career, I hope I can return that favor to others.