New Years Resolution 2012 - Stage Fright

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New Years Resolution 2012 - Stage Fright

Postby FTHO » Tue Jan 01, 2013 9:29 pm



I wrote this up for my blog a few weeks ago, but now that it is new years day 2013 I thought i would post it here too.
There are several people on this forum who suffer from stage fright like me. I hope this might help one or two of them.
I wrote this originally as an account of my thoughts, purely for my benefit, to sort of remind myself of how i felt at the time.
It is a long post, please don't feel obliged to read it!
But if this is of any use to anyone please do let me know.


This is the story of my troubles with stage fright, my new years resolution for 2012 and its outcome.


New Year Resolution 2012

When performing magic I suffer from stage fright. Actually that comment is deceiving – it implies that I perform magic. I began studying magic at the age of 11 or 12, developed stage fright at 16. I am now 25 and trying to overcome this stage fright, that’s nearly 10 years since I was comfortable performing.

Back in 2011 I started attending a weekly “magic night” at a bar where two magicians were paid to perform close up but any magician was allowed to perform for free. I never performed. I did learn and share with other magicians and performed a few pieces for them, but there was no issue of stage fright when performing for other magicians.

Over time I started to realise what I was missing by not performing, and I wanted to overcome the stage fright. The other magicians there were all very encouraging and had nothing but kind words and helpful advice.

The stage fright started when I was 16 years old, I began studying magic at about the age of 11 or 12 during my first year of secondary school. At first it was great, I loved performing, but at the age of 16 it became well known throughout the school that I performed magic and suddenly there was a lot of demand to perform all of the time.

At the time I was happy to perform for them but I soon ran out of tricks so I started repeating the tricks I’d already performed. Occasionally people were able to figure out how the tricks worked because of these repeat performances. My next solution was to keep learning new tricks and perform those instead. By doing that I put a lot of pressure on myself and couldn’t practice the tricks to a level where I felt comfortable performing them. This caused me to develop my famous response to being asked to show a trick: “Not right now, but I’ll show you one later” and similar phrases to delay performing indefinitely.

As soon as I started finding excuses not to perform I started feeling nervous about actually performing, and that is how the stage fright started. The stage fright is specific to the performance of magic, I have no problem speaking publicly and giving presentations, I actually enjoy giving presentations, and I get a great thrill giving presentations when I am completely unprepared and have to make it up on the spot.

I went through a small phase of performing again several years later when I was at university but only when I was rather drunk. A month or so after attending my first “magic night” I started performing for friends, but once again only when I was under the influence.

In about September or October of 2011 I decided that I wanted to overcome my stage fright and begin performing magic again. My solution was to focus entirely on presentation, and perform some self-working/semi-automatic tricks. My favourite magic books have been The Collected Works of Alex Elmsley ever since I first read them, I loved the mathematical based tricks and principles and was very inspired by Elmsley’s way of thinking. I have always enjoyed self-working tricks and when I started attending the “magic night” it was quite enjoyable to fool the other magicians with this style of card trick.

The logic behind performing self-working tricks was that ‘if I enjoy public speaking then the presentation should be no problem, it is the method I am nervous about.’ However this turned out to be completely untrue, even with methods where I have absolutely no doubt about them working I was still nervous. As such turning to self-working magic probably wasn’t the complete answer, but it was a good first step. It eventually led to the realisation that until I feel comfortable performing I need to avoid anything complicated in method regardless of how well I have practiced it. I needed to be completely focused on the performing.

So I started performing magic for my friends more often. I would do a couple of simple tricks, usually highly interactive and often end with Paul Curry’s Out of This World. I was enjoying myself but I was still only performing on nights out, and only after a couple of beers. This was an improvement, as I was no longer performing drunk, it was only after one or two. I should point out that I was not drinking to help me perform, most of my opportunities to perform just happen to be when I’m having a drink with friends.
Fast forward to new year’s eve 2011. After the countdown to midnight we all celebrated and then people started asking each other about their plans and resolutions for the new year, normally I have no idea what to say because it’s not something I’d previously thought about. This year I was prepared... “I want to perform a magic trick for a stranger at magic night.”
The new year starts, and I take it slowly, I start by practicing lots, and planning. I soon realised that the tricks I was learning with stacked decks were relatively useless in the situations I usually found myself and started learning impromptu self-working tricks.

I came up with a new response to the show me a trick question: “yeah, OK.” I didn’t use this response all the time, and still don’t, saying no is a long hard habit to break.

I slowly started performing for friends more and more, and made the decision that if I was going to drink I wouldn’t take any cards with me, and if I took cards with me then I wouldn’t drink. This way I started performing only when I wasn’t drinking. This is an obvious step forwards when trying to develop genuine confidence performing. Plus it is just nicer, I have some horrible memories of performances going wrong due to alcohol (either on my behalf or spectators), and gave me more clarity and control over the performances.

Several months into the year along came a major setback. Or so it seemed at the time, “magic night” was cancelled at the bar. We could no longer perform there, we continued meeting elsewhere, but I had lost my easy opportunity to perform to a stranger. I needed it to be easy to make it less likely that I would chicken out.

“Magic night” continued, but at a new venue, and with just magicians attending, there was no more performing to audiences, just talking magic, learning and sharing. We started a weekly magic challenge, to come up with solutions to problems. Performing for strangers went out of my head completely. I did continue performing for friends and family though.

Several months later (in September or October 2012) we heard of a kind of open mic night for magicians, and suddenly the thoughts of performing for a stranger came back. We started attending these open mic nights twice a month.

The first open mic night coincided with the local university LGBT society freshers pub crawl. Suddenly we were overwhelmed with drunk freshers enjoying their first weeks at uni. I was planning on performing for a stranger, and joined a group of students for a chat, they asked me what was going on, and I explained what the night was, they told me they hate magic, so I carried on chatting and didn’t mention that I had a trick to show them. I didn’t perform that night or any of the subsequent open mic nights. I kept the attitude that I would perform if I felt like it, but I wouldn’t pressure myself.

In late November I showed a couple of tricks to a friend who came for dinner. I explained my resolution to him and then I realised that there were only two open mic nights left before the end of the year. I was running out of time.

I decided that I was going to perform at the next open mic night. It turned out it was the last open mic night of the year, as they had cancelled the next one.

I arrived and chatted for a while, there was no one in the pub except for magicians! What terrible luck!

Eventually one man arrived at the pub with a friend, they are regulars to the open mic night, so I considered them a safe bet, but shortly after they arrived other magicians showed them tricks one after another, I didn’t want to bother them any more! So I waited to see if anyone else arrived.

No one arrived. I went to get a glass of diet coke. I was chatting away with the bar tender and asked him “do any of these guys ever come and show you a trick?” referring to the other magicians, he responded that they have a couple of times. He asked me about my magic, I offered to show him.

I took out my deck and I shuffled it, then I performed the oldest trick in my repertoire. The one I’ve performed countless times, everyone enjoys, and I have no problems with. It’s not even self-working – all that practice of self-working tricks gone out of the window...

I followed the first trick with a second. All through the performance I was comfortable, didn’t feel nervous at all, in fact it seemed just like I was having a chat. The bar tender seemed to enjoy the tricks, I enjoyed myself, everyone was a winner.

I continued chatting with the bar man for a while and then returned to my seat. When I sat down I realised my hands were shaking, but they were not shaking during the performance which is good.

I was honest with the bar tender. Before I started my tricks I explained to him what my new year’s resolution was (and why), and that he was going to help me complete it. I’m not sure if this was a good idea or not, but it made me feel more comfortable.

I think the key to the successful performance was that before I went to the open mic night I had already decided that I was going to perform. So I did.
Previously I had gone with the intention of performing if I felt like it. So I didn’t.
If anyone reading wants to overcome stage fright, absolutely decide to perform before you arrive. It will help.

Next steps:
I need to continue with this for a while. It would be very easy to say “I’ve done it now” and then never do it again – I need to do it again at the earliest opportunity.
I also need a new year’s resolution for 2013: something to help further with overcoming stage fright. Does anyone have any suggestions?



Sam

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Re: New Years Resolution 2012 - Stage Fright

Postby Mandrake » Wed Jan 02, 2013 1:01 am

Excellent, thank you - this is now a 'Sticky'.

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Re: New Years Resolution 2012 - Stage Fright

Postby MiKo » Wed Jan 02, 2013 1:51 am

Well done! What about setting a time limit between each of your performances (e.g. Performing for a stranger at least once evrery month or forthnight...)

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Re: New Years Resolution 2012 - Stage Fright

Postby Tomo » Wed Jan 02, 2013 2:02 pm

What a great post. The key to overcoming nerves is to perform until your subconscious is convinced that there's nothing to be terrified of. Explaining the situation really helps.

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Re: New Years Resolution 2012 - Stage Fright

Postby FTHO » Fri Jan 04, 2013 9:50 pm

Mandrake - Thank you so much for 'stickying' - it is so good to know that someone appreciated it, and that hopefully it will be available to help people in similar situations to me.

Miko - Thank you!
All of my magic and non magic friends suggesting things along the line of "perform for a stranger in the street" (Brighton has a lot of street events perfect for that), but i really don't think i am quite ready for that. The reason is probably because i haven't performed enough yet. Your suggestion is probably the most useful and important advice for a 2013 resolution i have heard yet. It also fits with what i already knew: that "I need to do it again at the earliest opportunity."
So i think i will take your advice, i will planon performing for a stranger at least 1 of every 2 open mic nights. Plan being the important word - meaning i will "decide" to perform that night before i go.

Tomo - Thank you also!
You said:
The key to overcoming nerves is to perform until your subconscious is convinced that there's nothing to be terrified of
I think that should become my long term goal. I should keep pushing myself to perform over and over (and hopefully more and more regularly) until eventually I no longer fear it (or at least understand how to move past the fear). Thank you.


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Re: New Years Resolution 2012 - Stage Fright

Postby dean.allen.jones » Thu Jan 17, 2013 8:57 am

Well done! It sounds like you've taken huge steps in your confidence. It's just like swimming, once you manage the first few strokes to get your head around the technique the rest is just repetition to build up stamina. Very impressed mate. Btw, your blog sounds interesting, any chance of a link?
Mine is

http://masterlessmagician.blogspot.co.uk/

take care
Dean

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Re: New Years Resolution 2012 - Stage Fright

Postby fiftytwo » Thu Jan 17, 2013 9:31 am

One of the things for me is gaining social permission. In the street, what right have I to walk up to a stranger and ask to show them some magic? How dare I interrupt their day/thoughts?

This is where the hat comes in.

"Why are you wearing the hat? Oh .. you going to do some magic then?"

The hat doesn't have to be a hat. It's been a badge or a t-shirt before too.

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Re: New Years Resolution 2012 - Stage Fright

Postby mark lewis » Fri Jan 18, 2013 4:44 am

Do what you fear to do and get a record of successful experiences behind you.

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Re: New Years Resolution 2012 - Stage Fright

Postby snickers » Sat Jan 26, 2013 1:15 am

This is a great post. Really helpful and I hope to perform more and combat my nerves when performing.
Well done on your progress, as a sufferer of stage fright, I'm impressed.

Thanks..

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Re: New Years Resolution 2012 - Stage Fright

Postby Raven1s » Sat Jan 26, 2013 12:38 pm

just a thought would it be a good idea to have a diary as well so in the diary you write e.g 26th jan performed for person in street then that way you can look back and feel good that you have performed for strangers

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Re: New Years Resolution 2012 - Stage Fright

Postby FTHO » Thu Feb 14, 2013 12:35 pm

Dean: My blog is: http://sjrwheeler.blogspot.co.uk/ but there is very little on there.
It got its name from an essay I'm writing comparing martial arts with magic...
I've enjoyed reading about the build up to your magic circle audition.

Fiftytwo: I don't suit a hat. But I see your point and will consider it when planning on performing.

Mark: that is my aim

Sickers: I'm glad the post was of some use to you. Please let me know how you get on with battling your stage fright.

Raven1s: that was the reason I started my blog, for me to look back on my successes.


Unfortunately 2013 hasn't got off to a good start... I need to try and turn that around.

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Re: New Years Resolution 2012 - Stage Fright

Postby FTHO » Wed Oct 21, 2015 9:55 pm

Hello,

I just wanted to share a little update with you all.

A few weeks ago I was at a talk given by one of the founders of my company. I think the aim was to inspire us to work harder... but it had an effect on my magic. Specifically it made me decide to NEVER say no to giving a performance again. Magic makes me happy - I should not deprive myself of the enjoyment of performing just because I'm nervous of it.

Well... a couple of weeks later I was asked to perform something and I said no - the old habit is hard to break. I regretted it and kicked myself!

So... this last weekend I was in a bar with some magic buddies and a man approached the table and asked if we were magicians (I said yes), he asked if we could perform something for him and his partner because she loves magic and so does he.
My instinct was to hand it over to the other magicians there, but they were both reluctant. So instead of saying no and sending them away disappointed and ending up disappointed in myself... I just did it.

I really enjoyed myself, had a fun performance as well as a lovely chat with the couple.

I'm really grateful that they approached me, and quite proud that I was able to handle this.

I feel that I've come a long way since 2012, but I still have a long way to go!

Sam

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Re: New Years Resolution 2012 - Stage Fright

Postby Mandrake » Wed Oct 21, 2015 10:46 pm

Well done Sam!

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Re: New Years Resolution 2012 - Stage Fright

Postby Lady of Mystery » Thu Oct 22, 2015 9:20 am

That's great Sam, you do have to give yourself a little kick sometimes to get over the nerves but it's always worth it and I always find that the moment I start performing, all those nerves just tend to vanish.

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Re: New Years Resolution 2012 - Stage Fright

Postby mark lewis » Tue Dec 29, 2015 2:20 pm

I have a wonderful suggestion for you. I think this is worth looking into. Find the nearest Dale Carnegie training in your area. It is a public speaking course but is so much more than that. It comprises memory training, human relations, techniques to stop worrying and build enthusiasm. However, one of the great benefits is that it is designed to ward off stage fright. I honestly believe it will help you conquer your stagefright. They force you to stand up in front of the class and give two minute speeches. But everybody else in the class is in the same boat and they have to do exactly the same.

Here are some more tips. Preparation is the key. If you are well prepared and VERY good at your magic it will make you less nervous. I would not open with sleight of hand because your hands are liable to shake with nerves and in any event you want to get confident as soon as possible when performing. So do something self working but powerful to start with. As soon as you get gasps of astonishment or laughter your fear will vanish miraculously. Once people start to appreciate you they will reinforce your confidence.

Sometimes a very good technique when performing close up is to tell them straight out that you are nervous and suffer from stagefright. This is certainly preferable to the way a lot of magicians perform, full of themselves with cocky arrogance which sets up resentment. By admitting you are scared you will get the audience on your side and they might even underestimate you and then you go in for the kill with strong magic.

As I advised you before, do what you fear to do and get a record of successful experiences behind you. It looks like you are starting to do that.

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