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  • tenleyschwartz

Thoughts on Magic

Every time I share a creative project with a public audience, I want to add a disclaimer: it's not magic, it's hard work! There's a stubborn myth that art is for the lucky few who are born with it emanating from their pores. Whatever "it" is. My imagined disclaimer comes because I know it takes practice, not special sparkly gifting.

I've had a recent realization that's helping me explore this frustration: magic, too, is hard work.

Think of a magician: their job is to pull something off so flawlessly that everyone thinks it just appeared.* The magician doesn't say "Aw, no, look here! I toil, I carve out time and build props. Acknowledge my hard work!" No, they accept those faces full of wonder. Is this how I should approach my own work? I'm still not convinced.

Growing up, I learned a handful of simple magic tricks. The most fun involved props: an urn that never ran out of water, a coloring book with disappearing ink, notebooks full of untearable paper.

Knowing the steps to using these props felt more interesting than the illusion than my little audience would observe.

Knowing is the fun part of art-making for me, too. I still have props: books that taught me new ways to think, classes that offered helpful workflow tips, years of practicing keyboard shortcuts, personal projects that sharpened skills. So when I say that I want to add a disclaimer to my projects, I think I'm really saying I want to put all my tools on the table, transforming the audience to a trickster, just like me.

*Ok, you're talking about an illusionist, you might think. What about, like, magic spells and potions? To which I ask: have you ever cooked anything? Learned to read? Tried public speaking? Same skills, still brought through effort!

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