“Every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief…”
Bono makes good point in the U2 song “The Fly.” There is very little, if any, completely original art in the world. Most is a new combination of existing ideas. And that is fine, it is good, it is why art can help us to see old things in new ways.
However, that doesn’t let us off the originality hook.
Video Kills the Magical Star
A problem has crept into the magic world in the last couple of decades. In the past, the main way of learning magic tricks was from books. You had to prop a book open and try to follow the instructions and diagrams, It wasn’t easy but it meant that you really thought about the mechanics of the trick and then you came up with your own way of presenting it.
However, now the most common way is from video. It is much easier to access the content and easier to learn the mechanics. However, the problem is that you also tend to pick up the mannerisms, patter and quirks of the person doing the teaching. As a result, too many magicians end up performing a particular trick in exactly the same way, becoming clones of the magician in the instructional video. They become another generic magician, they don’t stand out from the crowd. Too often we hear,
“Oh yeah, so and so had a magician at their wedding, they did that trick with the (whatever).”
“What was the magician’s name?”
“Oh, I can’t remember…”
It is much better to watch the video to learn the technique and then, as soon as you have worked out the mechanics, to put the video away and never look at it again. Then you can practice the trick and work out how to make it fit your style, your personality, how it will fit into your existing show or routine.
It is even better to take a principle or technique that you have learned and change the props or effect so that you come up with something that is entirely your own. It will then be fresher, suit you more and be more likely to stick in people’s minds.
Free Your Mind and the Rest Will Follow
The best magicians are always the ones who don’t just watch magic and don’t just read magic books. Instead, they feed on a wide diet of different art forms. They read other genres and subjects. This leads to cross-fertilisation of ideas and produces much more originality.
Out Standing in Your Field
As with everything, what is true in magic is true for life and work in general.
If you produce original material, or original takes on existing ideas, then you will stand out from the crowd, If you are a speaker or writer, use only your own stories and illustrations, then you can be confident that no-one else will be using them, There is nothing worse than two speakers at the same event telling the same story.
Similarly, if you use photos in your blog, take your own photos or get someone to take them for you. If you write a book or give a presentation that uses illustrations, draw or get an artist to draw original illustrations. That way you will know that no-one else has them. You will stand out, you will be different.
Limited to Unlimited
True originality probably never happens. Everyone is inspired by something or someone. But we can all give our unique perspective on things and we can all combine different influences and ideas in our own special way.
There are only a limited number of plots for novels. In the same way there are only a limited number of effects in magic:
These limited options are combined with myriad other ideas, characters and settings to produce infinite possibilities.
Don’t Keep it to Yourself
If you don’t produce original material then you are depriving the world of your own unique contribution. No-one else in the world has ever had, or will ever have, exactly the same life experience as you. As a result no-one else will see the world quite like you do. Your perspective will be extremely valuable to someone out there. Go for it. If you do it enough then it will be found by those who need and appreciate it.
There is only one you, don’t keep yourself from the world.