Of course, I understand that proper practice requires some energy and willpower. Keeping it up regularly over a longer time is certainly not a simple thing to do. It is necessary because, in magic, it is important that certain movements and sequences are transferred into muscle memory. This is the only way to ensure that these important movements can be called up instinctively during the performance.
We can only achieve this through slow repetition. In music, the hands have to get used to operating the musical instrument. It has to be practised and repeated until the musician masters the instrument and not vice versa. The brain has to learn the movements and sequences, because it has to give instructions to the hands and body. Only when we reach the point that this transaction of movement orders is almost instinctively, and is brought about without thinking, we have it “under our fingers”, which means we installed it into the muscle memory.
Learning is a time- and energy-consuming process. The brain is wired to avoid wasting energy. Therefore, learning something new means investing energy, and the brain rarely wants this.
Equally important is to install quality practicing time. It makes no sense to practice mindlessly, or whilst being distracted. You’ll have to focus on the exercise at hand.
Here is my top-ten list of things that a lot of magicians struggle with, and that prevents them from developing healthy practice habits.
1. The temptation of gimmicks is too big. A gimmick will perform certain functions or actions in a trick, and they fool us into believing that when operating the gimmick, we are doing magic already.
2. The constant bombardment of advertising by the dealers that promises “perform in only minutes” and “no skill required” fools us into believing we can perform the trick successfully if we only buy the gimmick. The false promises like “this will be a hit in your show” lure us into a world of dreams which is completely illusionary.
3. When practicing or learning a new technique or sleight seriously, there are big barriers to overcome. One of the biggest hurdles is the fact that practicing a new sleight doesn’t give any satisfaction. It is dull after some time, and we need a lot of energy to keep practicing.
4. Most of the time, we try to swallow the big salami in one swap, instead of slicing it into thin slices and eating them one after the other. Bite-sized pieces of new information, instead of an information overload.
5. We want to get up to speed too early. By overriding that all-important phase of the brain learning a set of new actions (which can only happen in slow-practice) and trying to do the moves in performance speed, we learn mistakes and improper technique. The focus must not be on speed, but on precision and quality. Speed comes alone when the right actions are in muscle memory.
6. Often, we don’t even have a general plan of what we want to learn and we don’t have a strategy for how to achieve that. We do not go into the trouble to develop a practicing schedule and a practicing journal. A weekly practicing plan is essential and normal for every serious musician.
7. We lack stamina, patience, and persistence. Our world is full of instant gratification traps, and we stumble into them more and more often. After all, it is a pleasurable thing, getting rewards that feel good for doing almost nothing.
8. We stumble over our own narcism and overestimation of one’s abilities. We lose sight of where we stand with our mastery of a certain technique. The Dunning-Kruger effect at work, and we refuse to realise this. Even worse, our inability or not-willingness to accept constructive criticism stands in the way.
9. We shy away from the fact that an actual teacher is still the best way to learn. Not only does he give the immediate corrections but also inspiration, motivation and a certain pressure we all need to get a task done.
10. We take granted everything is free in this world. We live in a world where we are led to believe that everything is free. Although we know that exactly the opposite is the case. You pay a price for everything. And so, of course, for quality lessons with a teacher. YouTube clips are no substitute for that. Even if they are free.
This is what I observed in the past years. I believe there is a solution to every of the above points, but you will have to actively identify what points apply to you and then take actions to resolve them.
See my suggested solutions, tips, hacks against all that in this article.