[Allan: The following blog post was written by Ollie Mealing - a good friend, an excellent magician and one of my favorite thinkers and creators of magic in my generation. Whenever I'm in London I make sure to meet Ollie so we can exchange ideas and perform what we've been working on, usually over a cup of coffee. It's been too long since last time. Hope we get a chance to catch up soon. Until then, enjoy Ollie's guest spot on my blog]
I had a chat with Allan recently, it went a bit like this…
We were talking about travelling, something we both spend a lot of time doing and began discussing the effects that travel has on our ability to create. Allan’s recognised that his creativity peaks whilst being 'on the road’, journeying intercontinentally like a hell-bent rock star, causing him to create left, right & centre. But at home, he finds he’s only really able to work on 'current stuff’. Allan’s ability to create, like many others, requires a nudge - comprising of a fresh environment and a sense of adventure. This observation is something I can relate to and in trying to understand it, have discovered a simple secret to make home & travel equally effective for creativity.
It all stems from the fact that ideas begin with inspiration. We can think of inspiration as a net, catching thoughts deemed worthy of us noticing. A net however, will only catch what it’s designed to, which is where it’s important to assess how adorned our material is. If the only component we care about is the trick, then the only thoughts we'll catch (we recognise as worth noticing) will likely be about other tricks. If however, we also care about integrating other components such as patter, presentational devices, aesthetic, character, staging, mood, pacing, resonance, then the net will become primed accordingly and we’ll catch respective thoughts. Extracting inspiration is a creative muscle, one that advances and strengthens over time to a point where it becomes natural to, allowing you to form ideas from almost anything.
This is because inspiration relating to one component is suffice for devising the necessary other components. If you think about getting dressed, you choose clothes that work well together. Similarly with magic, one component determines a structure and your sensibility allows you to complete that structure & fulfil it’s desired purpose. Let’s imagine you see someone spill a drink and your ‘trick-net’ decides to interpret that as inspiration for an effect in which a cased deck is propped up right and on command, falls over. Straight away this is a trick that needs a flat surface, a room with a table.. It’s also a trick that’s eerie, perhaps a presentation about spirits.. If so, the pacing should be slow in order to maintain an appropriate atmosphere.. In which case, character/patter would need tweaking too and how would you dress to fit the occasion.. Would music enhance or detract.. Once the reaction subsides, what should reside… Continuing this internal dialogue substantiates the piece & allows you to all importantly discover it’s purpose. Without a purpose, without a sense of why, you leave your audience caring about how.
Travelling stimulates new ideas because your magic-mind can have traction with thoughts outside of magic. I think applying what you find interesting outside of magic & integrating it back within, is what leads to growth. Looking for new material within pre-existing is stagnating, it doesn’t really offer a sense of something different, to do that, you yourself have to introduce something that is. The variety you encounter through travel naturally offers lots of different thoughts, heightening the chance of being inspired. To achieve the same level of inspiration at home, we have to convert this passive approach into a pro-active one - we have to cultivate experiences. When you’re travelling you’re not trying to create, you’re just experiencing things, yet it’s a common place to dream up ideas. That’s because if magic is even partially on your mind, then it mixes amongst everything else you're experiencing. Creativity responds to variety. Think of creativity as an effect, not an action. If you’re at home ‘trying to create’, give someone a call, write something, make something, intentionally do things that don’t just involve sitting ‘trying to create’. Trying too hard to create will only result in tunnel vision, creativity is connecting things, so the more ‘things’ you have running through your mind, the better.
Sounds paradoxical, but for me at least, the best development occurs when I’m simply trying not to try.
Thank you Allan for accommodating whatever this ramble turned out to be. You are my favourite Norwegian rock star.
[Thanks Ollie! I probably will not do guest blogs too often - but if you (yes, you, the readers) have something you think would be appropriate and suitable for this blog and you'd really like to write something for me to post here - please get in touch and I would love to talk with you! PS: Only seeking guest blog spots from professional magicians and entertainers - not travel bloggers or "pro bloggers". If you're not already a regular reader of this blog - this is not for you]