Monday, February 16, 2009

Practice Makes Better

In a business meeting the other day, a colleague mentioned she often uses the phrase "practice makes better" rather than the standard "practice makes perfect."

Interesting. It makes sense really. I'd rather consider perfection an ongoing ideal, not a destination where there's nowhere else to go. If you reach a level of total perfection, does that mean no more practice is necessary? (For the answer to that, see my earlier post, "Ladder to Mastery.")

So about practice. I practice my magic incessantly until moves become second nature. This allows me to focus my presentation on connecting with people. I practice almost every day. I have decks of cards all around the house (sorry, Debbie) so practice is always at arms reach. And I don't just practice moves and effects; I practice grace and finesse. I practice holding the cards with the lightest possible touch and doing the moves with a fluid motion. Having a refined touch with the cards helps separate the above average from the average.

I often practice without holding any props at all; I simply pantomime with my bare hands. It helps to heighten my awareness of movement and motion. Try it. Practice an entire effect using nothing but your hands. Pretend to hold the cards; pretend to do a your sleights; pretend to make a coin vanish. Watch your hands. How do they look? Are they cramped? Do they move with grace and fluidity? Magic should be a beautiful thing to watch, even when something magical is not happening.

I also practice in my head—by reciting patter, dreaming up potential plots and making mental notes of things I'd like to try. Carry a pocket digital recorder with you (I have mine in the car). This way, if an idea strikes you, you can record it at a moment's notice.

My favorite way to practice is to have card sessions with fellow magicians. Whether at the Magic Castle, the local magic shop, or magic convention, it's a great opportunity to exchange ideas and chops with fellow magicians. It's how my first DVDs got their name: Brainstorm.

The best practice comes when actually performing for people. Let them be your true mirror. Test out new tricks with small groups to help work out the kinks and build confidence. This also helps develop the presentation, choreography and address issues that did not arise during solo practice sessions.

And finally, be sure to practice the right things. As Richard Turner put it in the latest ReelMagic magazine, if you practice something over and over again, but do it incorrectly, you've pretty much mastered how to do it wrong. So be sure to use sound technique, always!

And when you feel you've reached a level of perfection, keep practicing, because practice makes better.


Vince Corsaro said...

Well said... and a good definition of the pursuit of excellence.

Caleb Wiles said...

Another alternative is "Practice makes permanent." I can't remember where I heard it from, but I'm thinking it might have been from Michael Ammar. His point is simple: you have to know enough about what you're practicing to make your practicing worthwhile. Otherwise, you could be ingraining bad habits.

John G said...

Agreed, Caleb. While I made brief reference to this very point in the blog, we could very well spend and entire page on this aspect alone.

On a humorous note, here's another practice-related quote I've heard: The five Ps of Practice..."Practice Prevents Piss Poor Performance."