Impostor Syndrome and Magicians

There is a wonderful, short essay in Jeff McBride’s newsletter today from a fellow magician by the name of Santiago.  His topic is one that we ponder incessantly – the Impostor Syndrome.

Magicians may face this more than other realms of the variety arts.  After all, our whole job is to be an impostor.  We recall Robert Houdin’s famous saying that a “magician is an actor playing the part of a magician.”  We weren’t around when he said or wrote it but we think it applies in spades to our feeling each time we take the stage or the close-up table.

Part of being a magician is deciding how we represent ourselves to the audience.  Do we claim to have magical powers (or can a psychic truly read minds)?  Or are we simply using skills undetectable by the audience to accomplish what appears to be real magic?  Or are we just presenting puzzles for the audience to guess their method?

Pop Haydn taught in his phenomenal School for Scoundrels that when presenting the Three Shell game, the audience doesn’t see it as true magic because they know there must be some way the invisible movement of the pea is being accomplished.  But that does not diminish the effect.

We are a sucker for charts.  You could tell us that the earth was round, the sky is blue and grass is green, and we would nod knowingly.  But if you showed us in a chart or a graphic, we would say things like “of course, now we see!” and we would say it in a manner that implied an exclamation point at the end of our statement.  Probably by speaking emphatically and nodding like a bobble head and smiling like a fool who is doing brain damage from incessant head nodding.

We mention charts not only because we love them but also because Santiago includes charts in his essay.

If you have pondered the Impostor Syndrome or are suffering from it, you should check out the essay and sign-up for Jeff McBride’s newsletter.  It has yet to disappoint.

Read the essay here.

Sign-up for Jeff McBride’s newsletter here.

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