So… Here’s the thing…
As magicians, mentalists, mystery entertainers and so on, we live in a world surrounded by that one word.
Before we go any further, it’s important that we get really clear on a universal definition, just so that we’re all on the same page when it comes to exploring this concept.
Here’s a Google definition;
Experiences like ‘awe’ and ‘wonder’ have been linked (in scientific research) to an increased life satisfaction, increased generosity and helping others, a decreased aggressive attitude, enhanced spiritual and religious beliefs and actions, expanded the perception of time and so much more.
Big of a strong case for wonder here, right?
You see, wonder is one of the most powerful human experiences available to us. Psychologist Abraham Maslow described this as a type of ‘peak experience’ and believed that it is one of the driving factors behind overall wellbeing.
But that’s not the challenge here.
The challenge is in the definition.
Because wonder is so subjective in nature, it’s truly challenging to define it in a way that is tangibly clear and universally applicable.
Take the Google definition – it suggests ‘a feeling of both amazement and admiration, caused by something beautiful, remarkable or unfamiliar’.
Can you interpret that, right now, in a way that you can truly understand and feel wonder?
Chances are, you won’t be able to – and that’s not your fault.
Due to wonder being so subjective, it becomes hard to define it as a concept and our understanding of the experience gets messy…
… and that’s before we add the card tricks, in the misguided belief that ‘that’ll do the trick’ and create wonder universally, across all audiences, ever.
(pun fully intended)
Somewhere along the way, we’ve learned that our card tricks, billet peeks and other effects help us on that path to restore ‘childlike wonder’ in our clients and audiences.
But they also have the same challenge.
To them, wonder is as equally important yet impossible to comprehend because it combines so many different emotions and sensory experiences in their own subjective viewpoint.
What I’m getting at, is that plastering on your website that you’ll help them to experience that childlike wonder, then you’re likely just getting glazed eyeballs and underwhelming thoughts along the lines of; “ah… they do magic”.
That being said, all is not lost.
Instead, I’d like to propose the pursuit of something more tangible; clear emotions.
Rather than chasing an experience that we simply cannot create for everyone in the same way (least of all using conjuring tricks), we should chase an emotional experience that can be defined.
Take fear, for example.
You can clearly describe a fear-based experience and you’ll also be able to recreate it across people with relative ease. There’s an awful lot of arachnophobes in the world so the thought of spiders can often trigger that emotion in a wider range of people, with ease.
[Insert spider pic here… just kidding!]
But first, it’s important to understand why we’re chasing an emotion in the first place.
The good news is that it’s basic psychology.
Studies have shown that when you integrate an emotion with a short-term memory, it becomes much easier for this to transfer into a long-term memory.
Following this, the easiest way to land more bookings, create more raving fans and get bums on seats to our shows is simple – get more emotions at the point of contact needed to create the desired action. It’s a hack around human emotion!
It’s also worth pointing out that although I’d advocate for exploring a range of emotions, we should be careful when exploring negative emotions as that may lead to detrimental effects.
(HINT: traumatising audiences is NOT okay…)
The real reason that we should start chasing more tangible emotions, rather than peak experiences, is not just that they are more universal, but because they give us room to play and explore.
We have a key driver behind the routines we’re performing, the shows we’re delivering and the memories that we’re creating.
Creativity thrives in constraints such as limitations and goals and by setting forth a powerful emotion, we gain the benefit of added clarity and optimised performance across the board.
It also makes things much easier to describe and comprehend so from a client/ audience’s perspective, they ‘get’ you on a better level without the fluff getting in the way.
And, as a neat little bonus after doing this for a little while, we get the wonderful benefit of being able to tap into these experiences at a moment’s notice, helping us to curate the most powerful experiences on the fly for anyone we meet.
Once you make the switch to stop chasing wonder and instead start creating carefully constructed human experiences for each audience member, you’ll feel a noticeable shift in the power of your magic.
What are your thoughts on this discussion?
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4 thoughts on “Stop Chasing Wonder”
Really interesting article – you’ve given me a lot of food for thought! I was definitely trying to create wonder in audiences but I love how you’ve approached this topic and placed importance on connecting with your audience on an emotional level.
Thanks Bella! Ultimately, I don’t think wonder is a bad thing, it’s just easily confused and as a result, gets messy. At the end of the day, we can tidy the mess by putting the emphasis elsewhere, this keeping everything more tangible! I think I’ve mentioned it before, but I would highly recommend the book, Here Is Real Magic by Nate Staniforth. It’s a great read and one of my favourites for sure!
We shouldn’t just chase emotional reactions as we are also rational beings. Or chase rational magic because we are also emotional. Emotional rational and rationality emotional.
If we only chase emotional reactions we are leaving all the magic out of the equation with pieces that try to be emotional and inspiring but not quite getting there. Because if the rational part (awe, impossibility) was not there ( the construction, the technical ability, the rhythm, naturalness effort) you are asking the spectator to leave their brain at home and just ‘feel the magic’. And the ‘problem’ with magic that lives in the real world (it’s not theatre).
Have you read the Magic way by Tamariz? Or anything from Gabi Pareras? There is a lot there to check.
Even fictional magic doesn’t work if the magic is not properly constructed, perfectly executed with its emotional catch. (That’s why Gabi was an expert)…
You bring some really fantastic points Thomas. I noticed that you shared these thoughts inside our community too (which is amazing!) so I’ve shared a response there so that other people can come along and join the conversation too – THANK YOU!