Push Through

“Any big plans for the weekend?” my trainer asked me last Friday.

“Just have some writing projects I’m working on!” I replied.

“Oh, that sounds like fun,” she said. “How do you work? Like, what’s your writing process?”

I told her exactly what I tell you now:

My writing process is that I tell myself “Tomorrow I’m going to write as much as possible!” and I carve out as much time as my schedule will allow so I can get creative and finish some projects.

Then when “tomorrow” comes I think about my writing all day, telling myself that I should probably sit down and get to work. I pace my studio, drink too much coffee, and do anything I can to avoid the task at hand.

Then, around bedtime, I finally sit down and write two or three sentences. Another successful day of writing in the books!

Since I started keeping a consistent blog 18 months ago a lot of people have asked me about my process. But the truth is…I don’t really have one. All I do is just think about writing as much as possible.

Most of the time I struggle to put my concepts into words, let alone a series of paragraphs worth reading. The key is to not give up. I know by now that if I just push through my creative roadblocks then a good essay is waiting to be discovered.

The same goes for my show.

I rarely rehearse it start to finish. Instead, I start to work on a new idea but barely get anywhere. So I’ll work on bits and pieces at random moments. I’ll talk through the script in the shower. I’ll pace through the blocking while I’m on the phone with a client. The new piece slowly comes together in sections, often over many months, but only if I don’t give up and push through.

A couple weeks ago I was trying to come up with a slogan for a special event. I wanted something catchy and to the point, so I started brainstorming with a friend. Everything we came up with was either incredibly stupid or had already been done before. Before I knew it, I was frustrated beyond belief. I decided to abandon the whole idea and hung up the phone in disgust.

I turned to leave the room and stopped dead in my tracks as the perfect slogan popped into my head. My good idea had only been minutes away and I had nearly lost it. I just needed to push through to the other side.

You can call it writer’s block or discomfort or rejection or the creative struggle. You can get frustrated when you run out of ideas and mad when you don’t have any to begin with. You can admit when you don’t know what to do next…

But whatever you do, don’t give up. Don’t give in to the struggle. Don’t give up on the work. You never know when your best idea might be one more sentence away. Push yourself to keep working. Push past the fear. Push aside your doubts and know that you’ve been creative before and you’ll be creative again.

Push through.

Demand Their Respect

I got heckled for the first time in a while last week.

There was a group of people who had taken full advantage of the open bar and were being loud and obnoxious all night long.

The event was an exclusive night of mystery with a lineup of four of the finest performers in the city, including myself. One hundred guests, four entertainers, and non-stop amazement.

It’s held once a month at a luxury hotel downtown, complete with fully catered hors d'oeuvres, live music, and some of the most mind-blowing acts you’ve ever seen. Plus, a national magazine was interviewing us that night for a feature article coming out later this year.

So yeah, it was kind of a big deal.

Which made it even stranger when those six guests started being so rude. They started yelling things out during the other performers’ shows. Not clever things, not helpful things….just disruptive, rude comments that were distracting the other guests and making it hard for the performers to concentrate.

My fellow entertainers were doing their best to be polite and stay in control of the situation, but word got out and other guests were quick to alert me of “the people in the other room who think the show is all about them.”

Honestly, I’m not sure you can even count these people as hecklers. They were in a world of their own. They were having loud conversations without a care in the world for anyone else in their general vicinity. They weren’t trying to disrupt the show on purpose and they weren’t trying to outsmart the performers. They were just a bunch of a**holes.

Ordinarily I would be patient with a heckler. I would kindly ask them to repeat their comment and make a simple joke along the lines of “Settle down, this is my show!” or something similar. It would get a laugh, win everyone over, and get the heckler on board.

But last week was different.

I’d been watching these people be rude for several hours. I’d seen them yell across the room, interrupt the shows, and refuse to stop talking while my friends were performing. And by the time I got onstage it was really starting to piss me off.

So I took control of the room and began my opening mind reading demonstration.

“You’re an Aquarius, aren’t you? Born in February…February 10th?”

Everyone oohed and ahhed and applauded loudly as I read each person’s mind in turn. Then, as I continued with my act, I heard a group of people talking in the second row. They were at it again.

So I dropped everything. I stopped what I was doing, walked towards the group, and waited for the room to get quiet.

“You have the wrong idea,” I said.

“I do 150 shows a year and I chose to make one of those shows this one. So when I’m onstage I demand your respect. A lot of people in this room paid a lot of money to see me do this. And now I’m up here working and you are disrespecting me while I’m at work. So, yes, this is an interactive performance but it’s participatory on my terms, NOT yours. Understood?”

The ringleader of the group looked at me in horror, shocked that she was being reprimanded in front of other adults. Then, she shut up and didn’t speak again for the rest of my time onstage. They may have left at some point but I can’t be sure, because I was worried about the other 94 people who wanted to see a good show.

I can’t stand people who disrespect me during a show and I refuse to put up with it. I honed my skills doing difficult gigs in tough rooms for little pay and now I realize that while I was struggling to find my voice and learn my craft, I was slowly building up a confidence that can’t be shaken.

I have a confidence in myself now that is only born out of doing a thousand shows. I know when I walk onstage that I am good at what I do. I’m positive that what I do is worth watching and worthy of someone else’s respect. And so, I don’t have to put up with anyone’s bullsh*t any more because I already spent years doing that.

What I’ve learned is that if you value your time and respect your craft then you don’t have to put up with a heckler.

Your family will tell you to have a backup plan or a teacher will tell you to get a real job. People will act like they know what’s best for you, without taking the time to really listen to your plan. And time and time and time again people will shut the door to your dreams in your face.

Those are the hecklers on the journey towards your chosen destination. Those are the people who want to tell you what you should be doing, even though they don’t want to work as hard as you do. They’ll always be there, eager to disrupt and disrespect, and it’s up to you to shut them up.

You have to demand their respect.

The Rise Of Magic In Chicago

Magic has seen a resurgence lately in popular culture, television, movies, and more. Nowhere is the rise of magic more prevalent than in the city I call home, where some of the world’s finest magicians are amazing audiences on a nightly basis.

These performers are my friends, encouraging me to improve and learn from each and every show. These performers are my competition, pushing me to keep getting better and working harder on my act. Most importantly, these performers are setting the tone for the next generation of magical performers so that one day, like I did years ago, a young boy or girl may sit in the audience at one of their shows and whisper to themselves “I want to do that!”

These performers are the future of magic.

This newfound popularity of magic has forged the path for some of Chicago’s most amazing venues and shows. In an attempt to highlight some of my friends and spread the word about their shows, please see below for a list of places you can see live magic in Chicago. I will do my best to keep this list updated so be sure to check back from time to time for all current shows!

Chicago Magic Lounge - The CML will quite literally blow your mind. Secret passages, great food, and unbelievable entertainment await you seven days a week. (Here's a cool behind-the-scenes video I made at the Grand Opening last month.)

The Magic Parlour - On Fridays and Saturdays Dennis Watkins presents an intimate, astonishing show that will delight and astound everyone. Plus, it's in the beautiful Palmer House Hilton Hotel in downtown Chicago, making it a truly unforgettable experience.

The Magic Penthouse - Enjoy a night of cocktails, live music, and four strolling magicians in a fancy location in downtown Chicago. The show happens once a month and you can catch me there tomorrow, March 2nd!

Lindberg & Hanthorn - My friends Eric Lindberg and Stephen Hanthorn are combining their talents for a twice-monthly show at the Uptown Underground. Part-magic, part-mentalism, and 100% fun.

Near Death Experience - Neil Tobin is presenting his award-winning show at Rosehill Cemetery starting later this month. "Grown up, dead serious fun!"

The 13th Hour - Just outside of the city, mentalist Joe Diamond presents a spooky weekly show that is limited to just 13 attendees. Oh yeah, it's in a "haunted mansion", too.

Vaudeville at Bordel - Every Thursday, three-time "Best Magician in Chicago" winner AJ Sacco dazzles the crowd at Bordel with his magical stylings.

Logan Arcade - Magician Justin Purcell will blow your mind at the Logan Arcade on Tuesdays between 9pm and midnight.

Magic & History - Magician and author William Pack's shows uniquely combine magic, storytelling, and history. His shows happen at many theaters, libraries, and clubs throughout the Chicagoland area year round.

Pleasant Home - Jeanette Andrews will be presenting elegant "sensory magic" at Pleasant Home in Oak Park starting March 15th.

And finally, there's The Mystery Show - my secret, invite-only mind reading show in Chicago. Just join the list below and you'll be the first to know when and where it happens next.

Note to performers: If I missed your show or you have something new coming up, please let me know and I'll get it added to this post.