by James L. Rubart
Back in the mid-nineties I was doing a lot of magic shows. At one of them, another magician approached me about developing an act together. His idea was strong: Dueling magicians set to the tune, Dueling Banjos.
The setup was I would be a heckler in the crowd as my partner started the show.
After three or four barbs from me about how even I could do better magic than him, Jerry would call me out and challenge me to come up on stage for a magicians duel to the death. I would come up and we’d do trick after trick—in which I would always blow it and he’d shine.
Finally, I’d get so frustrated I’d pick up a gun, fire it at him and he’d catch the bullet in his teeth. Then we’d go on to do another 20 or 30 minutes of magic.
Our reputation grew till one day we played a rather large venue north of Seattle. The place was packed and judging by the crowd response during the show and afterwards, we killed it.
That Monday morning, I asked my business partner (who had come to the show) what he thought of the performance and what we could have done better. I was ready for lavish praise, but that’s not what I got.
“Well, your blocking was a little weak. And you should have had some music or something when you brought volunteers up on stage. It was like dead air on a radio station as they walked up. Your banter was good with each other, but a few times it went on too long. And that one trick with the paper balls is awesome for adults, but it’s over the kid’s head.”
I sat there stunned as he went on and on. What did he think he was doing? It felt like I’d been kicked in the gut. I was ready to hear how awesome we were. How loud the applause was.
Funny! Mystifying! Had the crowd in the palm of our hands! I wasn’t asking for him to hammer me. Except, that is what I asked for—what we could have done better.
My business partner was right of course. About everything.
You understand the application to our writing so I won’t go on.
Sometimes we need encouragement. Sometimes we need critique.
The encouragers will keep us going. Those who critique will make us better. We need both.
Just know what you’re asking for—and who you’re asking. Your stomach will thank you for it.
James L. Rubart is the best-selling, and Christy award winning author of six books, including his just released novel, Spirit Bridge. During the day he runs Barefoot Marketing, which helps authors make more coin of the realm. In his free time he dirt bikes, hikes, water skis and take photos. No, he doesn’t sleep much. He lives with his amazing wife and two sons in the Pacific Northwest and still thinks he’s young enough to water ski like a madman. More at www.jameslrubart.com