Why I Was Six Years Late...

By John Lovick - Tuesday, February 8, 2022


When Josh and Andi got the idea to release a series of “Astonishing Essays” I was one of the people they called in their first round of recruiting. They pitched the idea, and I immediately agreed to write something for the series. When I sat down to write it, I didn’t know what the title was going to be. At the top of the page, I typed “I have no idea what to call this fricking essay”. Then the rest of it poured out of me very quickly. The essay was written, revised, (titled!), laid out, and sent to the printer within two months—which is an astonishingly short amount of time. Except…those two months were six years after I had agreed to write something for the series. What I wrote is not what I had agreed to write. This is the story of those six years.

About two years before I spoke with Josh and Andi, I had given a PowerPoint presentation at one of the Buck Brothers’ Magic-Cons. The talk was entitled “Ten Things I Learned about Magic from the Beatles”. I took incidents, facts, and anecdotes from the Beatles’ career that I thought ambitious magicians could benefit from. The lessons were things like: Go to Hamburg, Don’t wait for Ringo, It’s okay to imitate Roy Orbison, the walrus was Paul. The lecture was well received, and I was happy with it.

I don’t remember if expanding the presentation to a book-length essay was my idea or Josh and Andi’s, but I do remember we all thought it was a cracking idea. (Because it is). There was a lot of great advice, there were laughs, it was a very commercial idea, and Paul is really cute.

But then I didn’t sit down and write it. About once a year, I’d read another book about the Beatles and take more notes, and I’d think about what a great topic it was for an essay (and it is a great topic). About every eighteen months or so, Josh and Andi would ask me how progress was going on the book. I’d say, “I’m working on it.” Since they know about my legendary proclivity toward doing everything I can to avoid making money, at one point, they asked if it would help if they promised not to pay me. In the next six years I wrote or co-wrote several books, and month after month, I’d look at my to-do list and “Write the Beatles essay” would be right on top. And then I’d start in on whatever was number 2 on the list.

About a year ago, Jared Kopf, Mike Piscotta, and Paul Vigil invited me to give a 20-minute lecture for one of their online Weekend of the Wizard seminars. I was initially going to talk about scripting or persona (my go-to topics in similar circumstances). But I figured at least some of the attendees had read my essays on those topics in my book Handsome Jack, etc. I decided I should do something different. I thought it would be fun to do a case study of a classic magic performance. I would analyze the scripting and structure of a routine and see what lessons can be gleaned from a close study. I quickly chose Penn & Teller’s “Quote of the Day”, one of my favorite pieces of theirs.

So, I took a transcript of the piece, read through it, and took notes. My online “lecture” was a bit frantic and shallow. I read excerpts from it, described the action, and then stopped to comment on the scripting. However, the routine alone is eighteen minutes long. Making a condescend version coherent and commenting on it all in 20 minutes was a challenge. I don’t know if anybody got anything out of my talk, or if everyone thought I sounded like a lunatic. However, I know that I’d had a good time analyzing the routine.

A couple weeks later Josh and Andi called me to finally say, forget about writing an Essay, we’ll find someone else. I blurted out. “I’ve got a new topic. I’ll have it for you soon. I promise.” All I had to do to turn “mini lecture” into an Astonishing Essay was get permission from Penn & Teller (which they generously granted). I sat down, banged out what became Get Outta My Way, I’m Going to Hell, and the rest is history.

So, I guess the point I’m making is, if I tell you I’m gonna write something, I’m gonna write it! You don’t have to keep bugging me about it every two years.

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