The way I approach learning magic, there are three modes in which I find myself working: learning, practicing, and reflecting. One of my biggest struggles is learning to recognize the difference between all three of these useful working modes and the unhelpful, blissful state of procrastination.

I’m getting better at recognizing the numb psyche that comes along with procrastination. When I know I should be learning something new, but I sit and “practice” blind cuts and shuffles, it feels qualitatively different from when I am working on those things because they need genuine improvement. When I know I should be writing a genuine, reflective article about an experience but I choose to browse the media section of instead and “get inspired” by what others are doing, I feel that I’ve wasted my opportunity to take another step forward in favor of the safety of admiring those that are on the path.

The only time I never feel like I have done myself a disservice is when I choose performing. If I’m ambivalent or uncertain about what I should be doing, I never go wrong in stopping someone in the coffee shop and sharing my work with them.

My new mantra is, “When in doubt, forego the meta.” “Meta” means things that are related to your thing but are not the thing itself. For magic, this includes but is not limited to reading blogs, buying new props and books, hanging out at the magic shop, going to magic club meetings, or even writing about it. These things are important, but they should never be mistaken for magic itself.

If you’re a writer, you could be going wrong by doing more “research,” but you will never go wrong by sitting down and making the clackity noise. If you’re a guitarist, you could go wrong by reading that new issue of Guitar Player or buying some “inspirational” guitar music from the iTunes store, but you will never go wrong by picking up the guitar and putting your fingers on the frets. Most of the time, these won’t be your best efforts, but sometimes, your art will reward you with something unexpected because you didn’t settle for the numb comfort of procrastination.