Interview by Madeleine Dore
Illustrations by Magic Steven
Illustrator & Comedian
Magic Steven is a deep thinker. The kind who makes you think about what you're thinking about and feel surprised by your own insight – or neurosis.
A comic-illustrator-poet of sorts, he shares his accounts of everyday life through stand up comedy and his sweetly-profound comic strips.
With musings that span tales of human connection that are often equal parts romantic and heartbreaking, to stories that reveal how sometimes nothing happens for a reason, at the centre of Magic Steven's strange world is charm and delight. We're all a little strange, we're all a little lonely, we're all a little broken and confused, but somehow our lives are still entrancing.
Having performed stand up comedy locally at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and Dark Mofo as well as in Germany, Greece, Russia, and the UK, Magic Steven is currently focusing on his writing and illustration through a daily comic strip. The results from this daily practice are currently displayed each morning in a window on Brunswick Street, but he admits he is on the lookout for somewhere or someone to publish his musings.
For now, a selection of his works will live here amongst his thoughts on procrastination, imposter syndrome, routine, and how we can improve ourselves, just that little.
On having a fear of routine...
I think I have a fear of routine because once you get into one, life is over. I know that's not necessarily true, but on some level I'm avoiding routine because I like the possibility of knowing anything could happen and being surprised. I want to feel that sense of unexpectedness, as opposed to having a sense of repetition. But at the same time I know that I have that routine in me.
On procrastination, the internet, and not having a smart phone…
I heard somebody say that the internet is a mixed blessing, and I also think not having the internet is a mixed blessing. For me, I have a very strong tendency to procrastinate, maybe on the extreme side, and if I don't have the internet in my house, I'm more able to work. If I do have it and I want to avoid something, I can just plug in for hours and time will just disappear.
I don't know if it's the same for everyone, but my procrastination is connected to a fear of failure. Not having a smart phone seems to help me, but at the same time I have this iPod I can connect to wifi, so it often annoys people when we hang out and I ask them to make me a hotspot.
So it's good that I don't have the internet in my house, but it's bad in that sometimes I'm less present when I'm around people.
On the relief of sitting down to write...
I read that writing isn’t hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write. Personally I have been failing to overcome the hurdle of sitting down to do my work, for years. And feeling guilty about it. Then recently I started being able to do some work, I’m not exactly sure how or why. But it’s a relief.
A few things that seem to help Magic Steven successfully do work...
The Pomodoro Technique
Not having internet access
Trying to find a girlfriend
Booking a big show and knowing that I will be onstage, and must prepare
The first third of a book called “The War of Art”, although some turns-of-phrase used in this book make me feel embarrassed
A book called “Cassavetes Directs”
On listening to a compassionate voice versus the negative voice…
Sometimes I feel like I'm doing something wrong and I'm trying to figure out what. Some people would argue I’m not doing anything wrong, I should just listen to the compassionate voice in my head that's saying, 'You're doing your best, don't be too hard on yourself.'
"I feel like I'm selfish, but then I also feel like I'm a nice person, so which one is the truth? Or are they both true? That seems to be the main thing I'm trying to work out lately."
But the negative voice, which I guess everyone has, is saying that I am doing things wrong, that I'm lazy. Probably the main thing I tell myself is that I'm selfish, so I'm trying to work that out. I feel like I'm selfish, but then I also feel like I'm a nice person, so which one is the truth? Or are they both true? That seems to be the main thing I'm trying to work out lately.
On how our experiences are our greatest lessons…
I'm trying to treat every experience as a lesson. I have a very bad memory, which is why I write things down. But I also realised that I can learn a lot about myself just by writing everything down. When you read it later you notice things that you wouldn't have noticed otherwise.
"Personally I have been failing to overcome the hurdle of sitting down to do my work, for years. And feeling guilty about it. Then recently I started being able to do some work, I’m not exactly sure how or why. But it’s a relief."
On first impressions and oversharing…
They say when you meet someone for the first time, you're not meeting them, you're meeting their representative. Sometimes it’s good to be vulnerable with people, but sometimes it can be oversharing and you're actually dumping stuff on them and you don't realise it.
I have an impulse to say stuff that people wouldn't normally say. On some level it's almost a form of self-sabotage.
So I just like making stuff in the form of drawings and writing because it feels like it's coming from some mysterious source that I don't understand and when it comes out I feel good because I've voiced something and it feels good when I do that.
On how we all feel like imposters...
I’ve always struggled with chronic doubt as to whether I’m actually supposed to be doing creative work or whether I’m a fraud. Fortunately, it’s now well-known that if you feel like this, it means that you’re completely legit.
A list of things to listen to...
Sky Girl (Compilation)
Sweet Whirl (Musician)
Infinite Bisous (Musician)
Far Away Trains Passing By (Album by Ulrich Schnauss)
Raga Yaman (Album by Z.M. Dagar)
Woh Jiski Deed Mein (Song by Abida Parveen)
Isn’t It A Pity (Song by Nina Simone)
A list of things to watch...
The Long Goodbye (1973)
Love Streams (1984)
The Apu Trilogy (1955, 1956, 1959)
Rio Bravo (1959)
The Kid (1921)
Bicycle Thieves (1948)
Seven Samurai (1954)
My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
Ring of Bright Water (1969)
Bottle Rocket (1996)
Hedgehog in the Fog (1975)
The Man Who Planted Trees (1987)
Modern Romance (1981)