How Juggling Made Me a Better Human (and Artist) – Day 79

Juggling balls
Photo ©Serena Kovalosky

Much of what I know about the creative process – and life – I learned from a circus acrobat.

#79 – Artists in different mediums can offer each other surprising insights into the creative process.

When I was living in Montreal, I had become friends with Cory, a student at the National Circus School. Cory had a dream of performing the German Wheel with a professional circus while I was an emerging artist with a dream of getting my artwork into fine art galleries and museum exhibitions.

We met every Sunday in my studio in St-Henri, allowing our creative minds to play as we built sculptures large and small from the materials I had available.

Afterwards, we’d sit in the middle of the studio floor and discuss the philosophical side of working towards becoming professionals in our respective fields. Many of our conversations explored the necessary mindset in order to achieve such high aspirations. As a circus performer, Cory not only had to work on the physical part of his routine, but he also had to develop a strong mental attitude in order to maintain a consistently high level of performance. Coordinating the mind and the body were integral to success.

One day, Cory arrived with juggling balls and decided it was time I learned how to juggle. Little did I know, I would also receive a very important lesson that would change the way I think and help me in my own creative work.

He placed one of the balls in my left hand.

Juggling ball in hand.
Photo ©Serena Kovalosky

“Now turn your hand with your palm facing down,” he said.

Juggling ball in hand.
Photo ©Serena Kovalosky

I thought it was strange to have my palm facing down. How was I going to throw the ball?

“Now let go of the ball.”


“Just let go of the ball.”

As I did, the ball fell to the floor.

Juggling Ball
Photo ©Serena Kovalosky

“Pick up the ball and do it again.”

I did it again, with the same result. After several times of picking the ball off the floor he said, “Good! Get used to it because you’ll be doing a lot of it. Don’t ever be afraid to drop the ball, it’s simply part of the learning curve.”

“OK, now you’re ready for Step Two,” he continued. “Throw the ball from your left hand to your right, creating a small arc as it passes in front of you……Good!…..Now throw the ball from your right to your left.”

“Now let’s add another ball. As you throw the first ball to your right hand, you will then throw the second ball from your right to your left so your right hand can catch the first ball, and the left hand will catch the second. Keep throwing and catching. Once you develop a rhythm, you’ll be juggling! Then you can add a third ball.”

Adding the second ball wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. Balls dropped to the floor with increasing regularity as I struggled unsuccessfully to catch them.

Two juggling balls.
Photo ©Serena Kovalosky

Adding third ball only made it worse. I’d quickly throw the balls in the air so my hands could be free to catch and it seemed like the balls were going all over the place rather than in nice graceful arcs in front of me. I was running around the studio trying to catch wayward balls.

Three juggling balls
Photo ©Serena Kovalosky

Cory stepped back and watched me for a while, then made a suggestion. “The secret to good juggling is in the throw. You’re focusing too hard on catching. If you throw the balls properly, then you’ll have no trouble catching them.”

I followed his advice and my juggling improved. And as my juggling improved, so did other areas of my life. I was no longer afraid to make mistakes, to drop the ball, especially if I was trying something new. And rather than trying to manage whatever arbitrarily came my way, I learned to focus on what needed to be done and to carefully set my aim.

I’m still not the greatest juggler, but I’m a slightly better human and definitely a much better artist.

Cory did achieve his dream and became a solo performer on the German Wheel with Cirque de Soleil’s Quidam.

The 365 Days Project

In 2012, Serena Kovalosky committed to writing an article a day for 365 days as an exploration into the lives of artists and the value of creative thinking in our society.

Experience the full evolution of the project! Click below to read the entire collection of articles.

Click to view The 365 Days Project

Click to subscribe to Artful Vagabond's Newsletter

Leave a Reply

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: