'Talent' or 'try it'?

A friend was telling a group I was in about her neighbour. "Oh, she's just so talented," she gushed, and proceeded to list the things she'd built or made or done.

"Wow! She's amazing. Imagine being able to do that," said someone else. People either opened their eyes wide or shook their heads with resignation, as if to say, "Oh, it's sickening, how other people are so talented."

Without trying to sound 'up myself', I have to say that I do find myself often the subject of this very type of conversation. People see stuff I've done and look alternately amazed and then depressed. Writing a book usually elicits this type of response.

"Is there anything you can't do?" they ask.

And my answer is of course, "yes!"

But there's something else I should say. I don't think of myself as 'talented'. I think of myself as a person who 'tries' to do stuff. I've never really been scared to give things a go. It's probably inherited from my father, who believes he can do anything.

If you try to do something, and you make a reasonable fist of it, you've got a little bit of skill to build on the next time around. 'Talent' - whatever that is - develops over time and practice, and it only develops when you give something a go.

You should have seen my first piece of patchwork. It was mismatched, badly cut, badly sewn, and generally a bit of a disaster. But I tried it, and I finished it. And from there, I could get better. My mum can testify to the many, many sewing disasters I've had over the years. But now, when I concentrate and think about it, I can put something together pretty quickly, and pretty reasonably.

I never thought I'd have any talent at building. I was a disaster at wood shop at school. But my desire for the children to have a cubby house that I could afford overcame my reluctance to pick up a hammer, and with the right help and advice from two builder friends who must have thought I was 'cute' in what I was trying to do, the thing came together - albeit a little bit shonkily.

Sometimes it helps to have someone believe in you. I only wrote my first and second books because my former boss said, "Of course you can do it - I know you can!" and gave me the opportunity and encouragement. Otherwise, I'd have stayed trapped in my bubble of fear. 

As for writing a novel, that only came about because I saw myself getting older and older and I didn't want to not do the thing I've wanted to do my whole life! I knew I could write, but I lacked skills in plot, pace and dialogue, so I self-educated and went out and read every book about writing fiction that I could get my hands on from the library, as well as buying in recommended others that it didn't have.

Having said that, there are things that I don't want to try to do, or don't enjoy especially. Mowing the lawn is one of them. Team ball sports are another. I lack that natural reflex that my daughter and husband have to get the ball and then see where to send it. My skills are rubbish. But it's probably because I'm not all that interested in it, and possibly because I wasn't encouraged at it at the right time. 

I also don't like cooking and would say I'm no good at it. But in about ten years, when my children become more appreciative of my efforts, I'd like to do a few cooking courses and try to up my skills.

I reckon there's no age by which it's too late to try something either. I was once taught piano by a wonderfully talented pianist who only began to play after she was divorced at the age of 40!

So don't be dismayed by other people's apparent 'talents'. More than likely, they've just tried to do something, and with the right enouragement and enough perseverence, they've pulled it off, after more than a few failures along the way. 

Instead of being overawed by someone else, pick your dream talent and give it a go. And then give it another go, and keep going. Persevere, analyse your failures and stick at it. You'll do it!

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