Talking about things

One percent inspiration, 99 percent perspiration

When Linesman first came out, Sherylyn and I did a talk at one of our local libraries. There was time, afterwards, for questions.

“Do you consider yourself gifted?” one of the ladies in the audience asked.  “Having published a book and all.”

“No,” we said.  “We persevered.”

There are some truly gifted writers in the world. Not all of them are published.

Likewise, there are truly gifted artists in other areas.  People who can draw or paint, musicians, dancers. Not all of them are famous, or in jobs where they use their ability.

There are also lots of us who say, “I can’t draw.”  “I can’t write.”  “I can’t hold a tune.”

Yet most people can draw. We can write. We can hold a tune.

Provided we are taught how to.

We may not have natural, native talent that shines through, no matter what. But we can learn. If we get the chance. Or if we so want to do it that we will find a way to learn it, despite all the knockbacks we get for it.

How many people, for example, become authors if they can’t read or write?

I can’t hold a tune. But both my parents were musical. My father learned to play an instrument. My mother was natively talented. She could pick up a tune and would whistle along with it, perfectly in tune. Two of my sisters played musical instruments. They can hold tunes. I’m sure, if I learned how to, I could hold a tune too.

I can’t draw. I was never taught how to. Sherylyn couldn’t draw either. Not at school.  Until, as an adult, she decided to do a pottery course.  She enjoyed it so much she enrolled in the pottery certificate course at the local TAFE.  One of the subjects in that course was drawing. As you can imagine, she was nervous.  Like me, she thought she couldn’t draw.  I remember, at the end of the subject, we were sitting, talking, and she was sketching.  She showed me her picture.  It was me. Recognisably me.

Nowadays, she paints, and her paintings are recognisably what they’re meant to be.  She isn’t embarrassed to show them to other people.

Not bad for someone who left school ‘knowing’ they couldn’t draw or paint.

Likewise, with stories. If you want to write a novel, you have to learn how to. And then you have to persevere.  You have to write it. You have to edit it. You have to have learn the basics of grammar and sentence construction.  It’s a rare person who can write a novel on talent alone.

Most of us, luckily, are still taught to read and write at school.  Less of us are taught to draw, or paint, or play music.

I still can’t draw, but I drew the cartoon above after watching Graham Shaw’s TEDxHull talk, Why people can’t draw – and how to prove they can.  If I persevere, one day I might have drawings that I could show the world as well.

Even if I do learn to draw, I doubt that I’ll ever become more than a competent artist.  Drawing isn’t a passion for me the way writing is.  I can stop drawing, but I can’t see myself ever stop writing.

When you’re passionate about something like that, and are prepared to work and learn to improve it, that’s when the magic happens.  That’s when you go beyond ordinary into something you can be proud of.


If you’re interested in learning how to draw, I recommend Betty Edwards’ book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. I know people who have worked through the book and come out with some impressive skills at the other end.

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