Many times friends and acquaintances confessed me their secret frustrations, complaining about their failures and their alleged lack of talent. They accept a self-imposed fate made of self-diagnosed diseases. In the meantime, they whine.
And coming from me, a professional complainer with years of experience, it can only be bad. There’s nothing wrong with complaining as long as, in the meantime, you are actually doing something to root out the cause of your uneasiness. But no, they don’t. ‘Cause they’re lazy. Of course, it’ easy to solve the problem with the panacea of all panaceas: I can’t do it.
Now, this is the one phrase that irritates both my sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system altogether: what exactly do you mean when you say I can’t do it?
Come on, be honest. The fact that you don't know how to do something does not really prevent you from doing it. I see it as a nice and self-victimizing way to say I'm lazy and I don’t want to try.
It's important to be determined and stubborn and indulge, with particular tenacity, in those activities that you think you can’t do well.
The sudden illumination came this morning when I saw the set of watercolors that I bought last Christmas, abandoned at the back of a drawer full of junk.
I’ve always had an unexpressed passion for watercolors. When I was six I spent hours and hours painting with watercolors stolen from my brother (who happens to be the real artist in the family), using cotton buds as paint brushes because he didn’t let me find them. My father, visibly pleased, hung my drawing on the walls of his office after showing them to my mother.
But wait, slow down, it’s not what you think: if at six years old I was an art genius, my career as a successful impressionist painter - to these days - is over, along with my painting skills, inexplicably sterilized and left without any possibility of progress.
Anyhow, I really have a thing for watercolors and once every three years I buy a new set that inevitably remains unused up to the moment I decide to replace it with a new one which is left to the same, sad fate.
But keep this in mind: the reason why I don’t use them is because I don’t have time (and I know that this is another cliché excuse for lazy people, but I'm working on it) and not because I can’t do it (although I actually can’t).
But this morning I woke up early, possessed by an inexplicable artistic spirit (curiously unmentioned in my daily horoscope) and I started painting. But then I remembered that I can’t paint. I stopped a moment to contemplate the consequences of this sudden revelation. '' I can’t paint '' I said. I stared at the white sheet for a few minutes. ''Never mind’’, I thought, and I continued.
This is a lesson that I learned a few years ago when I got a very low mark at one of my essays, a big red five out of ten, a scarlet reminder of my failure.
In that moment I said to myself ... ‘’well, looks like writing is not one of my (still undiscovered) talents.” But if there's one thing that really hurts my pride... that’s failure. Or rather the inability to react to failure.
And from that moment on, quite naturally, I started smashing my head on Italian literature books, grammar guides, and 20th-century novels. And in the meantime, at the peak of my writing inability, stalked by the omnipresent ghost of failure, the paradox happens: I start writing for a newspaper.
I would never want to be the editor who edited my first article. Poor woman. I still I remember it ... a bad article. Just really bad. I don't wanna talk about it.
But I continued! And I wrote tons of articles and stories and tales and one day, a few years later, I woke up and… I could write! I hadn’t even noticed! On a beautiful morning, my teacher asked me when I would show her my first novel (she’s still waiting), the editor gave me a big first page and my little stories started being published on several websites and blogs.
And here I am at the end of the first year of university, studying to become a journalist, while I build my future on what, a long time ago, was my inability to write, my non-talent.
This is not to suggest that in five years I'll win the Nobel Prize for literature or become the new Picasso. Hell no. But I want to share with you a lesson I've learned a bit 'from myself, and a lot more from those brave souls who run the Olympic games with titanium legs and wheelchairs. If they can do it, why couldn't you?
And don’t be fooled by the slightly self-congratulatory tone of this piece. I still have a lot to learn and a long way to go. But at this stage, I know for sure that I can’t do it is little more than an excuse, a pretext, a lie: I can’t do it doesn’t exist, as long as you really want to do it.
" If you don't persevere, you don't create anything. The creation is, first of all, the will." - Alejandro Jodorowsky