What is talent?

When children go to the nursery they do a lot of artwork, colouring, drawing, painting; this carries on during the first years of elementary school. Well, I have to admit it; I was terrible with my artwork. Whenever I did a picture of a house, no one understood it was a house: everybody thought it was an arrow. Why couldn’t people see what was obvious to me? But then, when I looked at the other children’s pictures of houses, I noticed they did look different from mine.

The same applied to my trees, flowers, clouds, suns. I soon realized that I just wasn’t good at drawing; no matter how hard I tried, I could not express with pictures what I had in my head. This was very upsetting for me.

My older brother Mariano, on the other hand, had a natural gift. He could draw perfect pictures of anything, animals, still life, landscapes, even abstract stuff. The picture in the cover of my book A Deal with a Stranger is taken from a painting he did for me as a wedding present. Mariano, however, had difficulty as a child with his Italian homework; he sometimes struggled with his grammar, spelling, writing compositions, etc. So we made a deal: during homework time, we would swap notebooks, he would do my artwork and I would do his Italian homework.

Many years have passed since elementary school, and I have tried several hobbies. I always believed that it’s important in life to identify one’s talents and use them at their best. Sometimes life it tricky though, because often the things we like, we may discover we’re not that good at. Take my drawing example. I also mentioned in my old blog that I loved playing electric guitar, in particular hard rock. I played for several years, been to lessons, been part of a band which met regularly, and yet, I never felt I was becoming a better musician with time. Why is that? Maybe I just didn’t have that natural gift. Every time I learnt to play a new song, I had to actually rehearse it many times before I got it, and then do it again, so I wouldn’t forget it. Practice, practice, practice, were the words of my guitar teacher. In comparison, if we decided to have a go at a new song with the band, my friends would have a little play with their instruments, and pick up the riff or rhythm straight away. Also, they were able to improvise any tune; and I really had a problem with that. Can I say that they had talent and I didn’t? Probably.

What is interesting is that when it comes to writing books, I don’t ‘struggle’ like I used to struggle to learn a piece of music. I just sit down at my keyboard and type. Words flow freely and, of course, I have to go back and cut, rewrite, adjust, etc, but it doesn’t feel like hard work, it feels like a pleasure. It’s easy and natural.

We often associate the word ‘talent’ with art, making music, films, sculpture, etc, but when I looked it up in the Cambridge Online Dictionary the definition was “a natural ability to be good at something, especially without being taught”.

I think that the above definition is quite accurate. And moreover, I think that everyone, and I do believe, everyone, is talented. Each one of us has been gifted with one or more talents, it’s that sometimes we may not think as our qualities as talents. As an example, among my friends I have: two who can make fantastic cakes, one who can organize international meetings and conferences without a glitch, one who writes comedies in Sardinian language, one who trains disabled children to play rugby, one who can clean a house and make it really sparkle, one who volunteers for a children’s hotline, a mum that makes the best lasagne ever.

These are only a few examples of our gifts. What are your talents?


image courtesy of: www.flower-images.net

9 thoughts on “What is talent?”

  1. I truly believe in what you’ve just stated, Martina: everyone has his own talent, no one was born without it. I think it’s just a matter of find it, we’ve got all at least one talent.

    As far as I’m concerned, I was told I have the writing superpower, however I don’t think it’s a talent 100%. I believe it’s more a need I’ve got to express what’s running through my mind, otherwise it would explode 😀

    On the other hand, I guess I’m pretty good with dogs. I’ve never practiced or studied anything very deeply, anyway when I interact with dogs they give heed to me.
    My physiotherapists also told me that I’m pretty talented in manipulation, probably because my tiny hands are always warm.
    They pushed me to start studying physiotherapy and stuff like that but it’s too much money and time to me at the moment. Hope to live enough to enroll it sooner or later!

  2. Hi Martina,

    what an interesting topic!

    I do believe that everyone is talented in one or another way, but it may take the whole life trying “everything” to discover what one likes and/or is good at if you are not that very talented kid playing piano like God since he is 6 or less 🙂

    I was the average kid when I grew up, interested more in set of blocks or Merkur than the dolls, too much influenced by other people’s opinion about myself … and the possibilities close to none to travel from behind the iron curtain thus no motivation to learn languages that would be probably my talent.

    Still I’m happy that I got the chance later in the life, though it is unlikely I’ll ever understand any language well enough to identify jokes, especially those based on “common knowledge” in whichever country. 🙂

    Thanks and have a good time,

    • Thank you, Jitka. Learning to speak a foreign language is quite a talent. And you did it! You went to live in a foreign Country, a Western Europe culture quite different from where you grew up in Eastern Europe. You raised your family abroad, and had a skilled professional job in a foreign language. If that is not talent, I don’t know what is!

      And by the way, I often don’t get jokes, even in my own language 😉

  3. I think you are right about talent too. The first thing is finding it, the second is learning to appreciate it even though it may not be “fashionable” or make much money. But even with talent you need to practice – that’s sadly what lets me down!! I want to do it once and move on to something else

    I think it is a shame peer pressure or parental experience means some kids don’t find theirs as early as they perhaps could and lead a life that they are not totally happy with. And you are right, when you are doing what you are designed to do it feels good! I am a great beleiver in if something is too hard, find another way/thing to do!!

    • When I struggled to learn a new song, my guitar teacher kept saying: “keep going, you’re doing great”. He used to tell me that the pupils who performed best at concerts were not the most naturally talented ones, but the ones who practised for longer. He told me that often the naturally gifted people got a bit lazy, they kind of took for granted their gift and when it came to performing, they didn’t do as well as the other musicians who spent more time with their instrument.

      I don’t know if he told me this to make me feel better, or to encourage me to practise more, but I often felt that something I was so passionate about (playing hard rock) shouldn’t feel such hard work at times 😉

  4. Well, obviously I enjoy writing and it certainly comes more easily to me than other people. But as a child, I think I struggled to find my particular hobby/talent/passion. As a result, I can do a little of many things – I was in the school choir, tried fly-fishing and played hockey to name a few. Even as an adult, I can play a bit of piano (badly), can juggle (a bit) and can stay upright on a windsurfer (on a good day). I did find myself envying those who had a clear, single passion in their life. Or, maybe I just get bored too easily 🙂
    But, equally, recognising what we’re not good at is valuable too.

    • You made a valid point there, Pauline. Recognizing what we are not good at is valuable. I’d say it’s very important. Because if we persist on an activity that’s not right for us, we may get frustrated at the lack of results and we may feel down. On the other hand, if we realized pretty soon that whatever we’re tying to do is not for us, and we focussed instead on what we’re good at, we’d be much happier.


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