Sunday, March 25, 2018


Are you one of the many who think that playing an instrument or singing (even in the shower) is not your forte – that ‘Chopsticks’ and humming the doorbell are as good as it gets for you?
As for dancing, you do it in front of the TV when Ellen DeGeneres invites you to join in -- as her sidekick.  No threat there; she can’t see you. Nor can anyone else -- once you’re inside a pitch black dance hall, crammed with crazies wired to show the world they can hip hop, samba, crunch, even belly flop right into the lap of an unsuspecting wall flower. 
You can still feel the pain when a humourless oaf known as ‘big foot’ decided you had an enticing big toe, and stepped on it. Ouch!  That pain still lingers -- even though it happened ten years ago!
Painting is far more peaceful, but you opt for the kind that comes from a gallon because painting a room is no sweat-- well maybe a little -- if the ventilation is poor. (More about your painting stint in school soon follows).
Acting is something you’ve considered. You’ll accept a role - as a rock. You’ve considered taking photography at Algonquin College, but that would mean buying a camera and umpteen lenses. 
Clearly, you’re suffering from IMOOTS (I missed out on talent syndrome). Growing up, you believed that talent was reserved for special people, given to them by God or passed on through the genes. You claim talent eluded you from the get-go - that you belong to the land of bureaucrats, business boys and bean counters,  occupations not exactly brimming with artistic zeal.
Sadly, people who perceive themselves as talentless take it as an irrevocable fact - confirmed since childhood. For example, your parents were told by your piano teacher after a year of lessons (possibly longer, depending on how greedy the teacher was) that they were wasting their hard earned money, that you had no musicality at all. Of course she left out the part about yelling at you every time you hit a wrong note. So your parents informed you in a rather blunt manner: “No more piano lessons; your teacher says you have no talent.” Being a trusting child, you believed them.
Dancing lessons were out for you since your older sister already had that one wrapped up in her pretty pink toe shoes tutu and leotard. 
 But wait! None of your siblings had tackled theatre; things were looking up, until the first time you walked out on stage and broke out in a nervous rash.
Painting percolated in your mind intermittently, but you were young and had no idea what to paint; your mind drew a blank. Thank God for grade one art class. At least they gave you some paints, and they told you what to draw, such as a dog, cat, house or the person sitting next to you.  But let’s be honest: the lesson was really about how to tidy up after you finished your finger painting.  During one nifty brush painting class in grade five, you recall the teacher coming around, complimenting you on the dog you had just painted. Without warning, her happy smile quickly turned into tight-lipped anger when you told her (without meaning any harm) that the ‘dog’ was actually her face, and that the ‘snout’ was her nose!
In my grade seven class at Broadview Avenue Public School, we were making clay ashtrays, putting them into the kiln after we had painted them. The teacher selected mine to show the class. I was beaming. She then announced with great drama in her voice:  “This is how not to make an ashtray.  I was crushed and swore off art forever.
But, life doesn't do ‘never’. Twenty years after the ashtray trauma, I discovered talent is a trickster, and that the past can be your invisible stalker - if you let it. You can be five years old or fifty when talent pops out. Surprise!
Since those infamous days, I have made a series of handmade wooden books, shaped as trees, snowflakes and the sun. I dared to illustrate them myself, even ink in my poetry.  All 200 of them were sold – the first one having been purchased by the curator of Queens University -- to my utter astonishment. The point is, no one told me to make such things or not to. Their creative entry into this world was born from an intense desire to express my love of nature in a tangible manner.  
My desire to create an educational board game all about colour and our universe resulted in my creation of a colour wheel forming the tail of ‘Professor Peacock’. Kids landed on colour squares, picked up a matching colour card and tried to answer the question on the card. This game, titled ‘The Colour Jungle” demanded months to create; it was a labour of love. I somehow had to get that idea realized, and thus the game (never marketed) was born.
Eric Hoffer, the great twentieth century philosopher, wrote: “We are told that talent creates its own opportunities, but it sometimes seems that intense desire creates not only its own opportunities, but its own talents.”  So, a passion to express is the prime provenance of talent.
All of us have talent; what you do about it is key – how do you respond to it? Are you a nay-sayer or a yeah-sayer? Luckily, as adults, we are free to explore the myriad of talents hibernating inside us.
I never predicted I would take up the banjo at the age of 49!  Making three banjo CDs certainly came as a shock to me and everyone who knew me as a piano gal.  Talent is an unpredictable visitor. It’s never too late to explore your ‘heart ideas’ through an art. Don’t give up when talent turns from exhilaration to exasperation.
Gustave Flaubert said: “Talent is a long patience; originality is an effort of will and intense observation.” Many of us give up. I did several times, but I always returned to the task at hand, and each time I did, I realized talent never leaves you. You leave it. Life gets in the way; you get tired.  Stanislavski, the pioneer of method acting used to tell his students: “inspiration is a minute part of talent; the rest is perspiration.”
I can recall practising a really difficult bar of a Bach fugue. I realized I would never get it right. I could rip up the page, bang endlessly on the ivories, or walk away and wait until the desire to express that piece in its entirety returned, and if it didn’t, so be it. I waited 5 months to revisit that bar; I deeply wanted to play that piece, and now I do. Desire gave me the will to overcome the technical challenges. You see, it was not miraculous god-given talent that enabled me to master (to some degree) that piece of music. It was motivation, a state of mind and the desire to express it. Goethe said it best: “Talent finds its happiness in execution.”
Ross Schorer, a former student of Arthur Lismer (Group of Seven), now a highly sought-after art teacher believes everyone is an artist, but self doubt gets in the way. “Many people are afraid of expressing their talent; they risk rejection. It starts as a kid: a family member dismisses the painting you just showed. I know everyone has talent; it can be coaxed out any time. My job is to bring it out of burial. Once this talent is freed, the individual can paint.”

Talent ‘talks’ to you. Release it from hibernation. 


  1. That is a wonderful article and so true!! And you are so right - sometimes it is just the desire and our state of mind that allows for the release of creativity. And then sometimes it may go back into hibernation for a while, unfortunately! DM

  2. It is most gratifying to receive your comment on this topic. Please feel free to go You Tube and write Nancy Snipper. I think you will like the song in its 3 versions called, Be You. There are 25 entries, soon to be 36.
    Thank you so much for sharing with me! You are obviously talented.