By Simon Cann
“Shit,” as I sit back and stare frustratingly towards my third attempt of an “adroitly” crafted drawing. Though it is supposed to look like an enticing meal of assorted cheeses and prosciutto with melon, I find my artful hands have sculpted a picture of a dinner table adorned with rocks and a herd of small, slightly frightening and disfigured animals. Now, as creative a subject as mutant rodents and chunks of earth may sound, I cannot attribute my work to my artistic skill. This work is the product, in fact, of my notable lack thereof.
Some people may tell you that there is no such thing as bad art;the whole idea of art is to be creative and unique and construct what you see in your own mind on the page. These people almost certainly are not artists. The simple fact is I tried to draw wine and cheese, and I got deformed mixes between a lizard and a cat. Being artistic, at least in the sense of drawing, is not my strong suit, despite how much I would like it to be. I imagine sitting in a cafe while penciling out a masterpiece on a napkin when a pretty girl walks by who is so enamored with my irrefutable artistic talent that she has no choice but to inquire as to who I am and maybe let me buy her a coffee. Whatever greater power that decides people’s talents, however, has seen to it that this scenario will never play out..
I heard when Thomas Edison was asked about the hundred failures he had before inventing the lightbulb he replied “I didn’t fail, I simply discovered a hundred ways how not to make a light bulb.” Talk about manipulation. I didn’t fail at drawing, I simply succeeded in discovering that I’m terrible at it. Total success! I’m only one step away from inventing the lightbulb.
I find myself unfazed by this setback and my self-esteem remains as high as ever. This isn’t the first time this has happened. I know it may be hard to fathom, but if you don’t believe that I could ever be less than exemplary at something, take a look at some of my work in baseball, guitar playing, soccer, painting, basket weaving, juggling, gymnastics, or running. It is true that I have whittled away countless hours on hobbies only to discover my alarming lack of prowess. But I continue to try, and fail because I know I will stop finding ways not to make a lightbulb, and figure out how to make that wonderful little scourge of environmentally conscious, fluorescent-brandishing types.
The simple truth of the world, that I have discovered through my many less than successful attempts, is not everybody is good at everything, and that is so ok. My inability to do all these things has granted me not only a greater appreciation for great art, but also appreciation of myself and the talents that I do have. I could never feel proud about having a pretty sharp memory, a knack for making bittersweet chocolate pies, or willingness to sacrifice my body to a diving catch in ultimate frisbee without the knowledge that these are some of the things that make me a contributor to society., Not everyone can make pie like I can and these are things that I have discovered that I am good at. All these failed attempts at activities aren’t actually failures, they were opportunities to discover what I AM good at, and, for the times it didn’t go so well, to provide a little shadow that makes my discovery of the lightbulb all the brighter.