Ten years ago I thought I couldn’t write poetry – and then I started to fiddle a bit with rhymes, discovered Word! and Pinggk – and now I can.
Ten months ago I thought I couldn’t sing. My voice was variable and often croaky. But I started to practise. Recently I’ve done a few songs at Yesim’s and they went down well. So now I think maybe I can.
When I was four I was on the beach in Sussex when I learned that across the water lay another country, called France. I decided to walk to France and I set my face to the waves. Time after time I waded in, only to be hauled out by my father.
Never tell yourself ‘I can’t.’ My childhood – and perhaps more damagingly, my adolescence and later life – was filled with people raining on my parade, stealing my thunder and generally trying to teach me – for my own good, of course – that ‘I couldn’t’. So that it becomes a narrative in your life; one that’s very hard to turn around.
Now, I am forced reluctantly to acknowledge that walking to France is kind of a tall order, especially for a four-year-old; but had I persisted I would have found out for myself what the difficulties were. I would have learned wisdom. Of course, it’s quite possible that my father had no idea what I was doing – he probably just saw me in danger and rescued me. It’s quite possible that I didn’t explain I was walking to France. But if I had I have no doubt I would have heard once more those dreaded words.
Or, to put it another way, ‘if the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise.’* Because if you persist you will either get somewhere, in which case the nay-sayers will learn a thing or two – or you will fail, in which case you will learn a thing or two. In the end there is no such thing as failure (and I don’t mean this in a horrid American way, chanting the mantra of success) – there is only learning. Or to put it another way, ‘doubt does more damage than failure ever can.’
I can write the book on doubt. I’ve sown enough seeds of doubt for a whole harvest. But no more. Because, ten years after, I can write poetry.
And maybe, just maybe, I can sing too.
*William Blake, Proverbs of Hell