Selah started cooing when she about a month old, but somewhere around two months she realized that the she was the one making the sounds, that the voice behind the noise belonged to her.
I remember this moment distinctly: she was lying on her changing table, and she let out a sound that was part coo, part squeal, and part shriek. Her eyes lit up, and then she did it again and again.
Since then, she’s been testing out all kinds of new sounds: grunts, giggles, and gurgles. Coos and caws and little baby cackles. She kicks her chubby legs and waves her arms around, and I laugh and ask her where she’s going in such a hurry.
Obviously, she’s not actually going anywhere when she moves her legs and wiggles around. She’s not saying any words when she makes her sweet sounds. From an adult’s perspective, she’s not accomplishing anything real.
But she discovered that she can make sounds that communicate feelings and can move her body in ways she couldn’t before, and now she is unabashedly testing out her voice, figuring out how it works, seeing what she can do, and practicing new skills. She doesn’t wait until my back is turned so she can coo quietly to herself. No, she squeals loudly for my attention, looks me right in the eye, and releases a new sound.
Here’s the truth, friends: we don’t have to “accomplish” anything to use our voices well. Every time we put pen to paper, brush to canvas, or fingers to keys; every time we share a risky idea or attempt a new task or launch a project before the plan is fully formed, we refine our voices and learn to use them in new ways. Even if our efforts ultimately come to “nothing real” — and I would argue that the trying is something real enough — we grow from the experiment.
It’s easy to get discouraged when we’re not producing work we would deem good or shareable or scalable. When we spend all day working on a post that we ultimately toss, when we write pages upon pages before getting to the real starting point, when we have conversation after conversation without moving the relationship forward, it’s tempting to look back on the time and energy we invested and call it a waste.
But every time we attempt something new, it is not a waste. I would never tell Selah to stop talking until she has something real to say; why would I say that to myself about my writing? Why would we say that to ourselves about our work? Instead, I encourage her to keep making the sounds, because every new sound is delightful — even the shrieks that hurt my ears. She is learning to express herself in the ways that only she can. I encourage her to keep wiggling that little body and kicking those legs, because with every “wasted” effort she is building the muscles that will allow her to sit up, crawl, and walk.
Let’s stop living in the doubt that we’re not doing our work right until it’s pretty and polished, and let’s start living in the messy world of creating, tossing, and creating again. Let’s fill up those proverbial trash cans with crumpled papers and failed attempts. Let’s take delight and pride in our efforts, knowing that it’s the only way we’ll keep growing.Take a risk, own your #voice, and use it well — even when it feels like you're failing. Click To Tweet