“We know we have something good to say - it's right on the tips of our tongues - but for some reason we can't always get it out.”
If you've known my wife and I for any length of time, it won't come as any surprise to know that our house is a lively one. We talk a lot, we laugh a lot, we play a lot of music. I wouldn't say it's a "quiet home."
And now we've got this 16 month old toddling about adding her two cents, which is a lot more like buckets and buckets of change clanging on the floor. The sound is glorious...and loud. Ruby's got about 20 solid words in her repertoire including, "ball," "dog," "up," and the classic, "no!" However, what she says that I don't understand far outweighs what I do. But that doesn't stop her from trying. Some form of "blah blu da da da ma boo" is heard all day long. Mostly she knows what she's saying, we don't quite get it yet.
But again, that doesn't stop her from trying to articulate.
I'm sure I've shared this quote before, but Anne Bogart in her book, A Director Prepares offers this with regard to trying to say what we mean to say:
The artist becomes the creator of the future through the violent act of articulation. I say violent because articulation is a forceful act. It demands an aggressiveness and an ability to enter into the fray and translate that experience into expression.
The sounds Ruby makes are her attempts, violent as they are at times, to express what is deep inside her. The same goes for us as makers, crafters, and refiners. Most of us have something we're desperate to say; desperate to communicate; desperate to express - yet most of us are still figuring out just exactly how.
In the oft-quoted and shared series of You Tube videos on storytelling by Ira Glass, he confirms this exact thing by saying:
Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not.
And so most of us, like Ruby, are struggling through the muck and mire of trying to actually say what we want to say. We know we have something good to say - it's right on the tips of our tongues - but for some reason we can't always get it out. It's hard work.
The difference between us and my tiny person who I love more than life itself?
None of us does it as playfully as she does.
Certainly this little human is prone to her fits of violent thrashing when us dumb-dumbs can't figure out what she's trying to tell us, or when she herself can't seem to string together the right set of syllables and constants to clarify her point.
It's painful to watch her wrestle with her words, but mostly, she just plays. Mostly we hear "blah blu da da da ma boo" as she sways around the house pulling out all the clothes from the hamper and twirls about.
And so a few questions...
What would our work look like if we didn't take ourselves so damn seriously, especially with regard to trying to say what it is we want to say? What if instead of "violently articulating," we'd play? What if we were a little more gracious with ourselves knowing that it might take decades for us to really share what's inside of us?
What if we were all a little more like this?