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Lessons from the Songbirds

Nadia Barghout Brown, MD, writes for those of us have ever felt "not good enough" in our creative process.

August 30, 2022

That “not-good-enough” Thing…. and Birdsong.

We’ve all had that feeling, haven’t we? We stare down a blank page, a new piece of music, a glob of clay – virtually any creative skill – and that internal voice pipes up: “Me? Do [THE THING]?! Anybody – EVERYBODY – can do [THE THING] better than I can.” That voice is insistent. And so, so certain. And suddenly, the drive to finally attack that pile of laundry, bake cookies, or melt into the nearest sinkhole, becomes impossible to ignore. I’m going to hazard a guess that you’ve all felt this “not good enough” feeling, too. Because if you’ve ever loved a creative process of any kind, you know exactly what I’m talking about. And sometimes, the more we love [THE THING], the worse it gets. Regardless of how much experience you’ve had with [THE THING], and yes – regardless of how much “evidence” there is to the contrary, this feeling humbles us all.

Well, recently, a “not good enough” cloud has been circling overhead for me. And while it’s sometimes wispy and easily dispersed by a breeze or a laugh, at other times, it lingers and thickens until it covers the whole sky.

Ever had that? What do you do in order to step out from under it?

 

Recently, a “not good enough Share on X

 

Well, when it happens to me, sometimes, I succumb to it. Maybe the world will just be cloudy now, I think. It’s too difficult to chase them away. The air is still, and there is not enough laughter. At other times, though, I remember my grandmother – and birdsong. What does birdsong have to do with not feeling “good enough”? Well, maybe a lot, it turns out. You see, birds hush during a storm, right? Their singing slows or sometimes stops abruptly. They all do it. The beautifully coloured ones, the plain ones, the loud ones, the one-note wonders, the squawkers, the chirpers and the lilting beauties.

They all stop, together. Why? Because birds are a chorus, a collective of sorts, dependent on each other. The intricacy of their sound is a fabric, woven to communicate need, well-being, and joy. My grandmother used to say: if only the best birds sang, it would be a very quiet forest. That used to sound, to me, like a concession, a giving up, an end to striving for better. Now, I actually think it’s the opposite. Birds fuel each other with the richness of their sound. They fuel each other. They don’t fight to be “good enough”, or “better than”, or even, heaven forbid: perfect. There’s room for the one-note wonders, for the trillers and chirpers, for the clear-toned and the raspy beauties. There’s room for the birds who pause so long we forget they’re there, and for the ones who hold a note until the whole world vibrates with it. There’s room for the syncopated ones, and for the ones who squawk in dissonance, because they don’t yet know the language of their heart. There’s room for them all. And near the end of a storm, when they’ve been silent, it matters not one iota, which one of them starts first. They simply lift each other into song.

We, too – all of us – weave a fabric that wouldn’t exist without the specific threads, at the distinctive tensions, in the infinite blend of colours, that form our unique, creative energy. We hold, lift, inspire, and nurture each other’s creativity in ways that are sometimes subtle and sometimes overt.

We help each other find our voices in the chorus.

 

We, too – all of us - weave a fabric that wouldn’t exist without the specific threads, at the distinctive tensions, in the infinite blend of colours, that form our unique, creative energy. Share on X

 

When I think this way, I stop worrying that maybe my voice doesn’t warrant being heard. The aching desire to step out from the shadows, the counter-impulse to sink into anonymity – all of it fades. Or becomes one. We are all the chorus, embedded in the beat, buoyed by it, enhancing it with our own rhythm. We are the confident one, the shaky one, the syncopated or dissonant one. We shape the echoes, reflecting them back more resonant, meaningful, for having instilled them with our song. You are not only “good enough”, but vital and spectacular in this chorus.

Someone just needs to start up after a storm. As Westley said when confronting Prince Humperdinck in The Princess Bride: “Perhaps I have the strength, after all.” Perhaps we have the strength, after all – together. Not to fight, but to sing. And to write, and to sculpt – to create.

All opinions published on SomeDocs-Mag are the author’s and do not reflect the official position of SoMeDocs, its staff, editors. SoMeDocs is a magazine built with the safety of free expression and diverse perspectives in mind. For more information, or to submit your own opinion, please see our submission guidelines or email opmed@doximity.com. Do you have a compelling personal story you’d like to see published on SoMeDocs? Find out what we’re looking for here and submit your writing, or send us a pitch.

All opinions published on SomeDocs-Mag are the author’s and do not reflect the official position of SoMeDocs, its staff, editors. SoMeDocs is a magazine built with the safety of free expression and diverse perspectives in mind. Do you have a compelling personal story you’d like to see published on SoMeDocs? Submit your own article now here.

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