The power of questions and how to find what you didn’t lose

If I had a voice what would it say? - Gwyn Michael

“Creators of any kind must find their voice. Our voice is our essence, writ plain for the world to see.”

Leo Babauta

How beautiful! We hear about this voice finding a lot, especially in writing circles. When I googled ‘finding your voice’ I got 18,600,000 results, and by chance Leo wrote a post on it just yesterday. I made the picture above and wrote about it myself exactly two years ago on my first blog.¬†Why, I wonder, am I writing about it again? Perhaps because once again I lost misplaced and rediscovered my elusive voice.

The thing is, we all have a voice and we use it every day, but when it comes to our creative work we seem to have trouble holding on to our voice and/or vision. My last two posts were on information overload and weighing my art down with unrealistic social responsibilities. Those are two ways I lost my way and there are so many more. That this happens is not what I wish to explore, rather what to do when it does.

I discovered last week that it was the matter of a few simple questions. I spent an hour pouring over my dilemma (what is my art about?) with creative coach and fellow Scoutie Girl writer Laura Simms. An hour is not a long time when you are delving into the corridors of my mind, but Laura knows how to ask the right questions. You see, we always have the answers in us, and we never really lose anything, we just aren’t so good at asking our own questions.

When we remember, it is as if the lights got turned on in a dark room. “Oh there is my voice, how silly to have left it there. I must remember to leave the light on this time.”

Laura got me to remember that my art is my voice for stories, for conversations between my imagination and memory. I majored in Illustration in college for a reason, I wanted to speak in pictures. My pictures (and my writing) are a way to tell you what I love and what I fear, what I know and what is in the wild places of my mind. I want to show you magical discoveries I find with my camera and the layers of memories long ago and yet to be.

Enchanted - Gwyn Michael

Laura asked a lot of great questions, but the one that really brought me home was, “Tell me, what do you love about what you do?” It was then I remembered the exploring, and discovery, and the magical way a camera has taught me to see. To remember I need only really look at the work. From this place I can start over again, redesigning my website and stating my intentions. Beginnings are always good, even when they are reruns.

Tell me, what questions bring you back to yourself? Do you have someone to remind you, perhaps a coach or partner?

16 thoughts on “The power of questions and how to find what you didn’t lose

  1. First of all – beautiful images!

    I was recently asked to respond to a bunch of questions and here were the first two:

    “What values or ethics are important to you?
    How do your values affect your actions?”

    It was at once easy and challenging! Of course I know what’s important to me, but how best to organize it into something I can share in words? I hoped to include all the Big Stuff, but I couldn’t write endlessly. So, those questions prompted me to reflect on what’s most important to me and how it directly relates to what I DO.

    And this harkens back to the recent World Cafe Conversation questions – “What are your ideals? How are your questions? How do these inform your work?”

    Ha! Can I throw *another* set of questions out there? There is actually another I’ve been working with lately:

    “What are the largest, most pressing problems you can help to solve using the gifts that are unique to you in all the universe?”

    I think for you, Gwyn, this question might be part of what sent you off the course that’s right for you. For me, this is a question I have to ask myself all the time to get back on track. (Interesting, eh?)

    The other question from the same source (http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/5240/) is:

    “What do I get off on?”

    It is by doing the kind of work that you love, that energizes you, that excites you that you can do the best of what you’re able to do. There are lots of things I am capable of doing, but that drain me. It’s easy for me to forget and find myself doing that stuff rather than what really grows out of passion.

    1. I love all these questions Emma and always love your comments.

      Pondering that a list of these centering questions needs to be made a poster.

      I think you are right about that question that led me astray. My gifts are not in line with solving the most pressing problems I think about…at this time. That does not mean I can’t solve other problems with what I have. I am also looking at alternative views to the same problems.

      The article makes a good point boiling down to “do something”. The challenge for me is to keep “something” within a manageable scope, within the realm of what is possible at this time with what I have.

      1. Right – it’s not how can your gifts help solve the most pressing problems you can think of.

        It’s what are the most pressing problems you CAN use your gifts to help solve.

  2. I recently remembered what I love about my work too. I had become so distracted by how I could make money from it, that I had forgotten why I had originally started down this path, to make money from doing something I love. After all there are a million ways to make money doing things I don’t love, why make something I love unpleasant just to turn a profit? I am reajusting to try to make the profit and joy align a bit better.

  3. Hi Gwyn! Such a great post. I know I need better questions for myself–I get lost in not “what do I like about what I do” but “what should I do?”. It totally keeps me stuck and frusturated. I am going to try and find maybe some writing prompts or meditations or something to really start flushing out the answers and the voice. Thanks for the reminder. BTW, I LOVE your beautiful art.

  4. First of all, your pictures are SO great!!!!

    Now, about the questions: I’m always trying to focus on what I want from life… what’s my ultimate goal… So when I do something, it has to be related to this ultimate goal! (something to do with being happy!)

  5. Hi Gwyn,

    I just had a tiny epiphany. Your art (and the work of others) actually appeals to me even more when you aren’t trying to attach a heavy message to it. It’s beautiful; It reminds me of beauty and makes me want to do beautiful things. That is powerful & that is enough.

    I absolutely love this:
    “I want to show you magical discoveries I find with my camera and the layers of memories long ago and yet to be.”

    I feel the same way about my jewelry, but I struggle with a way to express it.

    One thing that helped me center myself lately was Lisa Work’s Passion Flavor exercise. It’s a free resource that was apparently worded just the right way to work for me. I’ve typed my flavor focus at the top of my to-do list for instant reference.

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