Creativity for the Rest of Us

What Do You Give Your Voice To?


Radiation treatment left my throat raw and excruciatingly painful – as though I had swallowed hot lava. Eventually it became too painful to speak and I succumbed to communicating with nods and gestures. I spent months virtually silent.

As I slowly began to heal and reassemble my post cancer life, every area was up for review, including how I use my voice.

It felt as though my house burned to the ground and I  got to choose how I wanted to refurnish it. I saw relationships that had run their course, work I was no longer interested in, and conversations I didn’t want to be a part of. And I saw new things I wanted to grow and develop.

Around this time a wise mentor asked me a profound question that continues to guide me:

What do I give my voice to?

Words have power. They can encourage, neutralize, or extinguish. The words we choose effect our communication and relationships with others. They have an impact on our inner dialogues and what we think about ourselves.

A little over a year later, I am still living with that question. I am learning to be conscious of the intention in my communication and the conversations I choose to engage in.

There is energy in conversations – they can expand or contract.

Contracting Conversations:

  • Fixate on what’s not working – complain
  • Judge and criticize others or ourselves – gossip
  • Worry over future scenarios
  • Rehash past events

These conversations aren’t productive. They aren’t even conversations, really, more a way to commiserate and bond with others in an unhealthy way. They are fear based, constricting not just our energy but also our imagination. They emphasize separation over connection and wholeness. Worst of all, they make it impossible for us to explore more meaningful conversations: what we care about, what touches our hearts, and how we want to make a difference in the small piece of the world we touch.

Expansive Conversations:

  • Inspire
  • Explore new possibilities
  • Offer diverse perspectives and experience
  • Create connections

Expansive conversations are generative, co-creative, lift us up, and come from the heart. They feed our souls. We can feel the difference.

This is not to say there is never a time or place for discussing hard things in our lives. There are absolutely times when we need to sort things out, to make sense of difficult situations, to seek counsel, and dig deep.

However, when we notice ourselves looping in the same old conversation (either internally or with others) we are indulging in the issue with little interest in forward progress.

When I have had the privilege to sit with wise elders (and youngers), there can often be long periods of silence. They don’t fill up space with small talk. They are completely at ease not speaking unless they have something to contribute.

If you find yourself in conversations that are going nowhere, choose silence and see what happens.


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