How I Do It: An Interview with Susannah Conway (+ a Giveaway!)

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I remember curling up one Saturday morning with Susannah Conway’s (at the time) brand new book This I Know: Notes on Unraveling the Heart in my hands – and in what felt like a sneeze in time – I found myself on the final page, my soul soothed by her searing honesty and tender way of ‘getting to the heart of it all.’

Susannah has this way of drawing you in. If you’ve read her work before – and I hazard a guess you’ve probably discovered this radiant woman before now – you’ll find yourself nodding along in agreement when I say that she’s a nurturer. There’s this swirling, gracious, soul mama vibe about her that is both soft and fierce, and vulnerable yet potent (in fact, she’s my favourite kind of contradiction).

Susannah is a photographer, author and teacher (her classes enjoyed by thousands of people from over 40 countries around the world), and when you combine that signature ‘authentic ‘n’ thoughtful’ approach with her ethereal photos, you land in a place where sharing means healing, together, and creativity rules.

Find yourself in her words.

Introducing, Susannah Conway

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Let’s kick off with a biggie. Why do you do what you do? 

I didn’t know I was going to do what I do – none of this was planned! The path I am on now began in 2005 when the man I loved died very suddenly — everything I thought I knew about life changed in that instant. Now I look back and see that my life has unfolded in two acts: in the first 32 years I was disconnected from myself and acting out so many patterns from the past. In the last eight years I’ve been on my own and truly healed my hurts and stepped into who I really am.

I found my way back to myself through my cameras and journals — in the second year of my bereavement I discovered blogging and it opened up this whole new creative world to me. Being able to share my thoughts and feelings online was incredibly empowering — it was my way of ‘getting back out there’ from the safety of my living room.

So now I share what I’ve learned with the world. I teach creative courses online to help others get in touch with who they really are.  I’ve written a book sharing my story and path to wholeness (a continuous work in progress, obviously!). And I write my blog, sharing my heart the only way I know how – frankly :)

What are three of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt along the way?

1 // Don’t take anything personally, in business and in life.

2 // The importance of healing our own hurts so we don’t pass them on to anybody else. Being responsible for the energy we put out into the world.

3 // Love never dies.

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What’s been absolutely key for you in building your community?

Being honest. Often vulnerable. Just me. I see so much hyped up marketing online and it makes me cringe.  I try to infuse integrity through everything I do and that’s especially important when it comes to letting people know about my work.

I know that there’s rarely a ‘typical’ day in the life of an entrepreneur/ lady of the interwebs, but can you talk a bit about how you approach your work? What does a week in your life usually entail?

I’d like to tell you I have a work schedule I stick to throughout the day but that just doesn’t work for me.

I wake up when I wake up (no alarm unless I have to be somewhere early – I actually try to avoid that as I’m a night owl) and lie in bed coming down from the morning’s dream.

Breakfast is usually scrambled eggs and smoked salmon and a decaf coffee made with freshly ground beans. I jump on the computer and deal with any urgent emails, check Twitter/Facebook/Pinterest (my fave) and then begin the struggle to stay focussed and get shit done. I am a terrible procrastinator but am starting to accept that this is just how my creative process works. There’s a lot of composting that has to happen – reading books, blogs, looking at art and photography, listening to music, journalling and fluffing around on Instagram. I always manage to get my essentials done – checking in with my course peeps if an ecourse is in session, making videos for Unravelling, dealing with the seemingly endless emails and answering Q&As like this one.

When I’m working on a big project I go deep into the creation cave, as Jonathan Fields likes to call it, and disappear off the radar for a while.

In the last few months I’ve started building a fitness habit, which is kind of amazing considering for the last 40 years I have loathed all forms of physical activity. So three times a week I either go to the gym to do a session with my trainer or work out at home.

I also have a weekly appointment with my psychotherapist – keeping my brain healthy is as important to me as working on my body. Interestingly both my personal trainer and therapist are also qualified life coaches, so I like to think I’m supported from every possible angle.

Being self-employed means I can fit in lunches and photo safaris with friends during the week and often work through the weekend instead. I try to get off the computer by 9pm but some days it’s later. If the muse is with me I run with it.

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Describe your creative process.

I blog when I feel inspired to share something – I very rarely schedule out my posts. If I don’t have anything to say I stay quiet – whenever I post something because I think I ‘should’ it always feels flat and forced. I don’t like to dial it in if I can help it.

When creating a new course I spend a few months composting the idea, as described above. There’s LOTS of research and note making – everything gets sketched out in various Moleskines. Once I have a handle on the topic I start to flesh out the content for each week of the course and begin to write in earnest. I have the first two weeks ready when we start but like to create the rest as we go. I know the way the content will develop but like to be able to respond to participants’ journeys through the material. To my mind this makes a more powerful course because it’s tested in real time rather than something written months ago that I hoped might work. Every time I run a course I tweak and develop it. To me they are living breathing entities.

Writing the book was an altogether more intense experience that lasted six months. I wrote about it over here.

Routines and rituals for the soul: can you tell us about the little – or big – things that keep you feeling grounded, joyful, connected, inspired?

My journal rarely leaves my side – I started journaling when I was 11, and the simple act of writing words into a notebook has saved my sanity so many times over the years. I’ve always felt compelled to record my world in words and images.

Pinterest and Instagram are my happy places to hang out virtually. I also adore Evernote and collect tons of inspiration to refer back to as and when I need it.

Checking in with my family and mates is another big one for me.  I don’t need to see them every day as I’m an introvert who likes her space, but regular calls and emails keep us connected. I need regular check-ins with my sister, especially. And as much time with my nephew as I can get – he makes my world 1000 times better.

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The not-so-hot days. We all have them. How do you make peace with overwhelm and self-doubt?

Stupidly I usually try to power through and then wonder why I get nothing done. So when I’m on the verge of another day of the crazies I throw myself out the door to get AWAY from the computer and back into the real world. Working from home can be challenging and even after a decade of varying degrees of self-employment, I still fall into the overwhelm hole. So walking the streets of London helps me get out of my head – a date with my journal in a café helps too. I always return home feeling rebooted.

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RAPID FIRE

I feel empowered, electric, alive, the most ME when… I’m some place new taking photographs

I feel restricted when… I’m drowning in hormones

I’m inspired by… the energy of my city

My current mantra/ affirmation is… I surrender

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To wrap up, imagine you’re sitting in conversation with yourself in 10 years time. What are you doing? What does your life look – and feel – like?

First of all I will be FIFTY, which is quite a scary thought, so obviously I hope I will be fantastically fit and healthy :)

I’ll be living between the city and countryside, ideally with a flat in London and a rambling house in the Cotswolds. I’ll be married to the man I can’t stop kissing, there may be a mini-me running around, and a couple of dogs. I’ll be a well-established author with at least another six books under my belt. My days will consist of writing, canoodling, being a mum/aunt, inspiring people, figuring out life. I’ve no doubt my biz will have several full-time employees by then. If we’re going to really explode this dream, I’d love to see a home in NYC too – there’ll definitely be plenty of trips to the USA for work and to see my friends.

Life feels expansive, sensual, nourishing, fulfilling, challenging, calm, blessed, worth it.*

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CREATIVE MAVENS: WE HAVE A GIVEAWAY FOR YOU! 

Susannah has generously offered a spot for one lucky In Spaces Between reader in her 6-week Journal Your Life eCourse (kicking off Monday 2 Sept; winner will be randomly selected and announced on Sunday 1 Sept on Facebook).

All you need to do to be in the running is leave a comment below and then, why dontcha pop over to follow Susannah on Instagram or Twitter. Best of luck. x

* Ahh. I absolutely love this. 

UPDATE: Huge congrats to Jacqueline – Upon Wild Stars! Your comment – number 27 – was randomly selected via random.org. Enjoy!

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42 Comments to “How I Do It: An Interview with Susannah Conway (+ a Giveaway!)”

  1. Hi Rach & Susannah! It’s my first time commenting and i am an AVID (albeit bit shy) follower of Rach’s amazing blog (kudos Rach you’re the first website i open each morning… !)
    Susannah thank you for sharing. 2 yrs ago I got knocked down by chronic fatigue syndrome, gave up my marketing career to spend a year in bed in recovery (very morbid, very confusing). I was 24 (& thought my life was over) & to this day am slowly, with much struggle, building myself back up. Photography & journalling was the outlet that brought me back and your words resonate so much. 2 years on I know im passionate about photography/writing & want to find a way to make a passion my job but am admittedly lost. I would love to take part in your eCourse as it would be incredible to learn from an amazing role model. In saying that, opportunity or not – thank you again for sharing!!! x

  2. Until you posted this I had never even heard of Susannah Conway, but this post is so brilliantly put together and the collaboration of minds is nothing short of inspirational. Thanks so much to both of you for sharing this! :)

  3. Argh, such a wonderful interview. What a gorgeous soul Susannah is and such a generous giveaway.

    I found myself smiling many times throughout her interview, relating to much of the ‘creative process’ and her vision for 10 years time sounds so superb!

    Mon Xx

  4. What a gorgeous and authentic interview! I am so happy to be introduced to Susannah Conway this morning. You will see me in one of your future ecourses. Much love, K x

  5. Rach! Susannah! What a beautiful read to start off the long
    weekend :) Rach I stumbled across you only last weekend and
    have read your site from wo-to-go already-I love your philosophy and your intention! Susannah we met today
    and what a great way of writing you have – honest, frank – yet so conversational. Thank you both of you for your honesty and inspiration ;)

    Katie x

  6. Hi ladies, i love this blog. I have just started reading this i know, i really really am enjoying it. I would love the oppourtunity to gain more insight in susannahs ecourse. ? Thank you so much for writting such intresting reads.

  7. Oh the journal your life course is on my list of future things I shall do when I finally have money. It would be awesome to bypass that and experience it now.
    I missed Susannah’s searingly honest and beautiful words during her August break, but at least got the time to go back and explore her archives. So much collective wisdom there :)

  8. Hi lovely ladies,
    Thank you for your inspiring interview.
    I am keen to read the book now and would LOVE to do a photo journaling course with you Susannah Conway.
    My creative juices need a kick start and photos could be the open door.
    Love Nicole

  9. I have LONG been a fan and visitor to Sussanah’s blog, so exciting
    to see her here! I’d love to do her e-courses, all of them actually!! I’m hoping to participate in Blogging from the heart later in the year!

  10. What a wonderful interview, thank you for sharing ladies. I especially love how Susannah wants to feel – ‘expansive, sensual, nourishing, fulfilling, challenging, calm, blessed, worth it’, sounds divine.

    I also love that the ecourses aren’t set in stone which allows total freedom, great idea!

  11. I have been a long time reader of both of your wonderful blogs!! You are both inspiring and real women who make me really feel in my heart of hearts that it’s possible to achieve what I set my heart on…so thank you ladies for that.

    Journalling has slowely become a big part of my life the past eight months and I would love to explore this further xxx

  12. I have just finished reading Susannah’s book ‘This I know: Notes on unraveling the heart’ and enjoyed it so much! So moving and soul feeding :) I recently moved to London and would love to do her journaling course – a great way to start and document my new adventure! Thanks for sharing the interview x

  13. First of all, love, love, looove everything about this interview. I can always count on huge doses of inspo each and every time I come to your beautiful site.

    Growing up I was always passionate about journaling – but I lost it. Every time I come back to it, it always flows in short bursts. I long for a long-term relationship with my journal where I can really let my creativity, dreams, hopes, struggles, whatever it may be pour onto the page – and hopefully in return, take me back to that sacred relationship with myself, letting in beams of clarity and the sort of “knowingness” about myself that I crave.

    All of that is to say — fingers crossed! I’ve been eyeing up this particular e-course for quite awhile hoping for a chance to dig into it… and this time? Feels right xx

  14. Ohh I’d love to take Susannah’s journaling course! I’ve recently turned to journaling, over the last 6 months or so, when I was at my wit’s end with the same frustrations over and over again. Turns out vomiting on a page is hugely therapeutic, who knew?

  15. Rachel, read this interview on a rainy morning and I instantly feel brighter. Susannah and I have very similar ideas around unravelling and share almost the same routine. :) Loved reading this piece, probably one of my favourites so far. I will be sure to pick up her book ASAP. Thanks for doing it! Muah!

  16. Thank you Rachel. Your blog feels like the gathering place of a tribe of wise, creative and playful women. Readers, contributors and of course yourself!

    It is so wonderful to read about women who find honest expression and solace in journaling and photography. Susannah’s expansiveness definitely comes through in this interview :)

  17. What a great interview. I enjoyed this so much, I’ve bookmarked it – truly inspiring and encouraging. Thanks both!

  18. Scribble my name on a note and pop it in the draw.
    Would love to be front-row, centre in Susannah’s e-course.
    Thanking you both for these pretty words (above)
    x

  19. I love This I Know – it’s a book that has stayed with me ever since I read it, I often think about the journey through grief portrayed in it and remind myself to not take anything in my life for granted. I follow Susannah on Instagram already and adore her feed!

  20. Wahoo! I love Susannah and her programs SO much. Have not done the Journal Your Life program as of yet so would love the chance to take part. Such an inspiring interview as always, thank you both xo

  21. When I began reading this post I was having “one of those days” – frustrated, irritable, raging hormones and just waiting for the right moment to completely self-destruct. But Rach and Susannah, you pulled me out of it – I grabbed the journal by my bed (that has far too many blank pages) and completely poured my heart out until I felt light again. Thank you for bringing some much needed peace to my Saturday. Much love and gratitude x

  22. “I blog when I feel inspired to share something – I very rarely schedule out my posts. If I don’t have anything to say I stay quiet – whenever I post something because I think I ‘should’ it always feels flat and forced. I don’t like to dial it in if I can help it.”

    Loved this!! This is why Susannah’s blog is a fave of mine, when you read her words you know she’s being authentic. Her posts are always heartfelt.

    Thanks for sharing with us, inspiration as always :-)

    {ps. this giveaway idea is fabulous! Fingers crossed ;) }

  23. I love Susannah Conaway, I read her book and wept. I felt so connected to her without having gone through her experience myself but somehow connecting to her honesty and Real way of writing. I am not an introvert but am absolutely loving making more time to be one! That is, creating more time for myself, to write, read, listen to music and create. I have a blog too and struggle to write steadily, mostly because it flows when I really have something to say but if not I stay mute. I appreciate how honest Susannah is about her blog writing habits:) I look forward to joining some of her courses in the future for sure. At one point I was going to join the Photo Meditations one since I love photography, but it didn’t work out at the time.
    Thank you so much for sharing this interview, I look forward to reading Susan nah’s future work! xo giovanna

  24. Hi,

    I have recently started reading your blog and am really enjoying the content. I had not come across Susannah’s work before, but it has come at just the right time for me because I really want to start journaling to help me prepare for some big life decisions I have coming up. Perfect timing!

    Thanks for helping me find out about Susannah!

    Rebecca

  25. What an inspiration, such perfect timing for me as I’ve just recently been looking into journaling . Thank you for sharing

  26. Beautiful post! I’ve been a reader of Susannah’s blog for quite some time and love her vulnerability and honesty. I’ve also seen the benefits of combining journalling and photography in my own life. Very cathartic and self revealing. I would love the opportunity to delve even deeper through the Journal Your Life course. :)

  27. It is so difficult to find the right words… I need it so bad to help me trough recovery, I hope the univers here my prayer! By reading this eye-opening interview with such a beautiful person who has been tested hard in order to get where she is, makes me feel some hope, shows me to believe and that anything is possible! But I really need some help and support!

  28. What a great interview!
    I really respond to Susannah’s mantra: I surrender.
    Stepping away from the computer, from work, and just living when things are not working is so important, even when it goes against our instinct to just knuckle down and make it happen.

  29. This post was like 2 strong arms wrapping around me and giving me the biggest hug Eva! Thanks! So nice to have you posting again.

  30. Rach, your blog makes my heart sing! Part of what I love about your blog is all the introductions to other amazing, inspiring women. Love!

  31. Rach and Susannah,
    I loved this post. It’s refreshing from a fellow photographer to see that not everyone can stick to sleeping schedules or schedule blog posts. I’ve tried so hard for the past year to keep a regular blog and whenever I finally write a post and fail to follow up a week later, I really beat myself up over it. Recently I’ve figured out that that’s a lot of my stress sitting at the verrrry back of my mind.
    I like the practice of preparing something just enough to begin it, and then create as you go – that way you don’t tie yourself down to uncontrollable expectations.
    Anyway, love it. Thanks to you both for sharing. :)

  32. Connections like these are priceless.
    I was musing this morning around how much to share of the events of the last few years on my blog. Tough stuff, heart ache loss….
    This is another Poignant reminder for me that vulnerability is a universal connector. I can’t wait to read you book Susannah and to peel another layer of armour gently away in my own writing. Healing all over the place!! Much gratitude Rach x

  33. Woah!! Aha moments, heart-strings pulled, eases and exhales, energy and gorgeous ammunition to move ever forward.. Every time I come here I feel a subtle, yet profound reboot (perfect word, thank you Susannah) – and meeting Susannah today supercharged it all the more for her own amazing being-ness.

    The Journaling course sounds bliss – I am following mine, and would be honestly quite ecstatic to win this. Every small shift I am making is bringing my dreams and desires closer to fruition. Thank you for being part of the beautiful process and a friendly player on this stage we all call life. <3

    So much love to you both.

    Rachel – you shine and my heart seriously glows when I think of you. Like a sister/cheerleader, watchful and loving, nurturing me on to never give up on my crazy dreams. Thanks for following your own, and all the sustainably sparkly things that you do (and are). Love, gratitude, and heart <3

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