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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.*
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).
* Ahh. I absolutely love this.
UPDATE: Huge congrats to Jacqueline – Upon Wild Stars! Your comment – number 27 – was randomly selected via random.org. Enjoy!