To me, Susannah Conway is beauty. (And I'm not just talking about those eyebrows). She's everything that I appreciate: Honest. Smart. Curious. Forthright. Raw. Elegant. No bullshit. Quirky. Transparent. Brilliant.
Yes. To me, she is beauty.
So it's no surprise that her work is also about beauty. Capturing and curating as a photographer, writer and the creator of the wildly popular Unravelling e-courses. A Polaroid addict and very proud aunt (love!), her first book, This I Know: Notes on Unraveling the Heart (Globe Pequot Press), launches in June 2012. Registration for her next Unravelling: Ways of Seeing My Self class opens this Saturday, December 3rd.
...curious as to how she found her way? Me too.
What's your thing?
Susannah Conway: I help women reconnect to their true selves using photography as the key the open the door. I do this by leading online classes in photography and self awareness, and blogging honestly about the stuff I know to be true. Next year I’ll be spilling my guts in a book, too.
Was finding your thing the result of a divine revelation, an insane invention, a culmination of insights...or something else?
Susannah Conway: I found my thing by experiencing it first and then sharing what I’d discovered with others. In 2005 the man I loved died very suddenly and 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 lost and disconnected from myself. In the last seven years I’ve healed and become the person I am today.
I found my way back to myself through my cameras and journals. For as long as I can remember writing has been the way I figure stuff out and connect with how I’m feeling. I’ve always kept a journal so it was very natural for me to write my way through my grief. 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. I started re-exploring self portraiture, which helped me to see myself again — literally, but also as the woman I was becoming, a woman working her way through loss and finding herself again. There were so many layers to unravel and the healing went far deeper than the bereavement alone.My Unravelling course began as a local evening class and drew inspiration from my healing journey. I brought my photography and journalling ideas together and shared them with a room full of women. To my surprise the class was a great success! As blogging was such an important part of my life it seemed natural to find a way to share the class online somehow. So in 2009 I did, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Obstacles/fears/doubts – what were they, how'd you vanquish them?
Susannah Conway: 1. Who am I to do this? I can’t say this doubt has been fully vanquished yet. It lingers around me like a bad smell and every time I break through a new boundary it whirls up again and tries to trip me up. All I can do is calm myself down, cross my fingers and keep moving forward. Writing my book brought up a lot of doubt and the anticipation of seeing the finished book out in the world is already starting to fill my stomach with butterflies (actually, no, butterflies sound far too light and pretty — these are more like evil moths) but I will keep going nevertheless.
2. How can I do this? I procrastinated a LOT when creating the online version of Unravelling because I was scared. Scared I’d fail. Scared no one would take a chance on my thing. So I let the technical practical side overwhelm me. I’d do anything other than what needed to be done to build the course. I vanquished that fear by doing it one tiny little step at a time and then setting a public deadline — that was very motivating :)3. What if it’s no good? The perfectionist’s reason to not start something! This one has been easier to wrangle with every project I complete. I try to trust that what I put out into the world will be exactly what someone out there needs in that moment. This has been my experience on so many occasions I’m starting to believe that when we do the work we feel called to do it will take flight in the way it is supposed too. It might take a lot of guts, and a shedload of patience, but hard work and faith really can get you there.
What questions did you ask yourself to trigger your a-ha moments...and what signs and milestones should others be looking for in their journeys?
- What do I have to offer?
- What would I do even if I wasn’t getting paid?
- What comes easily to me?
The answers to those three question have shaped my work life and business. I think it’s really important to pay attention to how you already spend your time. For me it was blogging/being online, journalling and taking photographs. Those were the constants in my day and the three skills that helped bring my thing into being.
And be aware of what makes you feel most like YOU, too. Try to be transparent in all you do, and do the work that makes your heart sing the loudest. If you’re truly passionate about what you do you’ll be more willing to devote all your time and energy to making it work — because that’s what any fledging business or project needs. Give it everything you have, and make it the most honest version of you and your beliefs/desires/dreams. For example, I spent a year trying to make my portrait business grow, networking locally and pimping out my talents for jobs and commissions. At the end of the year I was drained and uninspired, and not wanting to put myself out there any more; I’d thought that was the sort of photography work I should be aiming for, but it just left me depleted.A few months later, when I was asked to create a photography evening class, I suddenly found myself doing work that inspired me SO MUCH it’s lead to the creation of a full-time business. I’m still using my photography skills, just in a more authentic way. Once I was doing something that was more “me”, everything seemed to start working, business-wise. Life-wise, too.
So much richness and texture here. Notice the medicine that heals you may be the medicine that heals others. Notice what depletes you (and stop doing it). Notice what you're being asked to do. Notice the power of public deadlines.
And what I'm really hoping you're noticing is how people who are really, REALLY happy with their thing have managed to stitch their skills, loves and desires together. Are you seeing that? In spite of fears? In spite of doubts?
So let's start there: what are THREE things that make you feel most like you?
You can find Susannah Conway at her site; on Twitter; or Facebook. Find her and revel in beauty. And then sign up for her Unravelling: Ways of Seeing My Self class and revel in your own. You just may find your thing there.