Working From the Heart

This is an excerpt from Susannah Conway’s new book, This I Know: Notes on Unravelling Heart. Want to win your own copy of Susannah’s book? Leave a comment below and you’ll be entered!

Turning our passions into a job does not always work out and not everyone wants to do their passion full-time. For some they remain wonderful pastimes that bring joy and fulfillment exactly as they are. But for those of us who are dissatisfied with our day jobs and feel called to find work that reflects our true interests, the clues to achieving this are already in our lives — we just need to know where to look for them.

The first clue is how you spend your spare time away from your day job. Do your interests involve volunteering or travel? Do you like to make things? Are you a member of any societies? Do you like to be out in nature or working on projects at home? What books and magazines do you buy? What would you do every day, even if you weren’t getting paid? Sometimes our passions are not obvious, so pay attention to what you do rather than what you say. If you’re not sure where your true passions lie, or feel you have too many, think about the interests you had as a child — what did you want to be when you grew up? Is there anything in your life now that reflects those early dreams?

When was the last time you were really excited about something?

Next, think about where your true talents lie. What comes easily to you? What are you good at? It might be organizing gatherings and managing people or maybe you’re the next Nigella Lawson in the kitchen. Do you have a knack for color coordination, or are you the dog whisperer in your family? What do your friends ask you to help them with? What have you always had a flare for?

Be sure to consider the difference between the pastimes you enjoy and the skills you have a true aptitude for. For example, I’ve always enjoyed painting and am in awe of artists who draw from their imaginations, but while playing with paints and canvas is fun once in a while, I know my true talents lie elsewhere. I could learn to paint better, but it doesn’t come naturally to me. Taking well-composed and evocative photographs, on the other hand, has always been my gift.

True talents can be honed and expanded but from the very beginning there’s an ease threaded through them.

My sister is a gifted illustrator and teacher, and whenever I’ve seen her teach I’m impressed by how she wrangles a room full of art students, opening their heads and shining a light inside. I, on the other hand, teach best online, using images and writing to inspire, connect, and create community. When we find the right forum for our true talents, synapses spark and ideas solidify.

Think about where your true talents intersect with how you spend your time. Where’s the sweet spot for you? When my e-courses took off it became clear how my hobby — blogging and online socializing — and my true talent — photography — melded so well together. I’d been creating the pathway to work I was passionate about, unbeknown to me.

The final factors to consider are the community and connections you have around you, and how you inhabit that world.

If we hope to be paid for the work we do it can’t be done in a vacuum; at some point other people will need to get involved. At its most basic, work is giving our time, services, or goods in exchange for money from an employer, client, or customer. If the skills you have mean you’ll be making a product then you’re in search of customers; if you offer a service, you need to find clients. It may be that your true talents are best shared with an employer, but no matter whether you’re selling goods or your time, other people are necessary.

As an introverted soul, I like the relative privacy my online business gives me, despite seemingly being “out there” all the time. Working from home is perfect for me but a more extroverted person would likely find it isolating.

What suits your personality?

Working for ourselves brings a sense of freedom into our lives, but it can also get lonely—do you work better with a partner or a team? Who can you reach out to in your community right now?

I’ve only touched on a few possibilities in the space I have here, but whether you’re in between jobs, craving change, going back to work after a period away or just sure that you were meant for something more, the best place to start is within, unraveling the dreams that call to you when you close your eyes.

And of course, not everyone wants to change jobs, but having spent time with my community, both off- and online, I know that if you’re creatively inclined and feel drawn to the thoughts in this book, you most likely yearn to express your authentic self in all you do. It’s a desire that touches all parts of our lives, from our relationships with our family and friends, to our work, beliefs and even the place we live. It doesn’t surprise me that the years I struggled with my working life were also the years I was the least connected to myself.

And this is why we unravel — to heal the hurts of the past so we can move forward unencumbered by the baggage that’s kept us small; to heal the hurts of the present so we live each day with intention and awareness; and to know how to heal the future hurts when they happen, because they will and we’ll be ready.


Susannah Conway is the author of This I Know: Notes on Unraveling the Heart (SKIRT!, June 2012). A photographer, writer and e-course creator, her classes have been enjoyed by thousands of people from around the world. Co-author of Instant Love: How to Make Magic and Memories with Polaroids (Chronicle Books, 2012), Susannah helps others reconnect to their true selves, using photography as the key to open the door. You can read more about her shenanigans on her blog at and connect with her on Twitter: @SusannahConway.

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Win your own copy of This I Know!

One lucky Scoutie Girl reader will receive a copy of Susannah’s book. Simply leave a comment below and you’ll be entered. Winner will be notified via email by June 15, 2012.

41 thoughts on “Working From the Heart

  1. I need this book right now in my life!!! I need to read and re-read these questions until I “know” the answers that I spend so much time agonizing over. And then, I can think of friends who would benefit greatly from reading it too.

  2. This extract is so timely for me……I used to love my job so much (I teach art), but changes within my college mean that I now feel I am being forced & squashed into a box that is the wrong shape for me :(
    I am formulating an escape plan, but send thanks for Susannah’s wise words!

  3. This books sounds like a wonderful read, a great respite from all the noise we’re constantly surrounded by…

  4. I just found Susannah. I’ve come to realize that you can find a soul sister without even meeting the person. I feel like she’s verbalizing my internal dialog.

  5. This book has been recommended to me three time this week and I know its coming my way in fabulous serendipity! Its already in my Amazon shopping cart but winning a copy would be fantastic too ♥

  6. Thank you for the opportunity to win this book. I think it could really help me to reconnect with my true heartfelt interests that I’ve lost a lot of working in the factory and retail world.

  7. Miss S is one of my very dear muses! Just reading blog posts i have felt a incredible feeling that we were meant to cross paths with divine intervention. I’ve been wanting this book and the other as well! Id be incredibly grateful in receiving this book. It’s rare to be deeply fulfilled with a lot of artistic soul with all the books I read, but it is much more than my soul she empowers me, it’s mindy body and soul! Thank you, beautiful muse!

  8. I found out a long time ago that i am more the creative type who loves putting a twist on things we already have in our mists. I am currently working on a line of frame bags after teaching myself how to make them the professional way (oh the joys of the internet and picking professionals brains eh!!) I love what i refer to as organic creativity that flows in many different and varied ways from the mind.

  9. Wow–“heal the hurts of the past so we can move forward unencumbered by the baggage that’s kept us small.” Yes! I lived small for so long. Living big is far from easy–but oh, it is so worth the effort, and the joy that comes is unspeakable. I am so grateful to have developed my passion into my job–one that constantly surprises me, stretches me, and makes my scalp tingle. As an introvert too, everything finally clicked for me when I began EMBRACING my identity instead of trying to squash it.

    Susannah, I have always so appreciated your honesty and openness. You challenge me to stay real. Thank you for that–and for sharing your own unraveling with us.

  10. This book sounds totally in tune with my thinking and I’m sure it would help me along with discovering my true self so I just have to enter to win it.

  11. Such an awesome and inspiring message! I am an introvert and extrovert depending on the moment and this strikes a cord with me! Book sounds like a must read! Thank you!

  12. I am constantly looking for inspiration and am happy to have discovered, yet another, extraordinary individual whom lives through her truth. Would love to dive into a copy of this book!Thank you!

  13. I loved her book but now would love to give one to my friend and I selfishly do not want to part with my copy. Great book.

  14. Susannah is inspirational and I love everything she does. I’d be delighted to receive a copy of her book.

  15. “And this is why we unravel — to heal the hurts of the past so we can move forward unencumbered by the baggage that’s kept us small”…I come from a long line of women who stayed small, and I’m in the midst of unraveling that legacy. I’m so thankful for women like Susannah who inspire this kind of soul work. xoxo

  16. Amen to this: “the best place to start is within.” I don’t quite remember when I first stumbled upon Susannah’s website, but I’m glad I did, and so thrilled to see her published. Her example is inspiring enough!

  17. I like how Susannah’s points out that you don’t necessarily need to make your passion your career. You can have a job you are good at and then do your passionate work on the side.

    I’m really impressed at how she’s got all the career + following your passion in one short essay. It’s plenty to get you thinking and on the road to figuring out what you want to do!

  18. Having just started a little business based on my hobby/talent/passion, I relate to the things she says in this excerpt. Translating that passion into business without business experience is frightening, though incredibly exciting at the same time. This life is so short and with so much to cram in, her advice rings true. The “best place to start is within” applies to so much more than our working life. With the right attitude, anything is possible, believe me I know!

  19. My whole family could use a copy of this book. Each one of us is very creative in our own way, but each one has managed to lose their way. Maybe we are too creative and need to focus on one thing. Could use all the help we can get!

  20. Heh,
    As an artist finding her way in the work-a-day world, and knowing that creative livelihood is a possibility, I appreciate your reminders to look at the areas that juiced me up as a girl child, and what thrills me now as an adult.

    I’m intrigued with your book.
    Thanks for this portion.
    Mary Lee

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