~ Thoughts on Unravelling ~

Looking back through my diaries I see that the first time i wrote about putting some kind of photography course together was June 2008. Abby and I had spent the day in Bath, walking around as i tried to decide if this was a place I could see myself living. As we drove back to Bristol, we talked about what i could do when i got here – at the time my sister was working for an adult education centre and she uttered those fateful words as we hurtled down the motorway: 'Why don't you create a course for us?'

I don't know if i ever fully conveyed on this blog just how nervous I was about my first time leading a group of students – I was can't-eat-can't-sleep nervous. I feared I would sit with these women and not know what to say, so i prepared and prepared and tried to put together a lesson plan that i hoped they would enjoy; Abby helped me plan the first session in 15-minute chunks so every minute was accounted for! And something amazing happened – fifteen minutes into our very first session, i completely relaxed. I could feel the nervous knot in my stomach loosen as i explained what we'd be doing in each class. By the end of our first two hours together I was smiling.

My little evening class in Bristol had taken about two months to fill up – I left postcards in coffee shops and made posters for the local library. Most of the participants had read about the course in the college prospectus; they took a chance on this curiously-titled photography class that wasn't really a photography class. Unbeknown to them they took a chance on a first-time tutor. Fast forward to last Monday, and my autumn Unravelling class sold out in just 83 minutes. People, it was insane! Clearly a lot has happened in a year.

Annaunravelled09web[A glimpse into Anna's unravelling, shared with her permission]

Recently I've been getting emails from people on the mailing list who are frustrated that the courses always seem to be sold out by the time they click over to the registration page – going forward into the new year I want to find a way to organise staggered enrollments that's mindful of all time zones. What excites me the most about the course is that moving it to an online venue has not only made it so much more dynamic and rich but it also means people get to know each other from all over the world; i know Unravellers have been getting together in person and there are lots of emails and phone calls flying around the ether.

In a recent comment Anu asked me: what have you learned from your Unravelling
classes? What has it excavated for you that surprised you?
It's interesting that even though the class is based on stuff i've tried over the last few years i still find i have bits of me that can be stretched some more. I share personal thoughts with the Unravellers, and one of
the most surprising discoveries is that I now feel more comfortable making videos; I feel i can be more myself and embrace how i look; there's no clever lighting or fancy cameras, just me and my webcam.

What has also become apparent is just how incredibly passionate i am about doing this work. I have never felt this passionate and committed to any other work i've done since i left school. I always struggled to fit into the regular world of working – I struggled with a salaried job, i struggled being freelance.  I was a student for many years; i've
worked in cafes and shops. I once worked in an oil
canteen serving greasy breakfasts to hungry men at 7am. I tried my hand at portrait photography; I've done
tele-marketing and PR; I've made sandwiches for the minimum hourly wage. When my love died I was unable to work for the first year
and felt adrift in my
life and without purpose; I didn't know that his death had set me on a path that would eventually lead me here.

When I launched the first class in January I had no idea that it was going to turn into a business – for some reason business has always seemed like a dirty word. It's as if i assumed that meaningful-work would be accompanied by harps playing in my zen office space as i shared my work for free and didn't need to worry about silly things like paying the rent. The reality is that i am working harder than i have ever done in my life and I'm learning how work can be an important exchange of energy for both the giver and the receiver. I'm learning about how to promote the work you do (i did my first ever podcast interview here – BIG learning curve for me), how to create a working model that is sustainable, while keeping my focus on creating courses that are enjoyable and multi-layered, and making sure I am as available as i can be for every participant who reaches out to me. I'm constantly asking myself what would i want from this course? What would my own expectations be? It's a constant challenge that i'm enjoying trying to figure out.

With every testimonial or email of thanks i get, there is a 15-year-old girl inside of me whose eyes sparkle as she thinks 'wow, i made that happen. That is so cool.' The girl who never thought she had any talent. The girl who, when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, quietly said: an artist.

To go on a blog-book tour across North America, Europe and down under is one of my wishes i shared in yesterday's post – i'd love to publish my Unravelling book, with stories and assignments, case studies and exercises to do at home. I'd love to be able to do that book tour, not even necessarily to lead workshops, but to create a space where we can get together for coffee and poetry, chats and sharing. Take the online network into the real world. To build a tribe of Unravellers*.

Heady dreams, perhaps, but the 15-year old girl is enthusiastically nodding her head: 'That would be so cool.'

* This is a big wish i'm sharing. I actually feel a little nervous putting it out there, so it must really be a heart wish!

48 responses
  1. Shanon

    Thank you for sharing your wishes. Sometimes one person’s wish is the one thing that someone else has been waiting for. So we all should try to make our wishes come true. Not just for ourselves, but for those yet unknown friends who are waiting for our exact wish to be realized.

  2. Catalina

    wonderful wishes! so inspiring.
    (So excited about your classes!)

  3. Genevieve

    Oh I can’t wait to take your Unraveling Course. I signed up for the autumn class. I think you are amazing and you do amazing work. Thanks for sharing your enlightening thoughts.

  4. Grace

    nervous….or exhilarated?

  5. Whitney

    Thank you for your truth Susannah, and putting your wishes out there. I think it’s all in store for you…you’ll see!
    Looking forward to Unravelling part 2~

  6. Juliana

    I don’t know exactly how to say that your story resonates with me in a way that really makes me *know that I believe*. That is the only way I know how to say that. I am overjoyed that I will be Unravelling starting at the end of this month. Your journey is valuable–in the figurative and literal ways. I am inspired by your earning a passionate living.

  7. Jo

    You’ve come a long way baby :)And I just know you’ll fly a whole lot further. xx

  8. doorways traveler

    this 38 year old girl is enthusiastically nodding her head, too.

  9. Baraginie

    Did you get my testimonial? I sent it in the post on Tuesday. x

  10. barbara

    I´m happy for your new wish….

  11. Liz

    Love hearing your wishes… and SO SO happy for you… all the goodness that comes your way is so totally and thoroughly deserved! xo

  12. sas

    so happy and proud and stuff – 83 freakin minutes!
    you are totally standing in your own sunshine doll x

  13. Christine

    Reading this just lead me to the tought:
    Maybe I should take my dreams / heart wishes more serious. Well, I should.
    Thank You!

  14. charlane

    I’m so excited for you – you were one of the first photographers that when I started flickring and going through blogs that I thought “she really, really gets it” that it is as essential as breathing to her. That is a beautiful thing. I haven’t been able to take a class yet – it’s an economic thing for me right now – but that will change. I know it will. But, this is not about me – this is about you and how you’ve touched my life. I think you’re damn brilliant.

  15. kristen

    i truly believe, if you build it they will come. xo

  16. Paris Parfait

    If you want it, you can make it happen, Sus. I have complete confidence in you achieving whatever you decide to do! xo

  17. Jay (UK)

    I’d definitely buy the book (soooooo want to do the course, hoping to get in on the next one!). Keep wishing and make it happen :o)

  18. blue bicicletta

    That is not a heady dream at all–to want to do an Unravelling book! Oh, I think it’s closer than you think. I think just putting it out there is going to put it in motion! Wonderful wishes! I love your wish list below!

  19. Shell

    I’ve never taken your class, I’ve heard such wonderful thing about it. When I was reading about your book idea, I got a unexpected thrill. I know this book is going to get published.

  20. fatmumslim

    That’s a book that I’d buy, especially because I know there would be your beautiful, whimsy throughout. What a beautiful book it would be.
    I have to say I was upset that I didn’t get a place. I’m in Australia and I think by the time I woke up they were long gone.
    I hope you work out a way for it to work. Perhaps a wait list is in order and then you offer it to people on the wait list? I am desperate.. as you can tell!

  21. Amy

    I’m so excited for class to start! Glad I saw your tweet and was able to get in!!!

  22. Liz

    I stayed home from work that morning so I could register, anxiously sitting by the computer:) I’d wondered how quickly it had filled — that’s so amazing! I’m even more grateful that I was able to get in. Can’t wait!!

  23. Keely

    I am one of those people that didn’t sign up in time and am waiting for the next course!! I think the book/workbook for Unravelling is a fantastic idea and I would definitely buy it and see you speak if you came to Los Angeles.

  24. karen

    I just squeaked in by the skin of my teeth and I am so EXCITED and NERVOUS to start this class this September.

  25. Kelly Z. (Still Lily)

    As a hopeful future tribe member of the Unravellers…I missed this one, but know it is coming down the line for me to make enrollment, love the idea of mindfullness on time zones. I can’t wait!
    Thank you.

  26. leslie

    Susannah you are such a special soul – I started my whole blogging journey with you and your course. I really feel such gratitude to you.
    Your book and dreams will happen. You put such amazing, healing energy out into the world.

  27. Tinniegirl

    What a wonderful, wonderful post. I loved what you said about trying to fit in to the conventional world of work. That’s been my experience too.
    I look forward to seeing you ‘down under’ some day.

  28. Samosasforone

    I have no doubt you could do this. When is the next beginner’s Unravelling course being offered?

  29. GeordieGirl

    Whilst reading your post I clearly saw myself, you and a few others chatting over coffee in a cafe in my hometown. I am in Adelaide, South Australia, by the way.
    See you soon then! :)

  30. Susannah

    Mel, i have family in Adelaide, so yes, this would definitely happen!
    Anu, the next Unravelling WOSMS class will start on January 4th – enrollments will be in early December, hopefully staggered this time ;)
    thanks for all your lovely comments, everyone – i am going to work hard to make this book a reality! x
    On 11 Sep 2009, at 07:39, typepad@sixapart.com wrote:

  31. Silvermoss

    Thanks for sharing how you got where you have, nerves and all! It’s fascinating and inspiring. Just listened to your interview – am working on giving myself permission! Thanks for sharing.

  32. sunnyplace09

    Thanks Susannah for sharing all this feelings with us. Love the pictures of Anna’s unravelling. They really show how I felt after my unravelling course. Colourful, bright, inspired, with so many things to learn and to do. xo.

  33. Sharne

    I love that you will consider a new way to enrol – I keep missing out and am so so so keen to do this course. Thanks for sharing your wishes….

  34. kendalee

    May ALL your wishes come true! What a lovely wishlist, in this post and the previous one. The magic of 090909 notwithstanding, if anyone can realise them, it’s you. And in sharing them here, nervous or not, and how some already have been driven by your heart into becoming a reality, you help the rest of us believe that ours can too. Thank you!
    Am all wriggly in my skin excited for Unravelling further… :)

  35. katarina

    Everyone who was ever thinking “This is impossible..” about anything, should read this last post of yours!!
    It´s so exciting and motivating to read about someone´s dreams coming true, it really made me smile a lot. Happy for you, and looking forward to the course!xK

  36. Thea

    **sigh**wonderful to watch this and hear your insights. I think your dreams sound perfect and it seems dreams can come true. XO

  37. Stefanie

    Hurray for Unravelling! And I can’t wait for Unravelling further. It was wonderful and worth every penny.
    I will buy this book for me and buy some for my friends, too.

  38. mj

    So inspiring!

  39. Nadine

    Thank you for sharing your wishes with us. Very inspiring.

  40. becky aka theRAV

    I hope to someday take your classes. I think of how you inspired me as an artist. I think of how I know you inspire others. That 15 yr old girl should be very proud.

  41. christy { dandelion muse }

    i love how beautifully honest your posts are – they are so touching to read. you are very inspiring.

  42. Bria @ The Dizzy Pixie

    Thank you so much for sharing this! The idea that a dream can turn into a reality is an amazing thing. I believe that voicing your wishes is one of the first steps towards making them come true.
    As I am still in college I haven’t yet taken one of your classes however it is on my list of things to do once I graduate.
    Congratulations on all of your success and I hope that some day soon your wish will come true. :-)

  43. Jennifer Evans

    Thank you for sharing your dreams with us… I am so happy that your class is full and that everyone is ready to make a step to find – themselves. ;)

  44. Amanda

    I am super excited about doing Unravelling very soon!
    Your secret wish is perfect!
    You’re going to do it.

  45. chez danisse

    Kudos to you! Job well done. It seems you are helping a lot of people change their lives and that’s a great thing!

  46. linni

    Know what I’m thinking? Teehee…
    Writing out this big, heart dream just before you leave to connect with more creative, amazing beauties…
    you are going to think…yes! this is sooo possible…and in retrospect…this dream is actually small in comparison with my heart truly wide wide open!!!!
    Susannah…connecting with other creatives souls at Squam who is going to embrace all of you and your dream and your possibilities…is going to lead you to even bigger and more amazing things!!!
    I agree with Graciel…nervous….or exhilarated?! xx

  47. Kristy

    I think a book would be a fabulous idea. Can’t wait for unraveling further to begin!

  48. Amy

    I would love, love, love to do one of your online classes and be part of your secret wish coming true. Because I believe that it certainly will. =)

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