“A Fever Poetry” may well be the most introspective piece in the ‘Autumn Haze’ anthology. Read it now.

“A Fever Poetry”
by Conrad Schwellnus

How are you seen, does it even really matter?
The ingredients gently mixed, into a tumbling sourdough batter.
To be successful you need to be loved, to make it out you should be liked,
A world alone that lingers, where your emotions have been spiked.

Shelf life aside, you’d do well to disregard your feelings,
Love was always what you craved, even in your primary dealings.
A time to make amends, a time to forgive and forget,
You are whole and loved, even without a sliver of regret.

How are you seen, why do you gaze into the mirror?
Never have you seen your flaws, evermore yet clearer.
Dare to coast in subtle mania, but you manage to channel it kindly,
Better to be free of it, than to shelter it benignly.

Carry all your confidence, at times false it may still be,
It’s time to give over, in vulnerability you may see —
The truth behind the glass, a fever poetry,
Did you disregard the power, in the shallow waters of the sea?

This poem poured out of me and at the time it felt like it struck quite a few chords. Initially written from the personal perspective, it was later changed to encompass a more general view of a struggle that so many people go through. I myself can take a lot from these lines, even though I will admit to not being in the most positive of headspaces when I wrote it. And yes, I considered calling it “Shallow Waters, but I didn’t want to pay Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper any subtle dust.

Next week, the third last poem from Autumn Haze will be shared, and I will be publishing it from the town of Alfenas in Brazil. If this is the first time you’re reading something from the anthology, feel free to read all of the poems in one place right over here. Looking forward to having you back next week as we bring autumn to a close and get ready for winter.

– Conrad was here.

A realisation around how we should be closing chapters, and generally try to navigate change in our lives.

My latest podcast episode might be titled like a Game of Thrones episode (it’s called “Winds of Change”), but I promise that it will contain far less theatrics and twists and turns, being dedicated solely to leaving you satisfied (sorry, GOT writers) with a few learnings around how we deal with change.

I felt a pull towards discussing change during this show, ahead of leaving my home in Cape Town and setting my sights on a longer trip to Brazil. Featuring some personal stories and a key learning around the way we deal with others (a total a-ha moment, if you ask me), the show packs a triple punch this week, also highlighting the importance of looking at how we close chapters, rather than why we do.

If you’d like to listen, there are various platforms you can choose from over here. Next episode drops in June and will be recorded in five different cities!

– Conrad was here.

“Safely in my Heart”, the next poem in the ‘Autumn Haze’ series, is all about the courage to be your true self.

“Safely in my Heart”
by Conrad Schwellnus

Keep shining little boy,
No matter your preference, nor the colors bringing you joy.
You can be who you want, even in a world ever cruel,
One day it will all be over, with your victory in the duel.

Sparkle in pink, you wear it oh so well,
Simple and dashing, your mother can surely tell.
Will she hide you from the public, no, she’s brought you out to here,
Though a pot plant cut you’ll continue to wear, with a grin from ear to ear.

Keep shining little boy, nobody can put out your light,
Abandon those who try; build protective walls, you might.
For self will and care is the greatest gift, you’ll see,
Safely in my heart, you can be who you want to be.

Note from the author: I wish you love and light as you navigate your days. Be strong, little boy. Thank you for crossing paths with me on this journey.

Next week Friday, the ninth poem from the Autumn Haze anthology — titled “A Fever Poetry” — will go live right here on the site. If you’d like to catch up to the other poems in the series, feel free to read the entire published catalogue so far over here. Planning is already underway for a second anthology, so watch this space.

– Conrad was here.

I’m heading to Brazil next week to reflect, celebrate and get out of my comfort zone just a bit.

Contrary to popular belief, I won’t be going into hiding as a result of ‘Game of Thrones‘ coming to an end.

This year, I have some surprising plans for winter in the southern hemisphere, which include reflecting, celebrating and pushing myself out of my comfort zone just a little. Gently and kindly so, of course, but a push it remains.

Conrad was here is turning one year old next week (insert proud parent moment: “my baby is starting to walk”), and as part of marking the milestone, I will be flying from South Africa to Brazil, to spend some time processing everything that has happened since last year this time.

The thing is, this will be the first time I’m travelling on my own to a foreign country, which is daunting yeah, but also, incredibly exciting. At this stage, I’ve surrendered all control and and put faith in the process, to bring me whatever experiences and lessons it may. As a friend told me recently, “you can’t try to control a trip to a foreign country. It defeats the entire purpose of going”. Truth guuurl, truth. I needed to hear that.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to share some updates from the trip on the fourth episode of the podcast, which I will be recording early June. Posts on the site will also continue, including wrapping up of the sharing of the ‘Autumn Haze‘ anthology, and other life ponderings, as is usually the case.

I’d like to take a quick moment to say thank you to you for walking this journey with me over the past year. It has been a pleasure to have you with me for the ride, and to be able to have a platform (a voice, really) to share with people from all walks of life in different countries from around the world is truly a gift. I’ve talked about what it has done for my confidence, which is nowhere near the ditch it was living in twelve months ago. I can only be grateful for that. Here’s to seeing where the wind takes us next. Until then, remember to take things just a single day at a time.

– Conrad was here.

Inspired by a chance encounter, “Pink Scarf” is the next poem to be published as part of the ‘Autumn Haze’ anthology.

“Pink Scarf”
by Conrad Schwellnus

Pink scarf, you smile at me,
A drawing of my soul, this is somewhat sure to be.
The reason that we’re here, in this moment we connect,
Hook, line and sinker, are we in the ship to wreck?

A shadow lurks in peace, alive beyond your years,
Your rings are barely fraught, but bring forth all your fears.
You wear them cleverly, yes, but wear them better in mind,
A lessening of the swelling, behind the mask you live behind.

Pink scarf, it seems the week has slowly strangled you,
Loosen the noose, lift your hand, it’s the only thing to do.
Spark the tip, forgive the sadness, you are gentle and you are kind,
Care for yourself, even if your chambers rule your mind.

“Pink Scarf” had two other names before publication. Firstly, it was called “Temporal Demise” (a little sombre, if you ask me), and then, I considered calling it “Chambers” (a little too obvious). Somehow, the others didn’t stick and I’m happy they didn’t, because the title represents the strongest part of my memory from the inspiration for this poem.

I wrote “Pink Scarf” after a chance encounter with a woman who was sitting at the other end of a coffee shop I was writing from, and yes, she was wearing a beautiful pink scarf. I recall she was also writing, and all we shared was a short moment including a smile, and in that moment she seemed like someone important to my journey. I immediately started writing this poem, which is now the only recollection of the event, and perhaps, the only time in history that our paths will ever cross.

Next week Friday, the eighth poem from Autumn Haze will be shared right here on the site. If you’d like to catch up to the other poems in the series, feel free to start from the bottom and to read them over here.

– Conrad was here.

Let’s talk about some things to try when you start to feel a little bit stuck.

We’ve all been there. You wake up one morning, and for whatever reason, you realise that you’ve become a little bit stuck in your life. Perhaps you’re stuck in terms of your career, stuck with family, stuck with friends, or perhaps just generally stuck with the current chapter of your journey.

I’ve gone through this many times, which got me thinking about what I do when this happens, to gently start to change the momentum a bit and try to slowly move into a more positive direction. I’ve been journalling for a long time, and working through my writing helped me to spot particular trends with regards to dips I’ve gone through in recent years, and I wanted to share those learnings with you today.

In the new episode of Wellness with the Schwellnus, I suggest a few things you can try when you start to feel this way. I discuss my journey with curiosity, creativity and developing competencies, and also share a few stories (including a disastrous attempt at trying to MC a public event early in my career, which turned out to be a great opportunity for growth). You can listen to the new episode of the podcast over here.

I’m happy to let you know that iTunes has now been added as one of our host platforms (on top of the existing three places where you can listen), and all episodes should be available there by the end of the week. We looked into getting the podcast onto Google Play as a priority, but unfortunately the platform does not accept South African podcasts at this stage.

I’d love to hear from you if something in the show resonates with you, so please don’t hesitate to contact me should you have any thoughts around the topic. Happy listening!

– Conrad was here.

What I’ve learned from the first six weeks of pursuing a career as a writer.

It’s hard to believe it’s already been nearly two months since I left full-time employment, in order to focus on building a new career as a writer. These six weeks have been both interesting and challenging for a variety of reasons, and I thought it would be wise to get a few thoughts down while they are still fresh, to help me better reflect on where things are at on my new journey. I’m also just two weeks away from my trip to Brazil, which I am tremendously excited about, so it’s a good time to pause a bit, and to take stock of what these last few weeks have been like.

Firstly, being away from an office environment is both wonderful and hard. Wonderful, because you are not bound to a specific time where you have to be anywhere, plus you have the freedom to do what you would like to do, when you would like to do it. It must be said, however, that it can be quite a challenge to your overall levels of discipline (sometimes what you want to do is not what you need to do), and it requires razor focus to continue with the grind each day. Truth be told, in this situation you don’t have to be accountable to anyone but yourself, and you are responsible to make things happen for yourself. It’s freeing, but not easy. I don’t claim to have this waxed or figured out yet, and I probably will never have it fully figured out — a sentiment often echoed by my entrepreneur friends. As with anything in life, it remains a work in progress, and I take each day as a new opportunity, as a new chance for growth, and with hopes that I will be able to continue the forward momentum I have generated so far.

It tends to take a fairly high level of dedication to manage your own schedule, and I have noticed that without establishing a routine quickly (each week in fact), my productivity and self care efforts have tended to dwindle a little bit. I’ve had to stop myself, and gently nudge back in another direction, as soon as I’ve noticed this. I think that the block comes in with the notion of being fearful of failure (aren’t we all), a general fear of not knowing what is coming and feeling like you’re swimming blindly each day, and also a lingering thought that you’ve done something incredibly brave, but quite possibly, incredibly stupid. This is what makes it both thrilling and daunting!

Anyone who works for themselves, or in any entrepreneurial venture, will know that it can be quite an unstable, yet very rewarding path to pursue. They will know loneliness, only because very few take the same path, and only because it is hard for those in a traditional working environment to comprehend what it means to truly be the last line of defense when it comes to your income and sustenance. On the other end, there is always a sense of opportunity; that a new day can bring any possibility, and that your fortunes could change at any given second. I was reminded of this on a plane to Johannesburg recently, where, out of everyone I could have been seated next to, I found myself sitting next to someone who works in publishing. He gave me some great tips on self publishing and we exchanged details: a great example of how things are unfolding without us really having too much control over them.

I want to circle back to fear quickly, which is important, as it tends to escalate on days when it is harder to get out of bed. It doesn’t help that Cape Town is entering winter, which is usually icy, rainy and dreary. I’ve found small remedies to manage my anxiety and make it a little easier to get going when I wake up. I’ve found that meditation is a big help with this (fifteen minutes in the morning does the trick), writing or scribbling is naturally something that is wonderful for my mental health, and working a few other key self care elements into my day (a walk, an ASMR video, drinking a cup of tea, etc.) really does really help to keep me in a positive flow. To an extent, I am still finding my feet in this new chapter, and I know it isn’t a process that is going to happen overnight. I’ve got to remember to practice patience and perseverance in that regard. I am discovering new self care practices each day and I am always mindful of wanting to go gently and kindly in whatever I do.

I only have good news to share when it comes to my writing. I haven’t had any problems actually writing, which you will have noticed if you’ve been following the poems I’ve been publishing on the blog, if you’ve listened to the podcast or if you’ve had any sort of conversation with me in recent weeks. Sure, as with anyone, I’ve had a few days where it has been harder to draw inspiration, but other than that, I know I’ve made the right choice for myself in making the career change, not because of some romantic idea that I had of what it means to be in a creative career, but because I still get excited at the prospect of waking up and writing in the morning. I hope this feeling sticks with me, and that no matter where the road takes me in the coming months, that this remains a constant in my life.

I have officially traded my laptop bag for a satchel, and now walk everywhere carrying my notebooks (which are stacking up), the book I’m reading, plus a collection of pen and highlighters. Post-it notes have also become my best friend! I scribble ideas on these wherever I go. Through some of the online courses I’ve completed in recent weeks, I’ve learned that creativity is not something you create yourself, it’s something you catch in the moment. I’d like to continue to be prepared at any possible moment to catch it wherever possible.

In aide of this, I wake up each morning and read the following to myself, as a reminder of why I’m pursuing this path, hopeful that it will keep giving me the opportunity to connect, learn and love.

My name is Conrad. I am a writer. I want to connect with people from all walks of life. This is what I want to do, so if it is going to benefit you, then contact me. I’d like to continue to serve other through kindness. Please guide me along the way.

– Conrad was here.

The latest poem from ‘Autumn Haze’ was inspired by a popular Finnish singer.

“Turunen”
by Conrad Schwellnus

Wanderlust, you are my embrace,
The lines of pain ring heavily on your face.
Did the others leave you bothered, recall your vanity yet,
The team without an ‘I’, a wave of pure regret.

You walk alone at the behest of yourself,
Dig a little deeper, there’s still magic on the shelf.
I had a dream and this is very much it,
Blink and it’s gone, nowhere else for us to sit.

Am I harsh in my assumptions, do I love a woman in power,
A semblance of the hold, a breast, a birth I will discover.
The shackles are undone, the door has been unlocked,
Best we keep our distance, and our sorrows left in shock.

Turunen, great beauty, a haunting nightingale,
Ever apologetic for the harshness, a reminder ever pale,
Of the seeking of approval, the tenderness in me,
A longing for a guide living beyond true apathy.

I wrote ‘Autumn Haze’ in a time that I was listening to heavy metal band Nightwish’s ‘Wishmaster‘ album rather religiously. In “Turunen”, I talk about the departure of their then lead singer, Tarja Turunen, who left the band after being served with a dismissal letter at the end of one of their tours nearly fifteen years ago. I was inspired to write this having also seen an interview she did with the press afterwards, and the poem also references my experiences with strong female influences in my life.

Half of the anthology has now been shared, and in six weeks it will be published in full. If you’d like to read the other poems in the series, have a look at the new page I’ve created, featuring all the poems together right over here.

– Conrad was here.

This is “Flourish”, the the next piece of the ‘Autumn Haze’ puzzle.

“Flourish”
by Conrad Schwellnus

Clear is kind, like the depths of your sorrow,
A heart of steel, you will surely need to borrow.
Perhaps you can lend it to feed your hungry soul?
A lifetime of lies, no longer taking their toll.

Bested by those who loved their own reflections,
Using their kin in resolution of their imperfections.
Seemingly damaged to a point of no return,
A reality to ponder, but your memories start to burn.

Widening of shallow, subsiding anger in your mind,
Honesty and truth will always pay you back in kind.
Creative you will be, creative you will flourish,
A journey to build on, a past to demolish.

This poem is one of the pieces that went through the most edits from the first draft, simply because it had a lot going on (there was an additional stanza in the original version that didn’t quite fit, and I may use elsewhere in the future). It’s fairly dark, and tells a story of sorrow, but ultimately redeems itself in the last stanza, providing a glimmer of hope in the process.

Next week, I’ll be publishing a very special poem, influenced by ex-Nightwish singer Tarja Turunen. The piece, which was written while I was listening to her sing, is simply titled “Turunen” and it will be live on the site by 12h00 GMT+2 on Friday the 10th of May.

We’re five poems into the ‘Autumn Haze’ anthology already, with seven to go in the series. You can learn more about the anthology over here, but if you’re curious about the other poems in the series, have a look at this nifty page displaying all the poems in a batch right over here. Have a wonderful rest of your week.

– Conrad was here.