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.

Here is “I Dream in Black and White”, the next poem in the ‘Autumn Haze’ anthology.

“I Dream in Black and White”
by Conrad Schwellnus

I dream in black and white,
I see in shades of grey.
Nothing about anything always feels quite right,
A life of your own, you simply cannot delay.

Mourn the emancipation, let go of the grip,
Alone you may just fall, perhaps you stay and trip.
But fly you will, you pick yourself up,
Resilience in the form of a tiny beating cup.

I dream in black and white,
I see the cruelty of a nation.
Trudging along and a departure I might,
The only energy to defeat my indignation.

This is your way to say goodbye,
To a lifelong service to a sigh,
This happened in the depths of this mind of mine,
I’ve been done for a while, waiting for the colors to shine.

This is one of the first poems in the anthology that just poured out of me when I started writing it. I wrote this very quickly and it came together even faster while I was editing. It feels like an important piece in the anthology. “I Dream in Black and White” is about fear, letting go and realizing that it is time to move towards a new chapter of your life. I won’t say too much, and let you interpret the text for yourself.

Next week, I’ll be publishing the fifth poem in the series. The new piece is called “Flourish” and it will be live on the site by 12h00 GMT+2 on Friday the 3rd of May.

You can learn more about the ‘Autumn Haze‘ anthology over here and if you’re curious about the other poems in the series, have a look at the new page displaying all the poems in a batch over here.

– Conrad was here.

The podcast has landed, and as you can tell, I’m all sorts of emotional, excited and scared.

I have to admit that seeing it pop up on Spotify was quite something and I may have gotten just a little bit emotional (and done a dance in the kitchen).

I do quite a bit of talking in the episode so I’ll keep this post brief — I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who encouraged me to do this, everyone who has helped me on the path towards finding my confidence (and my voice again) over the last year, and especially to the people who have done the hard slog with me and sat with me through the good and the bad. You guys mean the world to me.

The show doesn’t feature any snazzy production, or over the top edits. I did this for a reason. As with the blog being more about my words and connecting with you through my writing (you’ll notice I never share visuals in my posts), the podcast is an opportunity for raw connection, and for you to see me a little bit more clearly, coughs, sniffs and all. If I wanted to, I could have added a whole lot of autotune to my voice (circa T-Pain 2007) but I prefer to keep it more authentic and this will likely be a theme throughout future episodes as well.

The first episode is called “Welcome to Wellness with the Schwellnus” and you can find more details about the topics I cover, as well as listen to it over here. All future episodes will be shared on the same page, so make sure you bookmark it. The next episode will air on Thursday May 9th and I look forward to staying connected with you via the blog until then.

– Conrad was here.

I’m hosting a brand new lifestyle podcast, and of course it has a cheeky title! Happy to finally share some details with you.

It’s been five years since I did my last radio show, but I’m thrilled to get behind the mic again, hosting Wellness with the Schwellnus, a brand new lifestyle podcast launching on Spotify on Thursday the 25th of April.

The show, which will be exclusive to Spotify for 24 hours, will be syndicated to other streaming platforms from Friday the 26th, and will air twice a month on the second and fourth Thursday of each month, until April 2020. Episodes, which have a minimum of three segments, are anywhere between 45 and 60 minutes long. I’m really excited to be collaborating with indie publishing house CSP on this project, and I’m grateful to have had their support right from the get go.

In recent weeks I’ve gotten a lot of questions about the content I’ll be covering, most of which I’ve been avoiding answering, as I want listeners to be surprised, and to make up their own minds about what the podcast is going to mean to them. If you recall, this very blog started as a mental health awareness journal, and has since transformed into a space for me to share my flow journey, and even to publish some of my poetry. The process for the show is equally flexible and fluid, but as a whole, it aspires to promote mindful living.

What I can reveal today, is that the first episode contains more information about my journey so far, delves into what led me to the point of pursuing a full-time career as a writer, and I may or may not have decided to include some details about 3 year old me (as written down from a reliable source: a report card, signed my my pre-school teacher). Oh Mrs. whats-her-name, you had a profound impact on my life after all.

The show aims to bring some lightness, humor and inspiration to your week. I’ll be sharing a couple of stories that have had an effect on my life so far, checking in on interesting current events, as well as throwing in tidbits from my personal journals. If you’re worried that you’ll grow tired of my voice, don’t fret, I’ll also be introducing interview segments in the near future, discussing topics with a variety of interesting guests (there is already a list of twenty people that I’m dying to sit down with) and in the process hope to learn more about what it means to live well and satisfied with a view towards the future.

Hopefully, the podcast will give me more opportunities to be able to connect with you, wherever you are in the world, which, as you know if you’ve been following the blog, is one of my most important goals for the year. From June, I’ll be recording episodes from Brazil, and after that, who knows where the road goes. I look forward to taking it step-by-step and going on this journey with you! Thank you for your support.

– Conrad was here.

The next chapter in the ‘Autumn Haze’ anthology is here — read “Knife Party” now.

“Knife Party”
by Conrad Schwellnus

Let’s throw a knife party,
Our highs take on a new life,
When you’re done sipping on the Bacardi,
Will you start to let go of your wife?

Take away the pressure, we dance intimately,
Stroke my hair as I begin to feel you in a dream,
Shake your body, the contours slowly enchant me.
Pass through me, as I float somewhere far beyond my being.

Sensual in all of my remembrance,
Illustrious as I take my space,
Love in the monotonous, head up in the clouds,
Manic as we avoid a tender embrace.

Let’s throw a knife party,
Aim for the neck but keep hitting the board.
Everything is slow, a near set of sorry,
Discourse in heaven, we put down the chord.

Many of us have experienced falling in love with someone who is unavailable, and this poem tries to pack that into a few sentences, eight years after I started what would be the defining romance of my twenties. I reference a ‘wife’ in the poem in a non literal sense; it merely implies a person that is otherwise committed, be that through being with another partner, or just as a result of a lack of self acceptance. For me, the poem is a symbol of letting go and moving on, and I hope it brings you some comfort too if you’ve ever experienced something similar.

The next poem in the series (which I might add, goes straight for the jugular) is called “I Dream in Black and White” and will be published on the site by 12h00 GMT+2 on Friday the 26th of April. Catch you back here then?

You can learn more about the ‘Autumn Haze‘ anthology over here and if you’re curious about the first two poems in the series, head over to the home page to check them out. Thank you for your support!

– Conrad was here.

Here is the second poem from ‘Autumn Haze’ — this is “Hearts at Half Mast”.

“Hearts at Half Mast”
by Conrad Schwellnus

Let’s bond as a family, with our smartphones in check,
Eyes fixed on the television, in public we shall forget.
The elders converse with their hearts at half mast,
Exhausted from keeping the week afloat — now with some freedom at last.

Sit by yourself sweet miss, your loneliness is palpable,
Can I give you a hug or will that make me culpable?
Do you believe I feel sorrow in the wake of your solace,
How charmed or lonely I am, awake in my empty bodice.

Bond, bond, and bond, we must,
We despise each other, but in blood we must love.
Sing to me child, show me your prowess,
Other than that, be gone, but remember to stay the dourest.

I wrote this poem after seeing a family having breakfast in a restaurant, and adjacent to their table was a woman having a meal on her own. Both “parties” seemed equally isolated in that specific moment, though ironically, I only felt sorry for the woman, irrespective of whether my intuition told me that everyone at the group table was alone too.

I really appreciate you taking some time out of your day to read some of my work. The next poem in the series, which is quite possibly the most sensual poem in the series, is called “Knife Party” and will be published on the site at 12h00 GMT+2 on Friday the 19th of April.

You can learn more about the ‘Autumn Haze‘ anthology over here and if you’re curious about the first poem in the series, you can read it over here. I welcome your feedback via social media or the contact section anytime you feel like reaching out.

– Conrad was here.

Embarking on a 50 day challenge to start healing my tricky relationship with food.

I’ve always had a tricky relationship with food — it’s usually been more of an emotional crutch, because I’ve never really learned how to cook and usually tend to go for more efficient food options, rather than making the most nutritious choices.

If it was up to me, I’d swallow a pill every morning that would give me all the nutrition I need in one go, but I’ve recently become more aware of how much food brings people together, creates joy, and is at the heart of communities around the world. Considering my plans to travel for the rest of the year, I’d love to be able to explore more types of foods and traditional dishes from cultures other than my own and it’s time to get out of my comfort zone a bit.

Tomorrow, I’m starting a 50 day personal challenge to start working on adjusting (or healing) my relationship with food. My goal is to reconnect with food as a source of nourishment, something to enjoy and quite frankly, to be grateful for.

I stumbled onto a TedTalk about this topic after doing a basic Google search earlier today and I was happy to find out that I’m not alone in the struggle. The talk was hosted by dietitian Eve Lahijani, and included the following tips, which I’ve tweaked slightly to fit my lifestyle, and incorporated into the challenge:

  • Reconnect with your hunger. Eat only when you’re hungry, not out of boredom, stress, or just because it is available. Do so when you first get hungry, not when you’re already ravenous.
  • Feed what your body is craving. Go with your instincts about what your body is asking for, which requires you to tune into your feelings. I think this will be particularly useful to me during my morning meditations.
  • Try not to use food as a reward or punishment. I’m a pro at this, and will need to be extra mindful of this. Mostly, my rewards are sugar heavy and I’ve gone down the sugar rabbit hole far too many times for my own liking.
  • Don’t punish yourself for bad days. It happens, carry on.

Over and above this, I also have two additional resources in my corner that found their way to me today, which I’ll also be incorporating into the challenge.

The first, is the latest episode of the Spiritual Gayz podcast. Angel and Brandon discuss the importance of ritual, and especially so when you’re working on healing some or other aspect of yourself. From listening to the show, I’ve decided to work a small mantra into my morning routine, a ritual of sorts, where I’ll start my morning with a simple sentence: commit to feeding yourself with love today. It’s as simple as that.

The final resource I’ll be utilizing along this journey, is a Masterclass I found today, which is hosted by Thomas Keller. From just the first lecture, it’s clear that he will be delving into the very basics of cooking, even to the point of discussing which kitchen utensils are best to use and how to prepare before you even start preparing a meal. It’s very clear to me that I need this in my life! I’ve decided I’ll be doing one class a day for the next month and I believe it’s also a nice way to easy myself into it, soaking up each lesson and practicing some of the lessons, rather than binging them all in a single sitting.

As I mentioned at the start of the article, I have never learned how to cook, and have always had a “get it done and move on” attitude towards my own nourishment, but perhaps, as part of my self care journey, and just generally wanting to lead a more healthy lifestyle, which protects the one body I’ve been gifted with to live this life through, it’s time for me to take my relationship with food to a new level. Today brought me a couple of signs and I’m excited to see what the challenge does to my energy levels, mental health and frankly put, my general enjoyment when it comes to food.

I’ll be sure to document some of the journey on the blog, and feel free to get in touch if you have any tips, suggestions or resources. The challenge will wrap up on June 1st, and I’ll be sure to share my results and learnings with you on the blog, so stick around for that over the next couple of weeks.

– Conrad was here.

A space to write, a space to type, a space to sleep.

I recently started what I call a six month “flow experiment” — essentially, the beginning of an opportunity to embrace change, learn to be more open to flexibility, practice patience, and generally to just see “where to wind blows me” for the rest of 2019. It sounds very fancy and like I’m playing the lead role in an indie movie, but in reality, it’s all kinda daunting and overwhelming. A couple of things have led me to this interesting point in my life, which I felt like writing about today.

In December I decided that I wanted to quit my full-time job, in order to primarily focus on my own business again. Running a business while working full-time is no joke, and my mental health definitely took a knock as a result of the stress from doing this. Delve 6 will also be turning three this coming September (it’s hard to believe it’s been a part of my life for such a long time already), so what better time to give it a proper bash, to see who I get to meet through taking on new creative projects and quite frankly, to enjoy myself along the way. It’s taken some time, a lot of lessons, and a lot of work, but I’ve certainly fallen back in love with the idea of taking it to new heights over the last couple of months.

If marketing is the main course to my life, writing can only be referred to as the dessert. Along with the decision to quit my full-time job, came the realisation that it was time for me to pursue a long lingering dream of being a published author. Some of you may have already seen that I’ve started rolling out my first poetry anthology, and I also entered my first writing competition earlier this year. Writing is something that brings me a tremendous amount of joy, mental clarity, balance and gives me the freedom to express myself in a way that provides various perspectives on my own life, feelings and decisions. It is the kind of skill that helps in all avenues of my life and one of the biggest blessings of the year so far has been the ability to write (or scribble) each and every day so far.

The last new piece of the flow puzzle is that I’m travelling from South Africa to Brazil at the start of June, and will be staying in South America for at least a month. It’s time to get out of my comfort zone and out of the bubble a little bit. I’ve been looking forward to travelling for a very long time, and finally decided to take the plunge and buy my ticket. This will be the first time I’ll travel alone as an adult (would you believe) but thankfully I’m meeting up with my partner in São Paulo, which should make it an easier (and a more exciting) trip as a whole. On a more practical front, I’m currently taking Portuguese lessons every day (I’m about four weeks in), which I’m sure will also help to amplify the experience to an extent. Something I wasn’t initially aware of was that South African passport holders can stay in Brazil for up top 90 days without a visa, which is pretty amazing, so my ticket back is flexible at this point, and I’ll see how things go, and assess my next move as and when the time comes for me to do so.

In general, all three of these new pieces of the puzzle constitute quite an uncertain whole… and certainly brings a fair share of excitement and anxiety along with it. I do like to overthink most things, and when I caught myself starting to question my decisions, I wrote the following down as a gentle reminder of, quite simply, the only three things I really need to be concerned about for the next six months:

A space to write. A space to type. A space to sleep.

It can really be as simple as that and well… it is. This, and entering into each of the days ahead being both brave and afraid at the same time, something which has become somewhat of a life mantra for me. Who knows which adventures await me between now and the end of September, but the time has come to close my eyes, jump and see where it all takes me.

– Conrad was here.