Exotic Monsters (22/1/21)

Exotic Monsters (22/1/21)

Creativity Homepage Feature Letterbox Music News Releases Singles

Release date: 22nd January 2021
Label: My Big Sister Recordings


GET THE SONG

+ Click to download pay what you want/can from Bandcamp.
+ Get “Exotic Monsters” plus all previous Penfriend singles when you join The Correspondent’s Club (free and paid tiers available).
+ Type “penfriend exotic monsters” into your digital music platform of choice.

ABOUT THE SONG

Penfriend, aka music producer, songwriter and multi-disciplinary artist Laura Kidd, presents “Exotic Monsters“.

Sparked by a throwaway phrase from Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”, “Exotic Monsters” is a laundry list of asynchronous human needs and desires; a reflection of our increasingly confused, disconnected and polarised lives. A timely reminder of the practice of cultivating gratitude through meditation, the song is an attempt to examine our internalised inconsistencies; the “facts” we pile up on our own backs throughout lives bombarded by airbrushed images and ads for the unattainable baubles we’re informed are essential for true happiness.

Shackled to our phones by big tech companies monetising and eroding our attention spans, feeling increasingly as though we live on a different planet to those we disagree with, chasing likes on social media while forgetting to look after our brains and our hearts…where will this all end? Some days it’s hard to believe late MP Jo Cox’s poignant words, that “we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us”.

Addressing this sense of disconnection and depersonalisation, “Exotic Monsters” evokes the menace of “Enjoy The Silence”-era Depeche Mode with a nod to the 80s- Madonna hero worship of Sky Ferreira’s “Everything Is Embarrassing” and the hypnotic synth pop of Sylvan Esso.

To quote Björk, “I’m no fucking Buddhist, but this is enlightenment”.

Fun fact: “Exotic Monsters” features several Creative Commons drum samples created by the European Space Agency, recorded at their European Space Research and Technology Centre in the Netherlands. Using sounds from space on a song about feeling disconnected from life on earth just felt wildly appropriate…

CREDITS

Written, produced, performed and recorded by Laura Kidd at The Launchpad, Bristol. Mixed by Dan Austin. Mastered by Katie Tavini. Artwork by Alex Tillbrook, concept by LK.

ESTEC drum samples pk3, pk4, pk6 and pk11 credit: Peter Kirn/CDM/ESA CC BY-SA. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

LYRICS 

I try sollipsistic recreation
I crave love without abbreviation
I need time to kiss this cup of coffee
I keep letters from the one who loved me
I will take all the dreams that Hollywood promised me
I want it now

We’re exotic monsters, dead from the waist down How can I be clear?
Gratitude’s the first sign of waking
I won’t go back

Keep a kiss for me
Cos we all fall down under an international sky
Fighting to believe it’ll be all right
I’m on an extrasolar high

I seek narcissistic decoration
I crave soil, warmth, ventilation
I’d like to focus on my silent fiction
I need to kick this dopamine addiction
I dream of being someone’s happy memory I want it all

We’re exotic monsters, dead from the waist down
How can I be clear?
Gratitude’s the first sign of waking
Please don’t keep me here

Keep a kiss for me
Cos we all fall down under an international sky
Fighting to believe it’ll be all right
I’m on an extrasolar high

Keep a kiss for me
Cos we all fall down under an international sky
Fighting to believe it’ll be all right
I’m on an extrasolar high

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2020 was my best year for reading – my recommendations

2020 was my best year for reading – my recommendations

Homepage Feature Letterbox Process

I’m still gathering my thoughts on what 2020 meant to me. I really enjoy reading peoples’ end of year blog posts and have started mine a few times, from a few angles. I’ll have to see where those musings take me.

In the meantime, here’s my full 2020 reading list, separated into fiction, memoir and other non-fiction and listed in the order they were read. I’ve marked my mind/heart/life-changing titles in bold and italicised any others I would heartily recommend. If I’d read any I thought were absolutely rubbish, I wouldn’t have listed them here – but I got something from everything I read last year.

For stats lovers: I read 52 books in 2020, compared to 28 in 2019 and only a handful in 2018, 2017, 2016 and further back. I wasn’t aiming for quantity of books over quality of experience, but I did make a conscious effort to read more. Keeping a list of every book I finished in the back of my diary helped – it spurred me on to keep finding interesting things to read, and to dedicate time to reading them.

My top 3 books of 2020: this is really hard, but if I was pressed I would recommend “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngoze Adichie, “A Godawful Small Affair” by J.B. Morrison (aka Jim Bob) and “Amusing Ourselves To Death” by Neil Postman.

Which books made a difference in your heart, brain or both in 2020? Are you trying to read more, or are you convinced you could never finish a book? Let me know in the comments!

Fiction

The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
The Testaments – Margaret Atwood
Wonder Boys – Michael Chabon

The Last – Hanna Jameson
The First Bad Man – Miranda July
My Sister, The Serial Killer – Oyinkan Braithwaite
Monkey Grip – Helen Garner
The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver
Middle England – Jonathan Coe
Nine Perfect Strangers – Liane Moriarty
Life After Life – Kate Atkinson
Vox – Christina Dalcher
A Godawful Small Affair – J.B. Morrison
listen to Jim Bob on my podcast!
Conversations With Friends – Sally Rooney
Normal People – Sally Rooney

The Runaways – Fatima Bhutto
Q – Christina Dalcher
Harvey King Unboxes His Family – J.B. Morrison
Americanah – Chimamanda Ngoze Adichie
Weirdo – Cathi Unsworth
Unsheltered – Barbara Kingsolver
Never Mind – Edward St Aubyn
The Man In The High Castle – Philip K. Dick
The Summer Everything Happened – Jane Bradley (unpublished)

Memoir

The Salt Path – Raynor Winn
My Thoughts Exactly – Lily Allen
Home – Julie Andrews
Home Work – Julie Andrews
My Name Is Why – Lemn Sissay
listen to Lemn on my podcast!
On The Road Not Taken – Paul Dodgson
Man’s Search For Meaning – Viktor E. Frankl
Carry On, Warrior – Glennon Doyle
Love Warrior – Glennon Doyle
Untamed – Glennon Doyle
Broken Greek – Pete Paphides
I Choose This – David Ford
No Time Like The Future – Michael J. Fox

Hunger – Roxane Gay
Me Talk Pretty One Day – David Sedaris

Other Non Fiction

Three Women – Lisa Taddeo
Urban Watercolour Sketching – Felix Scheinberger

This Is Marketing – Seth Godin
Platform – Michael Hyatt
Mindful Thoughts For Stargazers – Mark Westmoquette
Louder And Funnier – P.G. Wodehouse
The Curve – Nicholas Lovell
Social Media Is Bullshit – B.J. Mendelson

Syllabus – Linda Barry
Watcha Mean, What’s A Zine? – Mark Todd and Esther Pearl Watson
Amusing Ourselves To Death – Neil Postman
Essentialism – Greg McKeown

Hit Makers – Derek Thompson

THANK YOU for visiting my website! I’m Laura Kidd, a music producer, songwriter and podcaster based in Bristol, UK. It’s great to meet you.

+ Get FREE music immediately by joining The Correspondent’s Club (free and paid tiers available).

+ I send a thoughtful weekly email every week – choose the Freewheeler tier or upwards to receive it.

+ New episodes of my music podcast “Attention Engineer”are released every Wednesday – visit this page to find out more and subscribe via your favourite podcast platform.

+ You can also follow me around the web, on YouTubeTwitterInstagram and Facebook.

Have a lovely day xo

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Obey Robots – “Let It Snow” (4/12/20)

Obey Robots – “Let It Snow” (4/12/20)

Homepage Feature Letterbox Releases Singles


Release date: 4th December 2020
Label: My Big Sister Recordings


GET THE SONG

+ Pre-order vinyl / pay what you want/can download from Bandcamp.

ABOUT THE SONG

“Let It Snow” is the debut single by Obey Robots – a bold new project from Rat (Ned’s Atomic Dustbin) and Laura Kidd (Penfriend / She Makes War). Connected by mutual friend Miles Hunt (The Wonder Stuff), the pair pool their disparate influences to break new ground.

An unflinching, anthemic powerhouse to close out a terrible year, “Let It Snow” announces itself on a motoric Krautrock groove recalling Stereolab’s “French Disko” if rewired by Queens Of The Stone Age or “Used For Glue”-era Rival Schools. There isn’t a jingle bell in sight – just a clarion call for a collective look to the future.

As her previously busy world reduced to the size of her Bristol studio, The Launchpad, Laura started creating cut-up collages from Rat’s intense, melodic guitar parts, building new sound spaces to voice her hopes, fears and frustrations but, more importantly, to offer a hand to the uncertain.

The lyrics to “Let It Snow” issue a heady invocation to the weather gods to fast forward this worst of years by dousing the world in clean, crisp hope for brighter days, where we can hug our loved ones and gather together in dark music venues to celebrate the wonders of being alive.

The double A side single is available to pre-order NOW on limited edition pink 7″ vinyl and CD, with the first track, “Let It Snow”, available as a pay what you want/can digital download.

CREDITS

Written by Pring / Kidd. Produced by Laura Kidd. Mixed by Dan Austin. Mastered by Katie Tavini. Guitar performed and recorded by Rat. Bass, vocals and synths performed and recorded by Laura Kidd. Drums performed and recorded by Max Saidi.

LYRICS 

Look how we run for cover
Watch how we fight, fight, fight
I haven’t seen my mother
But I found my lust for life

I want to race the summer
Cos we’re falling down, down
Just let me talk the winter round

I’m feeling so soluble, time melts away
These days are unendable
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

The roar becomes a whisper
Smash through computer screens
I haven’t seen my sister
So fire up the time machines

I’m feeling so soluble, time melts away
These days are unendable
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

I’m feeling invisible, words wear away
This year is impossible
Let it go, let it go, let it go

Feeling so soluble, time melts away
These days are unendable
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow
Let it go, let it go, let it go

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FREE DOWNLOAD – Attention Engineer S01 Nuggets available now

FREE DOWNLOAD – Attention Engineer S01 Nuggets available now

Letterbox Podcast

Something different from me this Bandcamp Friday – a present for you from the first series of my creativity podcast Attention Engineer. Sixteen quotes from brilliant artists to provoke, inspire and encourage.

Series 2 starts next Wednesday 7th October with a very special guest from Portland!

Click to subscribe on your favourite podcast platform.



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I’ve been finding everything really hard lately

I’ve been finding everything really hard lately

Letterbox Mindfulness Productivity

Friends, I’ve been finding everything really hard lately.

I have a lot to feel fortunate for – not least the ongoing generosity and support of my Correspondents, THANK YOU! – but there’s really no getting away from the fact that this global pandemic continues to have a dramatic, far reaching, unpredictable effect on all of us, however grateful we are for our health, a roof over our heads and the ability to keep buying the groceries we need to survive (thank you again, Correspondents!).

Despite knowing better, over recent months I allowed my work hours to expand to late nights and most weekends, and even though I had a feeling something was going to snap at some point, I kept pushing myself until OOPS, snap it did. Yep, the warning signs were there – noticeably slower brain function, tears flowing every day at little provocation, being quicker to anger…

Since that awful night I’ve been thoroughly reassessing the way I, as the boss of my own company, treat my workforce – me. Pretty poorly, it seems. I know the kind of work I do is like a gas – it’ll expand to fit whatever container it’s in, so the main change I’m making is to set strict boundaries. I start work at 10am and am not allowed to work past 6pm. I don’t work on the weekends. I’m experimenting with taking half days on Wednesday and Friday (that’s a scary one, because it feels like I’m skiving off, but what’s the point of working for yourself and not creating your own schedule, right?). I’ve made myself work long hours on enough gloriously sunny days in my life, it’s time to live a little!

Evidence of Half Day Wednesday, but the details are just for me 😉

The irony that I started reading Greg McKeown’s “Essentialism” a week before my crash is not lost on me, and I picked out some really useful concepts that I’m working to implement going forward.

1/ Editing – rather than adding more and more detail to to try and explain something, you take things away to get to the true message.

2/ Uncommitting – in the book he uses the example of someone who creates a time consuming detailed weekly report for his team that no-one needs or reads, and suggests experimenting by stopping doing that thing for a while to see if anyone notices.

3/ What’s Important Now? (WIN) – a very helpful question I’ve started asking myself whenever I start feeling overwhelmed.

Relating these three ideas to my current situation, it was clear that some tweaks needed to be made. I was planning a short break from making my podcast anyway, so the timing was great for taking a step back. I’ve been reassessing how I can use the limited time, energy and mental bandwidth I have as one human person to do the things that only I can do to the best of my ability, and what non-essential things I can reduce my time on. Kicking my bad social media / phone scrolly-scrolly habits over the past year massively helped with this already, but I was still very obviously doing too much and expecting too much of myself.

Alongside music making and podcast making, my other major commitment is, of course, The Correspondent’s Club. Its predecessor, Supersub Club, was set up as a yearly subscription with quarterly deliveries, because I knew I didn’t have the capacity for, and didn’t want the stress of, delivering things monthly. While there are many ways of approaching music making and releasing these days, I still believe in the artistic power of an album to contain a collection of songs that say something together as well as individually. My focus will always be making the very best next album I can rather than creating new stuff and rushing it out just because there’s a schedule.

So, four months into running The Correspondent’s Club feels like a good time to make some minor tweaks, now I’ve had time to see what works and figure out which perks people are responding most warmly to.

It turns out the two most time-consuming perks, the monthly voicemail and monthly online gig, are the things I can dial back on most easily, that will actually improve if they happen a little less often and that I feel will consequently be enjoyed by more people. These will now move to happening quarterly, in line with the music and art bundles. Everything else will stay the same.

As always, monthly members can up-or down-grade their subscriptions at any time, and I will never be offended if you decide to change yours. It blows my mind that people are so invested in my music making that they want to subscribe in this way, I value each and every one of you who do so, and urge you always to ensure that 1) whatever you choose to pay is a comfortable sum that doesn’t adversely affect anything else in your life and 2) that you always make sure you feel you’re getting value for your money.

There will always be a physical limit to what I, as one person doing this, is able to give in return for your patronage, but I promise what I do deliver will always be of the highest quality, made with love and care, focus and attention.

I’ll leave you for now with the latest quote I’m going to be taping up on my studio wall. I picked it up from “Essentialism”, but it’s actually from Stephen R. Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”


Despite dialling back on everything for the past couple of weeks, somehow I still seem to be on track to complete the album recording this month. That’s the main thing…but is it really? Workwise, yes of course. But even when you love your job, as I love mine, there’s more to consider.

A wise friend texted me last week that in a crisis like Covid-19 “our only task is to stay healthy, sane and alive…until we have a surplus of energy and resources all we need to do is live”.

And that’s really the main thing.

Here’s to surviving. Please let me know how you’re doing here in the comments.

Sending love,
Laura xoxo

The Only Way Out Is Through xo
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The Only Way Out Is Through (8/9/20)

The Only Way Out Is Through (8/9/20)

Homepage Feature Letterbox Releases Singles


Release date: 8th September 2020
Label: My Big Sister Recordings
Distributor: Southern Record Distributors

GET THE SONG

+ Download PWYW from Bandcamp.
+ Get all Penfriend singles PLUS unreleased track “Cancel Your Hopes” FREE when you join The Correspondent’s Club.
+ Search for “Penfriend” on your music platform of choice.

ABOUT THE SONG

I can’t do much of anything when I’m feeling down, let alone write a song about it, but one day in 2019 when I was trudging my way back, I made an attempt to leave a breadcrumb trail for my future self.

“The Only Way Out Is Through” is my attempt to trap the “shapeless forces” that “pull at me”, making them solid by assigning words to them, reducing their power and size to something I might feasibly be able to overcome. The aspirational sentiment that “resistance is crucial, forgiveness is beautiful” is one I find very hard to enact in the moment, but something I can at least continue to strive for.

Ironically, this song is being released during my lowest fortnight of the last 12 months, so the safety line of lyrics I knotted inside the music is a helpful reminder of brighter days.

The choice to release music in a universally dark time isn’t one I take lightly. “The Only Way Out Is Through” is the most resonant and useful piece of music I have to offer right now, a rescue raft for whoever needs one.

That’s what this song is for me.

LYRICS 

Gotta get out of this
Making a meal of distress
Fatalistic to the bone
Thunderclouds in every home
Gotta get out of this

The only way out is through
Not gonna lose my heart – I never meant to
The only way out is through

Gotta get out of this
Drowning in yesterday’s tears
Intimate conspiracies
Shapeless forces pull at me
Gotta get out of this

The only way out is through
Not gonna lose my heart – I never meant to
The only way out is through


The only way out is through
Not gonna lose my heart
I never meant to wish on a falling star
But I won’t let it go

Denial take me away
Pretend like I’m not the queen of stretching the days
In all the wrong ways – til they break
Denial take me away
I crave your sweet mistakes but
Resistance is crucial, forgiveness is beautiful

The only way out is through
Not gonna lose my heart – I never meant to
The only way out is through

CREDITS

[music]
Written, produced and performed by Laura Kidd at The Launchpad, Bristol.
Drums by Max Saidi. Mixed by Dan Austin. 
Mastered by Chris McCormack at Blacklisted Mastering.

[artwork]
Portrait by @genskiart, logo and wordmark by Miritte Ben Yitzchak, concept and layout by Laura Kidd.

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New Penfriend TV live album – available for one week only!

New Penfriend TV live album – available for one week only!

Letterbox Music News

Surprise PWYW live album for youuuuuuuuuu! On Friday 31st July I played my third Correspondent’s Club livestream, including a brand new song called “Seventeen”, and I am making some live recordings available to ALL for one week only, just pay what you can*.


*If you’re a paying Correspondent, DO NOT FEEL ANY PRESSURE TO PAY! If money is tight, DO NOT FEEL ANY PRESSURE TO PAY! All contributions help get my new album made, so are much appreciated, but PWYW is my genuine gift to you 🙂 XOXO

Track listing:

1. Hello and welcome 
2. Everything Looks Normal In The Sunshine 
3. Witchy hair 
4. Dispensable Body 
5. On my own space station 
6. Long Shadows 
7. Attention Engineer and memories of Germany 
8. Seventeen 
9. Cancel Your Hopes 
10. Thank you and massive courgette 
11. The Only Way Out Is Through 

NOTE: this is a six song download + chat, most of the tracks are set as bonus tracks to maintain a fun air of secrecy, but they will appear as if by magic once you place your order.

THANK YOU for visiting my website!

+ Get FREE music immediately by joining my mailing list.

+ I send a thoughtful weekly email every Thursday – join The Correspondent’s Club on a free or paid tier to receive it.

+ New episodes of my music podcast “Attention Engineer”are released every Wednesday – visit this page to find out more and subscribe via your favourite podcast platform.

+ You can also follow me around the web, on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Have a lovely day xo

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Chasing the mountain

Chasing the mountain

Creativity Homepage Feature Letterbox Mindfulness Productivity

Sometimes I wonder why I spend my time in the ways I do. A life’s primary occupation builds up through an infinitesimal series of decisions – what we wanted to be when we grew up, which subjects we chose at school, what the careers advisers told us we could aim for (secretary, in my case), influence from books we read, friends we had, good and bad relationships with good and bad people, exam results, the necessity of earning money to live on, and on and on.

I don’t need or even want to get immediate results from the things I make, but I like to stand back occasionally to get a better view than I’m able to have in my busy day to day life. I’ve never liked the idea of doing things just because I’ve always done them.

I spoke to Bec Hill on my podcast recently about goals and dreams – how we define them, and what we do if we achieve them. She talked about how pursuing a full time career in comedy was The Dream, and once she’d managed that, she didn’t replace it with a new one for a few years, because she was too busy keeping that dream alive. Once she realised, she started setting herself new goals, and because of course the only way of achieving goals is by setting them and working towards them, the wonderful news that she’s just been announced as the host of a new CITV crafting show is no surprise to me. Bec defined her dream, did the work, and now it’s happening. Massive congratulations to her!

Maintaining a career in the arts once you’ve carved one out for yourself is a separate challenge to creating it in the first place, and a lot of work has to go into that, but I do like to remind myself to check in every now and then and take a longer view. What am I trying to achieve with this thing? Am I spending my time wisely? Am I able to keep a roof over my head this month? Ah, but is this part of my daily or weekly work schedule seemingly frivolous but personally enriching? And how about proper time off?

I find it helps me to have solid reasons for why I’m deciding to spend time on something, and if it’s something to be shared, it’s important to have an idea of the effect I’d like it to have on others. I didn’t start thinking about that second part until I started listening to the Creative Pep Talk podcast last year on tour.

After a recommendation by the show’s host Andy J Pizza, I read Seth Godin’s book “This Is Marketing”, in which I learned first and foremost that marketing is NOT advertising, it’s about making a positive change in the world through the things you do, the skills you offer and the things you make and share. I started learning about the idea of “serving your audience / community” by thinking about what your core values are and, in Andy J Pizza’s words, “owning your weird”, and “baking” all of this into what you do, in order to attract likeminded people to your world, people who will get the most from the thing you make because it resonates with them and mirrors their personalities and experiences. It’s a world away from trying to work out what people want to buy and making that – BLARGH. No no no no no.

It was nice to learn that I’d been instinctively doing quite a lot of this stuff throughout my solo music career, but with my new knowledge, I could see how haphazardly I’d been spending my time. I think I know why – my goal to become a full time artist wasn’t clearly defined. I thought a lot about how nice it would be “one day” not to have to work for others, but I also couldn’t imagine that little old me would one day “win the prize” of getting to decide exactly how I spent my days. There are some deep-seated self-confidence issues going on there that would be more suited to a therapy session, but you get the idea.

Spending time thinking more deeply about the ideas I’ve been learning about has enabled me to take a huge leap forward in my life as an artist running a creative business. The reason I’m writing about it here is that I know it doesn’t only apply to careers where people make things and tout them on the internet.

I don’t think a lot of us give ourselves the time and space we need and deserve for self reflection, to ask ourselves simple yet difficult questions like “what are my core values?” and “are they reflected in the things I spend my time doing, both in and outside of work?”. These can be very challenging ideas, and for many reasons we can find ourselves in situations that really don’t fit, but are necessary to sustain our finances.

It’s important for me to keep my goals and my reasons for pursuing a project in mind so that when I feel tired, or low, or like everything I do is frivolous and pointless, I can easily remind myself of them. I need these reasons, that aren’t linked to short term ideas of success like money, or followers, so that on the occasions I do step back and wonder why I’m putting so much time and energy into something, I can remind myself, and keep going.

I started reading “Man’s Search For Meaning” by Victor Frankl this week, subtitled “the classic tribute to hope from the Holocaust”. In the preface, Frankl writes “I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long run – in the long run, I say! – success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it”.

I’m very happy with the concept of defining my own measures of success, unrelated to finances or acclaim. It’s a topic I’ve spoken about at length during various panel discussions, seminars and talks to students as a visiting guest over the years, and something I regularly ask the guests on my podcast.

So, what struck me most about Frankl’s quote – aside from the obvious incredible generosity of spirit, coming as it does from someone who lived through such horrors – is the first line – “listen to what your conscience commands you to do…” – that mysterious, tantalising “call of adventure”, as Joseph Campbell would describe it in his “Hero’s Journey” framework, the elusive thing that gives us the enthusiasm, energy and drive to do something, make something, learn about something. We can’t put our finger on why we’re interested in that thing, but we are, and there’s so much adventure in indulging that, putting in the minutes and the hours, starting to break a big dream down into manageable chunks, working gradually towards a goal and being open to whatever exciting avenues open up to us along the way.

In “Art Matters”, Neil Gaiman writes about your goal as being a huge mountain in the distance. It’s not necessarily clear how to get to the mountain, but you can tell if you’re getting closer or further away with every decision you make. Since reading that book, I’ve practised asking myself questions, whenever something comes along to pique my interest, or I’m invited to do something I hadn’t planned on – will doing this take me closer to the mountain, or send me further away? Is this thing a diversion, or a way of getting closer to where I need and want to be?

Are all diversions bad or worthless? Of course not. But we have to set our own priorities. It’s up to us to define our own mountains, and there can be many that sit under different categories of our lives – a health and fitness mountain, a creative mountain, a “one day I’ll do X” mountain.

Just under two years ago I eloped to Canada with my beau to get married by a waterfall in a mountain range just outside Vancouver. It was glorious. The day after the wedding we embarked on an epic driving trip that took us all the way to Banff and back via stops at Kamloops, Vernon, Revelstoke, Lake Louise and Canmore.

As we left Vancouver on day 1, I remember my jaw dropping as I gazed at the most beautiful mountains I’d ever seen. I couldn’t imagine anything more lovely, and yet as we drove, they got prettier and prettier.

I used to think that I didn’t need to reach the mountain, because it was too far away and the journey towards it was so beautiful anyway – and it is – but I now know there are always other beautiful mountains to aim towards, and only by taking those steps will I ever learn how to keep trying to reach them.

So – what’s your mountain, and what’s your first step towards it?

THANK YOU for visiting my website!

+ Get FREE music immediately by joining my mailing list.

+ I send a thoughtful weekly email every Thursday – join The Correspondent’s Club on a free or paid tier to receive it.

+ New episodes of my music podcast “Attention Engineer”are released every Wednesday – visit this page to find out more and subscribe via your favourite podcast platform.

+ You can also follow me around the web, on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Have a lovely day xo

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Attention Engineer glowingly reviewed in The Observer!

Attention Engineer glowingly reviewed in The Observer!

Letterbox Podcast

An interview series from musician Laura Kidd. Kidd talks with insight and warmth to (mostly) other musicians. Her opening show is with Belly’s Tanya Donelly, and is completely delicious; her latest is with comedian Bec Hill and is just as great. In between we get the likes of Charlotte Hatherley, Tom Robinson and many more. As a musician herself, Kidd understands how to talk to her interviewees, but these are not the back-slapping all-slebs-together podcasts that we’ve become used to. Instead, we learn about how to sleep on a tour bus and whether B7 is the most irritating chord. A really lovely listen.

~ Miranda Sawyer, The Observer (print) / Guardian (online)
…because I believe in celebrating the little (and big!) victories.

THANK YOU for visiting my website!

+ Get FREE music immediately by joining my mailing list.

+ I send a thoughtful weekly email every Thursday – join The Correspondent’s Club on a free or paid tier to receive it.

+ New episodes of my music podcast “Attention Engineer”are released every Wednesday – visit this page to find out more and subscribe via your favourite podcast platform.

+ You can also follow me around the web, on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Have a lovely day xo

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Inspiration is for amateurs

Inspiration is for amateurs

Creativity Homepage Feature Letterbox Mindfulness Process Productivity

The thing that’s got me through the ups and downs, the fear, the uncertainty, the confusion, the anger, the frustration and the sheer bizarreness of 2020 is the daily routine I established for myself in early January.

I spent the last chunk of 2019 hopping from tour to tour to tour, winding down a long running music project, wondering what to do next, and how. I played 35 gigs around the UK, France and Germany between September and Christmas. There were ups and downs; some great shows, some awful ones and, as always, a hell of a lot of travelling time to ponder life, the world and my place in it.

I realised that, above anything, I was craving structure, routine, something I could be in control of. Time to develop ideas, time to reflect, time to get fitter, healthier and happier. I’ve always been a bit of a productivity nerd, reading all the major works on the topic throughout my years of freelancing, trying to learn how to run a small business and, in more recent years, how to be a better, nicer boss to my one employee (me!), with varying results.

For me “productivity” isn’t about being the most efficient machine possible, squeezing every last drop of usefulness out of yourself in an effort to “kill it” or “smash it”. If, like me, you’re someone with a lot of ideas and a burning desire to make or do things, getting organised is essential – however you do it.

Over the years I’ve tried different ways of trying to be able to make steady progress with long term goals while having manageable and enjoyable daily and weekly plans that incorporate exercise, reflection and introspection, deep work on the things I care about and healthy food that gives me the energy I need to have the most pleasant day possible. This is the ideal and, while I’ve occasionally managed it, I’ve often felt like the classic duck on the pond analogy – giving off the impression everything is calm and under control, all the while paddling wildly just beneath the surface.

I love the fresh start of a New Year, so in early January I set up some new daily routines for myself, started The Artist’s Way for the third time (and actually completed it, woop!), got serious about being consistent with exercise and meditation, and almost immediately started feeling fresher, clearer headed and more galvanised than ever to make my best work possible. On bad days, I trundled through the hours, tried my best and then moved on. On days when it all seemed utterly pointless, I tried to do a little exercise anyway, knowing that every deposit of good faith I put into myself would do *something* positive, whether I felt it immediately or not.

So, what’s my secret? Planning, showing up, trying my best, tracking my progress and then showing up again tomorrow. That’s it.

There’s something about drawing a tick on a piece of paper that just makes me happy. I get a jolt of satisfaction that makes me want to keep going so I can do it again. Where the dopamine hits we get from seeing notification alerts on our phones can actually make us feel worse, there’s something wholesome about crossing off a task in my bullet journal. Knowing that I’m one step closer to reaching a goal is part of it, but I think the knowledge that I’m living an intentional life full of useful things is also a big driver.

I’ve been keeping a bullet journal for a few years, and would highly recommend it (I use it alongside Trello for longer term goals and moving tasks around easily, Evernote for storing information, Bear for writing without distractions and Google Calendar for scheduling things), but how I do things isn’t perfect, or fixed, and I’m always interested in tweaking and improving.

Last week I happened across this video by Thomas Frank about habit tracking. At the start of the year, I had added columns in my bullet journal for tracking exercise, meditation, drinking enough water, taking my vitamins, stuff like that, all of which really helped me be continue to be consistent with all the ingredients of that happy, healthy life I was aiming for.

The key difference between my old system and this new one is the accountability aspect. If I didn’t manage to meditate three times a week in June, I just shrugged and thought, “I have to try harder to do that next week”. This month, every time I don’t manage to achieve one of my small goals, I have to write down why that happened.

One of my July goals is to get to bed by 10pm (so I can read for longer!) and another is to get up at 7.30am to exercise. The latter I can usually manage, the former I find really hard. So far this month I only have three + signs in my “go to bed by 10pm” row, and by the middle of the month when I make the next tracker page to take me to the end of July, I might choose to revise that goal, if it’s clearly not working, or have a think about how to achieve it, if it’s something I still really care about trying to achieve. I like this. Instead of feeling like I’m failing at a simple thing I think will improve my life, I can look at whether it’s actually achievable given everything else I’m doing, and adjust it for the next batch of 15 days if necessary.

It’s easy to feel like we have no control over our futures, but we all have at least some control about how we spend some of our minutes, hours and days. I work in the nebulous art of translating feelings and ideas into audio that moves other people, which is why it’s so appealing to me to be able to do concrete things every day that have an effect on how I feel, and therefore how well I’m able to move through my day, working on the things I have decided are important.

Getting back into running has been one of the best things I’ve managed this year, because it shows me that’s true every single week. Every time I run up my local steep hill I’m able to take a few more steps before stopping to walk for a minute, and every week I consistently run twice a week (21 in a row so far, yay!), I can write that down and feel proud of myself just for showing up, again and again.

You may not be able to run, or want to, but I’m sure you could find a little something to do for yourself every week, or every Monday and Friday, or every day, that you can feel good about ticking off each time, and that will show you what you’re capable of as time goes on.

It’s not about being the best at something, it’s about showing up, trying your best and then doing it again. I feel the same way about making albums. I could make the best album in the entire universe, and I still wouldn’t have any control over how it’s received in the world. Once my work is “out there”, all I can do is go back up to my studio and make some more.

I choose to keep turning up because, as photographer Chuck Close so wisely said, “Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work.”

Over to you:

What could you do towards your big goal next month?
What could you do towards your big goal next week?
What could you do towards your big goal today?

Let me know in the comments. I believe in you x

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Have a lovely day xo

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