My burnout recovery tips – completing the stress cycle

My burnout recovery tips – completing the stress cycle

Creativity Letterbox Mindfulness Process Productivity

I’ve been dealing with burnout for a few years on and off, and learning about completing the stress cycle recently has really helped me. In this video I talk about the symptoms of burnout and some things I’ve found helpful for dealing with it, including my new adventures in surfing and open water swimming. It’s all a process, and we’re in this together – so always feel free to say hi in the comments and let me know how you’re doing today xx

Here’s the article I refer to in the video.

Scroll down for the video transcript, and subscribe to my channel for more!


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 your copy of my new album “Exotic Monsters” right here.

+ Get two free songs immediately when you sign up for thoughtful letters about art and music.

+ Browse episodes of my music podcast “Attention Engineer” here and subscribe via your favourite podcast platform.

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

Have a lovely day xo


Burnout recovery tips – completing the stress cycle
TRANSCRIPT

Let’s talk about burnout.

I really annoyed myself in my last video when I talked about how I find it really hard to take time off, and I like to work really hard…and all that stuff is true, but I annoyed myself, because – isn’t life so precious?

I’ve watched Gary Vee’s videos about “crushing it”, and I don’t disagree with a lot of the things he says, but I also know what burnout feels like – and I don’t want you to ever have to feel that way.

So, what is burnout?

According to helpguide.org, burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest and motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place.

Burnout reduces productivity and saps your energy, leaving you feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical, and resentful. Eventually, you may feel like you have nothing more to give.

You may be on the road to burnout if:

  • Every day is a bad day.
  • Caring about your work or home life seems like a total waste of energy.
  • You’re exhausted all the time.
  • The majority of your day is spent on tasks you find either mind-numbingly dull or overwhelming.
  • You feel like nothing you do makes a difference or is appreciated.

I’ve put a link to this article in the description box, it’s a really good one, and I wish I’d read it a lot earlier in my life, because looking at that list, I felt all those things, every single one, and alongside those feelings I became unable to control my temper, which made me feel really ashamed.

It wasn’t all the time, but every now and then I would completely unpredictably fly off the handle. It was horrible, and worse when I didn’t know what was going on, didn’t have a word for it, and so wasn’t able to accept that this was a condition with causes, and therefore solutions.

I didn’t know what to call it until about a year ago. Maybe if I lived alone, I would have just lived in denial and not looked it up.

When I realised that it had a name, and started taking it seriously, I realised I had felt that way many, many times before, and just didn’t know what word to call it. And for me, if something doesn’t have a name, then it sort of doesn’t exist and I can just forget about it and just concentrate on other things. So – that was helpful.

I’ve been reading a book recently called “Burnout”. I actually bought it probably about a year ago when I realised that I had this issue that was ongoing. And of course, I didn’t have time to read the book about burnout because I was too busy working! And then it kept happening…

So the time before last, that I felt the symptoms of burnout, I did start to read the book – and I haven’t read the whole book yet but even in just the first part of the book, I’ve learned so much.

It’s been a recurring theme in my diaries for the past bajillion years that whenever I don’t exercise, I feel rubbish. And then when I start exercising again, magically I start to feel better. I’m sure there are many, many medical and scientific reasons for this – we all know that exercise is good for us – but this book “Burnout” explained to me that the reason that it’s so, so powerful when it comes to making my mood lift is because it’s about completing the stress cycle.

Whatever you do in your job, whatever your family situation is, you’re going to experience stress. And if you can’t get that out of your body, then it sits inside – this is the science bit! – it sits inside you, and it festers, and it makes you feel rubbish, and it makes it feel like it’s really hard to do anything.

And I don’t know whether I’ve been confusing the symptoms of burnout for symptoms of depression for years either, because I wouldn’t say that I’m someone who has depression, I’m not someone who has anxiety – I find it very hard to call myself those things without having a diagnosis. If you have them and you don’t have a diagnosis, it doesn’t mean you don’t have them, I’m just saying that I’m unable to label those things in myself without more information.

But it is true, I think, that we all experience different levels of depression and anxiety without necessarily having those things as conditions in our lives. So I’ve experienced those things. They definitely get worse when I don’t exercise, when I don’t eat well, when I don’t rest enough, when I don’t get outside enough and when I don’t do much deep breathing.

So when I do yoga and meditation, when I go running, when I get outside, I “magically” feel better, and what I’ve learned from this book is that it’s directly linked to completing this thing called the stress cycle.

It’s Friday now, and I decided to take this whole week off work to rest and recharge and be adventurous and get outside and do the things that complete the stress cycle, but also have some fun. Like I said, I found myself a little bit annoying in the last video when I was talking about how I didn’t have time to do this, and I don’t make time to do this. And I just thought – make time to do those things.

The other book I’m reading at the moment is called “Four Thousand Weeks” by Oliver Burkeman, and that has had a massive impact on me. Just pointing out the fact that it’s such a waste to keep thinking about the next thing I’m going to do instead of enjoying the thing I’m doing now. It just made me wake up and think summer’s over, I blinked and I missed it. I sat in The Launchpad – my studio at home – making things all summer. I don’t regret that – I really like the things that I make – but that’s what I did all summer, I didn’t come outside really.

And it’s been really hard because of this pandemic to feel safe to be outside a lot of the time, but nothing was ever stopping me from cycling out to the Portishead salt flats. I just decided to stay home for a really long time. Maybe too long, maybe not. I don’t know. I’ve managed to avoid getting Coronavirus, that was my goal. I have achieved my goal. I hope to keep achieving my goal – while living my life and being safe – but living my life.

“Four Thousand Weeks” has just really woken me up. The title refers to the amount of weeks that we will live if we’re lucky and we stick around till our 80s. That’s not a very long time. It’s good to get a lot of stuff done, I love my job – but look at this!

I’ve been seeing the phrase “toxic productivity” around the internet recently, and that’s really interesting because I’m someone who’s read a lot of productivity books, I went freelance at the age of 24? 24. 23? 23. I went freelance at the age of 23, and that is incredibly precocious I now realise, and so I’ve been working for myself for 17 years. I love what I do, I love the creative career that I’ve built, but I agree that there’s a toxic side to this productivity idea. And so that’s why on my channel, I mention “mindful productivity”. Cal Newport, whose books and podcast I really love, was recently talking on his show about “slow productivity”, which to me is the same thing. 

For me it’s about tweaking your life to make sure that you have time to do the things that you really love, and you really care about – whatever that is – while also taking care of yourself. And that’s a journey I’m on…I’m not doing particularly well at it at the moment.

I know when I’m starting to lose interest and not being able to see the point of the things that I do that it’s time to have a rest, but I’m really bad at doing it. And it really pisses me off that I’m bad at doing it because I think it makes me sound like some kind of productivity martyr. And I’ve got no interest in being that person.

So I started with really good intentions of getting outdoors and doing loads of cool stuff – just stuff I’d never tried before. So I booked myself in for a surf lesson at The Wave, which is this incredible powered lake thing in North West Bristol, it’s 15 minutes drive from my house. I went there on Monday and I had a surf lesson, and I’ve never been interested in surfing, I’ve never thought about surfing – the closest I’ve ever sort of come to watching any kind of surfing was on Baywatch when I was a teenager. And I didn’t even watch that much! So yeah, no interest in surfing before now, but it was a really fun thing to do.

And in “Four Thousand Weeks”, Oliver Burkeman writes about telic and atelic activities, and I’ve been thinking a lot about this. So, a telic activity is something that has a point to it, ao it’s got a goal of some kind. And an atelic activity is one that doesn’t, so it could be hanging out with a friend, it could be…surfing for me would be an atelic activity, because I’m not doing it to become a surfer, and I had no expectation that I would stand up on the board or anything, I just went along to do something, to spend time doing something for the sake of doing it, not for the sake of achieving something. And that is quite out of character for me, and therefore a really good thing to try.

I didn’t completely suck. But even if I had, that really doesn’t matter. That’s not the point of it. The point was to get out of my house and go somewhere and do something different. And I got to be around people – and I haven’t been around many people for quite a long time – and it all felt safe, and I had a few little chats with strangers, and that’s something I’ve missed as well.

Then on Tuesday and Wednesday, I sat on my sofa watching Netflix, feeling sorry for myself and deciding that I would never be able to go outside and do anything interesting, that I had no friends, that there was nothing going on in my life of any interest or import – and all of the stuff, all the voices, the voices, the voices. Luckily, Thursday I had planned to see several friends, and yeah, I thought about cancelling all of those things because I was feeling depressed on Tuesday / Wednesday, but I didn’t. So I feel proud of myself for that.

I don’t want to be the person who cancels on their friends – I haven’t been that person for a long time. When I lived in London, and I was “crushing it”, I cancelled on people all the time, and I really regret that now because I don’t live there any more. And those moments, those opportunities to hang out with those people are now gone forever, and that’s a shame.

Today, day five of my week off, has been much better. I again didn’t cancel on someone – and maybe at one point I would have done, if I’d let that voice that says “You don’t deserve to have a nice time”. Do you have that voice? I have that voice. If I let that voice be too loud, maybe I wouldn’t have gone today. But I’m so pleased that I went. And this is was even better than surfing I think – and surfing was wonderful!

I got up at six, because I’ve been doing that, and I met up with my neighbour from two doors down, and she drove us out to Clevedon Marine Lake, and we went swimming. And it was freezing! And it was so beautiful, and so quiet and calm and serene. And, oh, it’s gorgeous. It’s an infinity pool next to the sea, and it’s – oh, I don’t know how to explain it to you, but I took my GoPro so I don’t have to!

I spent the rest of the morning looking at wetsuits and swimming socks, and swimming gloves – these are cycling gloves – but swimming globes, and change robes that you can put on…like, there’s a whole load of stuff you can get. With any new pursuit there’s accessories, you know, you can go as far into it as you want. But I’m just really keen to go again, so that’s why I was looking at these accessories, so that I can go as soon as possible, because it’s obviously going to just keep getting colder now. And it’d be nice to be able to take advantage of the warmer weather as we go into winter.

I’ve been to Portishead before, but further over that way, so I’ve never seen this part, the salt marshes, and it’s quiet here. No-one’s here to laugh at me. I do find it really hard to get outside. I don’t know why. It’s not a habit of mine to spend a lot of time outdoors. Could it be? Could I build a new habit to be outdoors more? Could I build a new habit to go swimming in cold water a couple of times a week? I’d really like that – I’d like to be that person.

The only thing that I don’t like is running out of time, and Oliver Burkeman’s book is helping me reframe that in my mind. Because I’m not running out of time – time isn’t something that I definitely have. Time is something that I can use, but it’s not a resource, because yeah, you only know you had three hours when those three hours are up. Really interesting.

One of the things I wanted to do was give myself a little treat. I’m going to eat a chocolate bar out in the beautiful, beautiful environs of Portishead, who are one of my favourite bands as well. It’s funny to have been into them when I was 15/16…Portishead to me is a band, it’s not a place…but then I’ve lived just down the road from here for three years so it’s very much a place. Sorry to the people of Portishead – you had it first.

It’s just really nice out here. And I love a Twirl… I need to remind myself of things. Like how good Twirls are! Such a good Twirl.

So, here I am.



Share this:
Making more time for creativity | Getting up at 6am for a week

Making more time for creativity | Getting up at 6am for a week

Creativity Letterbox Mindfulness Process Productivity

I decided to challenge myself to get up at 6am every day for a week – and it changed my life!

Join me for a week in my life as a full-time artist, songwriter and podcast maker as I attempt to carve out my own personal timezone and find more hours in the day for making music, plus care for my elderly Miniature Schnauzer Benji during a tough time.

Scroll down for the video transcript, and subscribe to my channel for more!


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 your copy of my new album “Exotic Monsters” right here.

+ Get two free songs immediately when you sign up for thoughtful letters about art and music.

+ Browse episodes of my music podcast “Attention Engineer” here and subscribe via your favourite podcast platform.

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

Have a lovely day xo


I found more time for creativity | Getting up at 6am for a week
TRANSCRIPT


“I’m flagging…I’m flagging now. I’m not sure this would be possible without coffee.”

I first became a morning person in 2008. I blame this guy [photo of my dog Mister Benji looking v. handsome].

Before he scampered into my life, I’d work late every night and get up around 10 or 11 the next day, unless I had to be somewhere for a filming job or a band rehearsal.

Mister Benji helped me learn to appreciate mornings, and I’m very grateful for that.

Over the past few months, I’ve been feeling more than ever like I’m always running out of time. I know I’m not alone here – tell me in the comments will you, what are the things you’d love to spend time on first but always push to the end of your list?

I’m an ambitious person with an insatiable drive to make all sorts of things from music to podcasts to videos and everything in between, and I know I can’t do everything all at once, but I decided drastic action was required to at least try. I wanted to do the time equivalent of looking for money down the back of the sofa. I wanted more hours in the day. Plus, to be honest, I was keen to try anything different after 18 months of the same routine in the same (beautiful) four walls.

There are loads of ways to get more out of your time: reducing distractions, increasing focus by batch working, checking email at specific times only, time block planning your days, using the Pomodoro technique, bullet journalling, eating the frog – you name it, I’ve probably tried it.

What I hadn’t tried before was getting up at 6am.

Getting up early is meant to have huge benefits for your health, stress levels, productivity and success in life.

Ex-Navy Seal, now-author Jocko Willink suggests 4.30am as the best time to get up – he reckons that showing that much self discipline first thing has a major impact on your day, and I don’t doubt it. I was up for it! But, I don’t live alone, and I try to be a considerate person, so forcing my husband Tim to wake up at 4.30 seemed a bit much.

We agreed on 6am instead, which is already at least an hour and a half earlier than usual, two and a half hours on a particularly snoozy day.

To the experiment! Here are the rules: I’ll get up – actually get out of bed – at 6am every day for a whole week. First, I’ll do some exercise, then I’ll head up to my studio. After a breakfast and dog walking break around 9.15-10am, I’ll work til 6 as usual, with a break for lunch of course, then clock off for the evening.

At the end of this video I’ll share my tips on how you can get up earlier and make the most of your day.

DAY ONE


“This is a good idea!

Wow, I’m really hungry. It’s about 7.15am. It’s about 15 minutes before my alarm clock would normally go off, and probably about half an hour to 45 minutes before I’d actually drag myself out of bed. So this is a very good start to the week already. I feel like I’ve given myself the gift of time!

Now it’s time to go upstairs and make some music.”

It felt so freeing to start the day with the thing I love doing the most, the thing my entire creative career is centred around – making music. It’s so easy to get caught up in more straightforward left brain activities like checking email or working through an admin task or, ugh, writing posts for social media to tell people about the music you’re making. I want to make the best use of my time, always, and so it’s always a great day when making music comes first.

Starting first thing is a good way of pushing through the self doubt that’s part and parcel of the creative process, too. I didn’t get a chance to talk myself out of it, basically!

“It’s 2.30, day 1. I feel pretty, pretty tired but coffee number 3 is on the go. It’s been a wildly productive day – I finished a song! But yeah, I am feeling a little bit sleepy now but then I have been up for eight and a half hours. So yeah, that’s to be expected. I think this is a really good development…it’s obviously only day one. We’ll see how it goes…”

DAY TWO

“This must be the earliest I’ve ever thought about going running. That’s not true – I definitely used to go running in the dark in Victoria Park in Bristol before going to work. That was a few years ago. So this is the earliest I’ve thought about going running in eight years.

I feel fine though. I went to bed at 10 or something, so that’s perfectly reasonable. It’s always a bit of a shock to get up anyway.”

If I run, I never regret it. If I don’t, I always do! I started building my running habit from scratch in January 2020 and have pretty much run two or three times a week ever since. Lately I’ve been finding it harder to keep doing it, even though I know it always makes me feel brilliant. But I keep doing it.

Big shoutout to the Running Punks online community, a really welcoming group of people.

It was good to get started earlier than usual because I couldn’t make the excuse that I didn’t have enough time before work.

“It’s just after 8am, and I’m about to start working on music again for the second day in a row. I’ve had my shower, I feel fresh and energised. I don’t feel tired, I don’t feel at all sleepy. I don’t feel distracted, because there hasn’t been any time for anything to get in my head yet. So this is really nice.”

Energised by my run, I spent the whole day working on a song. What a joy.

Whenever I write music, I keep a captain’s log. I clock in and out by writing down the start and finish time of my writing session, I note down what I did and make a list of what needs to be done next at the end. I find it an excellent way of proving to myself that I’ve achieved something, even if nothing’s finished yet, and it leaves me with no doubt about how to get started again the next time. I highly recommend it.

“I mean, I do feel tired… But it’s 11.25, and I’ve spent hours and hours working on a song. I’ve had two coffees today, feeling pretty good. There will be more. But I’m feeling pretty good. I’m going to press on now…”

It seems obvious to me now that I should always, always start my day with something creative. Whether you have 15 minutes spare or 2 hours or anything in between, that’s enough to get going on something you care about, and if you keep coming back and chipping away at it, you’ll be surprised at what you can get done. I give that advice to absolutely anyone else who wants to make stuff – but sometimes I forget to be as nice to myself as I would be to a stranger. That’s something I’m working on…

“It’s about half eight at night, and I am tired. I’m a little bit annoyed because I arranged to do a podcast conversation recording this evening for my show, and I arranged to do at eight o’clock because that is 3pm EST in America, and I knew I was going to have a long day but I thought no, it’s okay because it’ll be good. I really wanted to talk to this person. And I logged on…and they didn’t log on.

And things come up and things change, but it’s a bit rubbish sitting there waiting for half an hour thinking, “Oh, it’s not happening”. And I spent ages prepping – I spend ages prepping for all of my podcast episodes. But prepping involved listening to this person’s really, really brilliant new album and just reading about their interesting life, so that’s okay. So yeah, that’s a shame, but my super productive day was super productive, and that’s what’s important. And now I get to go downstairs and eat chocolate and have a cup of tea and relax before going to bed quite soon.

And we’ll do it all again tomorrow. And Benji is going to be getting his stitches out as well. So that is brilliant.”



DAY THREE

“I’ve been awake for ages!

Wednesday. And Pilates is the thing I’m most likely to skip out on doing in the week of exercise, even though – and maybe because, hmmm – because it’s the thing that I am almost certain is the thing that does the most for me.
Can’t speak, it’s early and I’m tired.

Shout out to Cassey Ho on YouTube for being my Pilates guru. It’s tough, but she’s brilliant.

Just a quick pause to appreciate this attitude [Benji is curled up, asleep].

I’m so happy. It’s only 7.14 am and I’ve just done 36 minutes of Pilates. I feel fresh and wide awake and energised. And now I’ve got two full hours until Tim and I have agreed to meet for breakfast. So I just feel like I can get so much done. So, what’s next?

I’m recording a podcast conversation this afternoon with Rou Reynolds from Enter Shikari. So I’m just going to put the finishing touches to my prep now and there should be enough time before breakfast to make a bit of music.

My neighbours are going to work, and so am I.”


This is where it all started to go a bit wrong. I love past Laura for her optimism, but there wasn’t enough time to make music before breakfast as well as getting ready for my podcast recording, obviously. Instead of choosing to make music in my extra time before the work day started I just…started work early. I wish I hadn’t. I’m still wondering what song I might have written on day 3, if I’d just given myself the chance.

After breakfast we took Benji to the vet’s to get his stitches out. He had a splenectomy eight days before this – they removed his entire spleen because it had a tumour growing inside. It was really scary, especially because he’s 13 and a half, but he bounced right back from the operation, started putting weight back on and generally being his former bouncy self, so we were really happy.

He was very brave when they took the stitches out, and only yelped once. Good boy!

“It’s nearly the end of the day on Wednesday, and I’m not gonna lie, I’m flagging. I’m flagging now. At lunchtime, I was thinking about how nice it would be to just stop. Of course I feel tired, I’ve been up since six. It’s time to finish work soon and relax and have an early night and start again tomorrow.”

DAY FOUR

“I feel okay. This is a good idea!

Day four. Thursday 6.24am. I just wanted to say something: I understand that many people every day get up at 6am. So it’s not that I think this is a really extreme challenge. For me, this is just about having extra time at the beginning of a work day.

Anyway, I’m slightly stalling, which is what I often do when I’m supposed to be going for a run. So I’m gonna go do that now…

[returns]

Did it!”


I’m really kicking myself looking back on this, because this was the second day in a row that I just started my usual work early. I hadn’t realised yet that there was a better way. But hey, that’s what an experiment is for! And because being creative always gives me a buzz, I might not have been feeling like this:

“Seriously flagging now. It feels like I’m in a different time zone because it’s sunny when it should be getting dark or something, even though it’s summer and it doesn’t get dark till like half eight. Just feels weird. I felt really weird yesterday as well. I think I’m focused on work, I think I’m getting things done. I’m gonna keep trying to get things done. The things that I do don’t happen super quickly anyway, they’re not finished quickly. So the day is still happening. I’ve got a couple more hours before I stop and…feeling a bit funny.

But we talked this morning at breakfast about whether this is going to be an ongoing thing because it seems like maybe shunting the day forward as we’ve done for the past few days, just doing it for a week might be more confusing than doing it for a few weeks. I wonder if it’s gonna take a little while for this to feel normal. Because ongoing, this could be normal. There’s no reason why we couldn’t get up at six and have our nice quiet mornings, and then finish on time and then go to bed at a reasonable time so that it doesn’t feel like this.”


DAY FIVE


By the end of the week it had dawned on me that I wasn’t making the best use of my extra hours, so I went out first thing. Tim had surprised me by joining in on the challenge every day, and so together we took our younger dog Alby to the park before 7am. She was a bit surprised, but I think she liked it. It was magical up there at that time of the morning, and although we only saw a few other humans in the woods we weren’t completely alone… [there was a cat in the bushes!]

Getting up at 6am every day was a simple challenge, but there was something strangely thrilling about it. It felt so good to try something new.

I used to think of myself as a roving musical adventurer – up until the end of 2019 I was away for a decent chunk of every year playing shows and doing all sorts of freelance work. I always had a bag half packed. And then…none of that.

I’ve done my best over the past eighteen months, I think we all have, but time just hasn’t held the same sort of possibilities as it used to, so this challenge was a revelation. Opening up the possibility of making something brand new every morning in my studio, or simply getting out into nature and soaking in all this beauty – what a gift. I felt like I’d shaken myself out of a very long, deep, sleep.

Unfortunately, we don’t all get extra time. On Friday lunchtime we got the worst news – while Benji’s operation had been a great success, and he had recovered brilliantly, the story didn’t end there. Our vet called to let me know that Benji has hemangiosarcoma, a mysterious, aggressive and incurable form of cancer. I had been so excited to have my best friend back home and looking healthy again that I’d decided not to worry about the test results that we knew were on the way, and I don’t regret that – worrying is not preparation, after all – but this news was a shock, and I just got through the afternoon as best I could.

DAY SIX

Day Six was a Saturday, and I decided 7am was a nice lie in treat for a weekend, giving me a little bit more sleep but not putting me back to square one. I try not to work every single day, but writing music doesn’t feel like work, and sometimes it’s good to keep pushing ahead with a creative idea while it feels fresh, so I put a few studio hours in and managed to make really good progress on another song before switching everything off for family time in the afternoon.

Rest is so important, and I am NOT great at it. I work really hard, but I do try to balance mindful goal setting and being productive with taking time off to recharge and spend time with the ones I love the most. It’s a work in progress but I am trying – especially now.

DAY SEVEN


It’s Sunday 6:41am and I’ve just done a pre-running Yoga with Adriene sequence. And I have eaten my protein balls and I am just about to get ready to go running. I snuck out of bed this morning without the alarm going off. I keep waking up maybe an hour before, but dozing again. Then because I have an alarm clock with a light, I was able to just turn it off before the birdsong started this morning so as not to disturb Tim, and I snuck downstairs to do my yoga.

Getting up at 6am isn’t just to do work. I’m not a joyless person who is going to work all weekend. But even in the short time I’ve been experimenting with it, I’ve really enjoyed the quiet extra time in the mornings and being able to start work on music really, really early. And that feels like a real achievement.

Look at this guy, though [Benji is snoozing!]

The dogs are not joining in with this experiment, they’re not willing to start the day early. And that’s fine!


[goes running, returns]

[Alby barks]

[laughs] “My friends have come to say hello. Hey Alby!

It’s 9.15 now and no, I haven’t been out for that long. I have a problem, which is a problem you might have as well. This stupid thing. [holds up mobile phone]

“I got stuck to it, and I feel really annoyed because the point of getting up at 6am is not to give myself more time to scroll on my effing phone. So I’ve actually finally again put Freedom on my phone. And this is software that will block me from going on distracting websites, apps, whatever I choose not to go on. So I’ve chosen not to go on anything for the next 23 hours.

And of course after scrolling on this for about an hour this morning, I didn’t really want to go for a run so it was really hard to get out, whereas if I had just kept my forward motion going, then I would have been fine. But as it was I went anyway, and I did four miles which means I think I’ve done about nine in total this week, so I’m really happy with that actually.”


CHALLENGE COMPLETE!


Getting up at 6am for a week changed my life.

It’s 11 days now since I completed my challenge, and I’ve got up at 6am every day since, apart from one day when I got up at 7. I don’t see any reason why I would stop now. I love the early morning quiet, I love not having any excuses not to exercise and I love having creative playtime available first thing in the day. 

I do need to work on getting to bed a bit earlier, not using feeling sleepy as an excuse to eat biscuits all the time and clocking off at 6pm sharp, but I’m only human, you know?

If you’re interested in getting up earlier too, I have some tips for you:

1. Don’t snooze

I’ve done this a couple of times, and felt really annoyed with myself. If I’m going to get up at 6, I should set the alarm for 6. If I’m going to get up at 6.30, I should set the alarm for 6.30. When the alarm goes off, turn on a light, sit up and drink some water. It makes it a lot easier to do the next bit – getting out of bed! After that, you’re rolling.

2. Don’t touch your phone til later in the day

No-one needs extra scrolling time, and you probably got up early to do more useful things than that, so just get on with those first.

3. Go to bed earlier

I didn’t do that, and that was really silly. I turned my light out at 11pm most nights, which was just about ok, but I think if I’d gone to sleep at 10 or even 10.30 I would have felt a drastic difference. Hmm, I really should start doing that now!

4. Plan your meals

I didn’t even consider this. I didn’t think I’d be so hungry earlier in the day, but of course the enzymes in our stomachs start doing their thing whatever time we get up, so a healthy pre-breakfast snack at least would have been very helpful. We weren’t strict about lunchtimes or dinnertimes either, so days when we didn’t get round to eating til late were unpleasant.

So yeah, think about when you’re going to eat, and what you’re going to eat, so you can keep your energy up throughout the day.

5. Do it gradually

If getting up at 6am, or 5am, or 4.30am seems a bit drastic right now, you can get there incrementally – just set your alarm for 15 minutes earlier, or 30 minutes earlier, try that for a few days, and then keep going bit by bit until you reach your desired getting up time.

Please make sure you’re taking care of yourself though, and getting enough sleep for your body and your brain.

Tell me, what time do you get up at the moment, and does it give you enough time to do everything you want? Are you thinking about getting up earlier after watching this video? Let me know in the comments, I’d really love to hear from you.

Thanks for watching! I’ve put links in the description box for my excellent alarm clock, the yoga, meditation and Pilates channels I swear by, the filming gear I use and some special offers, so do check those out.

Make sure you subscribe for future videos on creativity, mindful productivity and digital minimalism, have a poke about on my channel for more videos and visit my website to get two free songs and thoughtful letters about art and music. 

It’s time for another coffee – bye for now!



Share this:
I only did it for him | Garden cleanup time-lapse

I only did it for him | Garden cleanup time-lapse

Creativity Letterbox Mindfulness Process Productivity

Join me as I clear my overgrown back garden so my elderly dog Mister Benji can use it, PLUS enjoy oddly satisfying timelapses! Accidental passionfruit! Gnomes lost in the undergrowth! Potential medical drama!

This video was made by mixing Go-Pro Hero 9 footage with footage from the Canon R6 with the RF 35mm 1.8 lens.

Subscribe to my channel for more!


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 your copy of my new album “Exotic Monsters” right here.

+ Get two free songs immediately when you sign up for thoughtful letters about art and music.

+ Browse episodes of my music podcast “Attention Engineer” here and subscribe via your favourite podcast platform.

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

Have a lovely day xo




Share this:
BUT is it any good? How to assess your own creative work

BUT is it any good? How to assess your own creative work

Creativity Letterbox Mindfulness Process Productivity

It can be really hard to make stuff – but once you’ve got started, how can you assess your own creative work? Is it any good?

We all want to make meaningful art, so in this video I explain how I work out which songs to share, and when it’s time to go back to the drawing board…via a storytime segment about my solo career so far. I bet you don’t know the full story contained within!!!

Scroll down for the video transcript, and subscribe to my channel for more!


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 your copy of my new album “Exotic Monsters” right here.

+ Get two free songs immediately when you sign up for thoughtful letters about art and music.

+ Browse episodes of my music podcast “Attention Engineer” here and subscribe via your favourite podcast platform.

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

Have a lovely day xo


BUT is it any good? | How to assess your own creative work
TRANSCRIPT


It can be really hard to make the thing you want to make  – whether that’s a song, a painting, a film, a handmade mandolin, a carved sculpture of a bear or your very own clothing line.

But once you *have* made some stuff, how do you know if it’s any good?

I’m Penfriend, but my pen friends call me Laura. This video was inspired by a question I received last week from Stephen, who asked me: “How can we properly assess our own work?”

This is such a great question, and it really got me thinking back to my earliest days of gathering together my own songs and starting to share them on the internet.

South London, 2009. I’m renting a draughty maisonette in Herne Hill, a short walk from Brockwell Park. I’ve lived here for a year now with my Miniature Schnauzer puppy Mister Benji, and every morning we look for sticks in the grass. The house is ok…the windows don’t close and I can hear mice scurrying about under the floorboards, but the big draw is the cheap rent and the extra space – I’ve got a dedicated studio room for the first time ever. It’s cramped, it’s messy, but it’s mine, and the walls are painted turquoise – my favourite colour.

I started writing my own songs aged 15, as part of my GCSE music course. They were well-meant, but categorically terrible. It’s fine, we all have to start somewhere.

At the time, I’m just excited to have written something…anything! I love Sheryl Crow, Belly, Blur, Radiohead, Alanis Morrisette and Garbage. Soon I’ll get into Lush, Elastica, The Wonder Stuff, Sleeper, Longpigs and Echobelly. I soak in all the music, savouring it, excited to strike out on my own one day soon and live an exciting, glamorous life like the people in those songs.

I form a band at school, and I join another when that one ends, but it takes me a few more years to start trying to write my own material again. I decide I don’t want to live out that Elastica lyric : “I’ve got a lot of songs, but they’re all in my head”. I’m bored of talking about doing stuff – I want to actually do stuff!

It’s a slow process, but I start capturing my ideas. I fill notebooks with words that mostly make me cringe, and highlight any words or passages that don’t. I fill Minidiscs and teeny Dictaphone cassette tapes with roughly played guitar ideas, most of which I never listen to again.

In 2005, I hear Cat Power’s album “What Would The Community Think” and Carina Round’s album “The Disconnection” on the same day and my mind is blown. I start writing songs in earnest, and learning to demo them in my shared flat above a cafe. During the day, music blasts up through my bedroom floor, making the wood laminate vibrate. In the evenings, I can work as late as I want.

I’m writing things, and sometimes I like what I write, but something’s missing. I don’t know exactly where I’m trying to go, but I know I’m not there yet.

Later that year, heartbroken, I write and record two songs back to back – “ghostsandshadows” and “I Am”. They’re the first songs I’ve written about real events, and there’s something different about them: a resonance, a feeling, a punch in the gut. I don’t play them to anybody else, but I can feel it. I realise what’s been missing.

Back in 2009, I’ve been invited to take part in a community art project called The Apollo Project. Some local artists take over an old video rental shop and turn it into a welcoming space, putting on a programme of events from storytelling performances to writing workshops to gigs to crazy golf.

I’m the “Musician In Shop”, and it’s the push I need to create my first ever musical release. I pick three songs from my burgeoning ideas library, and I finish them. I record them in my messy turquoise room, burn CD-Rs sitting crosslegged on the floor of the shop and package them in DVD cases to fit the video rental theme.

Apart from sticking a couple of old demos on MySpace, this is the first time I’ve shared my recorded music with the world. My first, incredibly DIY, official release.

I’m so proud to have something to hold in my hands, to send in the post to the strangers who buy it from my brand new Bandcamp page. I name it “Three…Two…One…”, but I can’t possibly know where this lift-off is going to take me.

Today, I’m sitting in a much tidier turquoise room, whose name should now make more sense to you: The Launchpad. The place where ideas are encouraged, incubated and nurtured towards lift-off.

===

So, how do you know if your work is good?

Two words leap out at me from my own story: comparison and resonance.

Now, when I say comparison, I don’t mean with other people, but with yourself. I didn’t know whether my songs were good until I’d written a lot of bits of songs, and some complete songs, and could compare them to each other.  When I wrote that first song for GCSE music, I don’t remember thinking that it sucked, I was just really delighted to have written anything. But only by writing more songs could I start to journey towards where I really wanted to be.

Ira Glass from the podcast This American Life famously talked about the gap between our taste, and the work we’re able to make depending on our current capabilities: we want to make things because we have good taste, but our work disappoints us to start with, because we haven’t developed our skills yet.

He says to “Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions…It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through”.

Resonance is something I think about all the time when I’m making new work. To be something I want to share one day, a song has to make me feel something very deeply either when I’m writing it or when I’m listening back. Those two songs I wrote in the dark days after my breakup in 2005 really showed me the way forward and started me on the path towards making my first full length album “Disarm” at the end of 2009.

Again, I hadn’t shared my work online before making my first EP, and I hadn’t played very many gigs either, so I had no real audience feedback to consider, and I had to go with my gut instincts. I’m really glad of that, actually, because not caring about what someone else *might* think meant that I was free to make exactly the music I wanted, and starting my solo career that way was the best thing I could have done. If I couldn’t fully stand behind my work, I wouldn’t have been able to start trying to grow an audience for my music, and I don’t think I’d be telling you my story today.

===

Only you can really know whether what you’ve made is good, because the act of making stuff is an attempt to turn ideas into reality. They’re your ideas, so it’s up to you to decide whether this particular song, painting, photograph or sculpture conveys your idea in the way you want it to. If not, make another one, and then another one. For me, the joy of creation is in the time I spend making the thing, because as soon as it’s finished…I’m excited about the next one.

Speaking of which, I’m uploading new videos about the creative process, mindful productivity and digital minimalism every Saturday – so please click subscribe to join me again in future and check out the links in the description box for some free music and special offers.

If you’re finding it hard to get started with your creative ideas at the moment, check out my video on how to slay your Inner Critic here, and I’ve got a very practical 5 steps to achieve any goal video here.

You can explore my back catalogue of albums here, and my new album “Exotic Monsters” is here.



Share this:
How I get stuff done! | 5 steps to achieve any goal

How I get stuff done! | 5 steps to achieve any goal

Creativity Letterbox Mindfulness Process Productivity

Consistency is the habit that separates people who say “I wish I could…” from those who actually get on with it and put in the work.

It’s not glamorous and it’s not easy, but it will change your life for the better. It helps you get things done, improve your skills and achieve your goals…and I’ve got a very practical 5 step plan to help get you started today.

I recently read “The 12 Week Year” by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington, and this video is partly inspired by that book. I highly recommend you read it if you’re interested in delving deeper into the ideas I’ve discussed here.

Scroll down for the video transcript, and why not subscribe to my channel for more!


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 your copy of my new album “Exotic Monsters” right here.

+ Get two free songs immediately when you sign up for thoughtful letters about art and music.

+ Browse episodes of my music podcast “Attention Engineer” here and subscribe via your favourite podcast platform.

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

Have a lovely day xo


How I get things done! | 5 steps to achieve any goal
TRANSCRIPT


I want to talk to you about consistency.

Consistency is the habit that separates people who say “I wish I could…” from those who actually get on with it and put in the work.

It’s not glamorous and it’s not easy, but it will change your life for the better. It helps you get things done, improve your skills and achieve your goals…and I’ve got a very practical 5 step plan to help get you started today.

I’m Penfriend but my friends call me Laura, and I’ve been a properly full time artist since February 2019. I spend my days right here in my home studio The Launchpad writing songs, making podcasts, making videos and coming up with all sorts of other creative projects.

I am not, and never have been funded by a record label, my parents, my husband Tim or anyone else except the supporters of the things I make, so massive thanks to you.

Before taking the full time artist plunge, I was a freelance filmmaker, photographer, session musician and social media manager making music on the side and hoping to make it my full-time job “one day”. I’m telling you this because, even though I’ve been successfully working for myself for 17 years now, I’ve only very recently discovered the power of consistency, and it’s been an absolute game changer.

Recently I read “The 12 Week Year” by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington, and this video is partly inspired by this book.

As we go through my 5 steps, I’ll use the example of me very recently starting to make weekly YouTube videos to illustrate what I’m on about and give us a chance to get to know each other a bit better.

Step 1: Define your goal

It’s impossible to know whether you’ve reached a goal if you never define what that goal is, and if you don’t know you’ve reached a goal, you don’t get that warm glow of accomplishment that makes all the hard work feel worthwhile, and spurs you onto your next goal.

So, you need to write down what you want to do.

Be really specific with this – in my case, it wouldn’t be particularly useful to write “be successful on YouTube”, because success is something that’s different for everyone. I would never know if I ever reached that goal, because it’s not properly defined.

A good Jedi mind trick is to write about your goal as if it’s already happened, so in my example:

“I am sharing encouraging weekly videos with practical tips on creativity, mindful productivity and digital minimalism on YouTube. I’ve earned 5000 subscribers and counting, I’m having interesting discussions in the comments and I am starting to receive emails with exciting offers of collaborations around the topics I’ve been discussing on my channel. Even better, I have found my holy grail – the perfect doughnut.


I like to write things like this on Post-It notes, in my bullet journal, or on my whiteboard because then I can keep an eye on them. I used to make complicated spreadsheets to plan out all of my goals, which was fine – I do love a spreadsheet – but for me, out of sight is out of mind, and I just kept forgetting about them.

Step 2: Believe in your goal

Many people live full, happy and productive lives without ever writing down the reasons WHY they’re doing things, but if you’re interested in making more of your time, or if you’re feeling like you don’t know how to get started, or what to get started on, writing down this reason why, really defining it, is a hugely helpful tool when – not if, but when – you want to quit.

Spending a bit of time investigating the reasons why you want to reach your goal is never wasted. You might discover you don’t have a compelling enough reason why, and that might mean you realise this goal isn’t for you after all, and that’s fine!

There’s no shame whatsoever in deciding to move on from a goal, even if you’ve had it in your head for a long time. You have to do what’s right for you now, and letting go of a long held dream that just doesn’t fit where you are in your life is a brave thing to do, plus it opens you up to finding an exciting new dream to work towards.

WHY do I want to have an active YouTube channel, with a rising subscriber count?

It’s because I want to help. I think everyone has useful life experience to share, and over my years of making and releasing albums independently, freelancing and generally making it all up as I go along, I’ve learned a lot of stuff. I started thinking that if I was able to offer any practical tips or encouragement to others, then choosing not to do that would be really selfish. That’s my fundamental reason for wanting to make these videos, and the reason for wanting the subscriber count to grow is to be able to share this information more widely, and to make ongoing connections with people like you so I can keep sharing the videos, music and podcasts that I make with people who would get value from those things.

Over the last couple of years I’ve gathered so much information, advice and encouragement from watching videos by people like Matt D’Avella, Casey Neistat, Lizzy Pierce, Beckie & Chris, Thomas Frank, Ali Abdaal, Mary Spender, Wheezy Waiter, Peter McKinnon and, most recently, Laura Try, so it feels right to give something back to the community.

And I’m not going to gloss over the financial aspect of YouTube: there are so many areas where musicians are expected to contribute their work for nothing, that it’s an exciting prospect to enter a community of people where there’s a system for creators to be paid if their work is deemed to be of value by that community. BUT I know that monetising my channel isn’t a good enough goal on its own, so if I wasn’t interested in the other aspects I’ve just described then I wouldn’t be committing to sharing videos like this on an ongoing basis.

By the way, at the time of filming I have 1355 subscribers, so if you’re interested in seeing how my 12 week experiment progresses…please subscribe!

And if you do manage to find a compelling enough reason to embark upon your journey towards your goal, write that down and keep it handy – you’ll need it in step 4.

Step 3: List your actions

The next step is to work backwards from your goal, and make a list of actions that will get you step by step from where you are now, closer to where you want to be. Write everything down, even if it seems silly or small. A plan is not a plan until it’s written down – before that, it’s just a bunch of ideas swirling around in your brain. You might remember to do some of the things, but probably not all of them, and there’s just such power in seeing what you’re going to do and ticking it off as you go along. That sense of forward motion really helps to keep things on track.

Here’s my list:

  • Watch a lot of videos on YouTube about making videos on YouTube (but learn when to stop watching and start making!)
  • Take Matt D’Avella’s Master YouTube course – which was brilliant, by the way
  • Create Apple Notes folder for keeping track of video ideas
  • Set up existing video equipment and see if there’s anything else I need
  • Test my setup
  • Tidy my studio
  • Script my first video

Completing that list took me about 6 months, and that’s okay. Now I’ve finally got started, my weekly actions are:

  • Research next video
  • Script next video
  • Outline the following two videos
  • Shoot video
  • Edit video
  • Upload video
  • Start scripting next week’s video if I have time

It’s a lot, but I only stand a chance of doing it if it’s written down.

Step 4 is the key to the castle. EXECUTE CONSISTENTLY

Once you have your list of actions, book them in. Use a paper or online diary or calendar to make appointments with yourself, that you will keep.

You’re making a commitment to yourself here. If you’ve found a compelling reason to work towards this goal, you do not need to be wasting time every day deciding whether to execute your action or not. In “The 12 week Year” they talk about “choosing greatness in the moment”. Humans will always default to choosing comfort, unless we have a strong enough vision why we should choose discomfort.

I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve woken up, asked myself “will I run today?” and replied “nah, can’t be arsed”. SO MANY TIMES. These days I’m so proud of being able to show up for myself when I say I’m going to. It’s such a good feeling. 

Consistency is what it’s all about. I find physical goals easier to understand, because it’s more obvious to me that if I can’t do a full pushup today, that’s not because I’m a bad, untalented person with no future, it’s because the muscles I need to be able to do a pushup aren’t strong enough yet. If I were to find a training plan to learn how to do pushups, and carry that out consistently over a number of weeks or months, I know that one day eventually  I’ll be able to do a full pushup.

It’s harder with non-physical things we wish we could do already – I’d love to be able to paint really well, for example, and if I picked up a paintbrush and had a go today I’m confident the result would be pretty disappointing. If I took a course in painting, and practised my new skills regularly, my painting would certainly improve, and so I know the only thing between me now and future painter me is consistent hard work. But, to be honest, I don’t have a strong enough reason why I should put all that work and time into improving my painting skills, so that’s something I don’t have to feel guilty or regretful about any more. I’ll let other people be great at painting, and support them instead. Hooray!

For my YouTube channel, I’ve booked in Thursdays and Fridays for making videos, with a weekly upload schedule of Saturday morning at 7am. It’s late Friday afternoon when I’m filming this, so I’m cutting it a bit fine and I’ve realised I need to get started much earlier in the week – maybe Monday or Tuesday! – BUT because my WHY is strong and my determination slash stubbornness is also very strong, I will be executing all my actions on time, uploading this video at 7am tomorrow, and learning from my mistakes for next week.

When – and I do mean when – you falter, and feel like you can’t be bothered to keep up with your plan, and what’s the point of any of this anyway, go back to your list of reasons why you’re doing this. Read through them, ponder them, read through them again, give yourself a break and then get back on it. You don’t have to give up because you missed some appointments. Just start again.

I know that working towards my goals isn’t usually going to feel like a freaking party, but because I really believe that I’m spending my time in valuable ways, and moving steadily towards my big goals in life, I’m all in.

This feels like a good moment for an inspirational quote:

“You can’t build a reputation on what you’re *going* to do…” – Henry Ford

And how about this bonus unicorn? You’re welcome.

Step 5: Track and score

Tracking your actions will make you feel good and make you want to do more things so you can tick them off. That’s just science.

I track my exercise habits in my bullet journal – I create a monthly spread with a column for each action, and I add a cross when I’ve done each thing. At the end of each week I add up how many miles I’ve run, because that makes me feel proud, and I find I really enjoy looking at the page fill up with crosses throughout the month. I get a real sense of progress from that.

Another of my favourite parts of “The 12 Week Year” is the idea of tracking actions and results, but only scoring yourself on the execution of your actions.

In my YouTube example, I have two actions per week, each worth 50% of my total score:

Action 1 – work on videos 2 days a week

Action 2 – upload a new video every Saturday

Scoring the actions not the results is another new thing for me, and I love it. Just because I write down a random number of subscribers I’d like to have in 12 weeks time doesn’t mean that will happen based off the actions I’m taking. If I don’t reach 5000 subscribers in 12 weeks, but I do spend my two days a week working on videos and I upload every Saturday as planned, I haven’t failed just because I guessed a number wrong. I’ve achieved a lot more than I would have done if I didn’t have a plan, and I didn’t stick to the plan.

I know it’s addictive – numbers are everywhere online and it can feel like the world is judging us poorly if those numbers are smaller – or bigger – than we want them to be, but we’re human beings, not robots, and numbers are meaningless without context.

Bonus step 6: tell a friend

We’ve talked about accountability to yourself being a wonderful thing to work towards, but telling someone else what you’re doing is a very powerful tool. Tell a trusted person about your plan, someone you know won’t tell you it’s stupid or pointless – choose wisely, because you don’t need that sort of energy when you’re working hard to change your life.

You can do this!

Speaking of telling supportive people about your plans, that’s what I’ve just done in this video, haven’t I – so please do check back next Saturday and feel free to have a go at me if I haven’t uploaded my next one.

Step by step, slow and steady wins the race.

Now, where’s that doughnut?



Share this:
How to stop your inner critic from holding you back

How to stop your inner critic from holding you back

Creativity Letterbox Mindfulness Process Productivity

Your inner critic is the annoying voice inside your head that whispers mean things to you. It’s holding you back from trying new things, putting yourself out there and living the creative life you dream of – so I made this video to help.

Scroll down for the transcript, and subscribe to my channel for more!


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 your copy of my new album “Exotic Monsters” right here.

+ Get two free songs immediately when you sign up for thoughtful letters about art and music.

+ Browse episodes of my music podcast “Attention Engineer” here and subscribe via your favourite podcast platform.

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

Have a lovely day xo


How to stop your inner critic from holding you back
TRANSCRIPT

Have you ever thought you were good enough?

The Inner Critic is a name for the voice we all have inside. You know, the one that says you don’t deserve this, or you can’t do that…you’re no good, you’re bad, wrong, inadequate, worthless.

Inner Critic: “Ughhhh, who do you think you are anyway?”

Laura: “Yeah ok, but I was just talking to this person about -“

Inner Critic: “And what do you know about popular psychology? You’re supposed to be a musician aren’t you?”

Laura: “Well yes, but I want to help this person here with -“

Inner Critic: “And not a very good musician either, are you HAHAHA…”

Laura: “Come on now, that’s just mean…”

Inner Critic: “And you’ve got funny teeth and your hair is rubbish and your nose is too small and -“

Laura: “Enough! Enough! Okay, okay. I won’t do it, I give up. You win. Again.”

Inner Critic: “HAHA I knew you didn’t have the guts to try something new.

===

I think I tricked it…it’s gone for now, but I’d better be quick before it gets back and starts up again.

Let’s be frank here: your inner critic, your inner voice, your ego, Steve – whatever you want to call it – can be a nasty little monster – and like opinions, everyone’s got one.

It can really get in the way – increasing our feelings of anxiety, lowering our self worth, even making us hate ourselves. It can stop us from feeling brave enough to try new things, and tell us all sorts of lies about ourselves.

I’m not saying that every single person watching this video isn’t an awful human being – statistically speaking, there have to be some arseholes tuning in, but you’re obviously not one of those, so I’m here to help.

What are we going to do about this gross, intrusive little creature? We’re going to slay it. Not in the modern sense of the phrase “to slay”…but in the medieval sense, you know? We’re going to fight back, basically.

It makes me really sad thinking about all the music, drawings, photographs, videos, books and who knows what else that might not get made because their potential creators feel unable to get started.

On Instagram Stories recently, I asked the question: “What’s currently stopping you from embarking on your next creative project?”

The answers were interesting…and quite repetitive:

  • I don’t have time
  • I don’t have any talent
  • Lack of money and equipment
  • Children
  • Money and time
  • My day job
  • A loss of confidence
  • Talent and ability
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Lack of time
  • Time
  • Lack of energy from my day job – and money
  • Learning how to use my equipment
  • Me and my brain

Now these are mostly lies – lies and excuses. Now, I don’t blame the lovely people who wrote these to me, not one bit – they’re great people, and so are you! BUT the more I read through that list and thought about what those simple sentences were really saying, the more I realised…that bloody inner critic was speaking for them!

I really am here to help, so I worked through the list and divided the lies and excuses into four categories:

  1. Lack of money / equipment
  2. Lack of talent
  3. Lack of technical knowledge
  4. Lack of time

I get it, I really do. I’ve told myself all of these things in the past, and more, and truly meant them. Let’s take a closer look at this list:

  1. Lack of money / equipment

You need equipment to do your creative thing, and you need money to get the equipment. Or, you need more money to give you the time off work to spend on your creative thing. You don’t have the money, so you can’t do the creative thing. 

Why this is your inner critic talking, and how to shut it up.

The fanciest camera, shiniest guitar or poshest pen in the universe does not have the power to make your work good. Only you have that power, and you can absolutely find a cheaper way of getting started. Could you borrow equipment from a friend, or save up gradually over time and get a second hand version off eBay? I think you could. That’s how I got started. 

We can’t always start off with the perfect set of tools, but we can start. I am so thankful to have this room to work in now, but when I started recording my own music 16 years ago, it was in this corner of my bedroom in a shared flat above a cafe in South London, and I made it work.

2. Lack of talent

“But I wasn’t born with the innate ability to write the novel of my generation, or play the trumpet, or paint a photo realistic picture of a dog wearing a crown!”

Me neither, me neither. Guess what – my first dozen songs SUCKED. Seriously. But why should they have been great?

Why this is your inner critic talking, and how to shut it up.

We see the finished versions of other peoples’ projects, and compare what we think we’re capable of to that. What we think we’re capable of is very often far below what we’re actually capable of, or could be capable of if we pushed ourselves, or studied the thing we want to get good at, or worked with a coach.

Talent is seriously overrated – what actually matters is doing stuff. Turning up consistently and doing the work. You only get better by doing stuff. So…do stuff.

3. Lack of technical knowledge

It’s overwhelming when you want to do something but you know you don’t know how to do it. Perhaps you need to learn how to use some software, or hardware, but you’re not sure which software to get and anyway if you did get it you don’t know how it works and – “Screw it, I’m not doing it! It’s too hard, and that voice in my head keeps telling me I’d be no good at it anyway”.

Why this is your inner critic talking, and how to shut it up.

There has never been a better time to not know how to do something, because it couldn’t be easier to learn how to do pretty much anything, usually for free, on the internet. 

Are you absolutely sure you could never learn how to do that new thing? But…you learned how to do that other thing, didn’t you? In fact, everything you can do now, you learned at some point in your life. You can learn. You have learned. You will learn again. And look, you’re in exactly the right place to actually do some learning – for free! Are you…learning now?!

Every time I realise I don’t know how to do something in whatever software I’m using – Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, Logic, Apple Notes – whatever – I take a moment to formulate the question I would ask a tech support person, if there was one to hand, and then I type that question into YouTube. You just have to figure out what the question is, and the answer usually isn’t too far away. Someone else has learned the thing you want to learn, and has had questions about it too.

Other places you can try include online course platforms like Skillshare and Masterclass – I have a paid subscription to both of those – and of course, books and teachers and whatnot. I know your inner critic wants to catch me out and tell me I’m wrong, or I’ve forgotten one but hey, I’m just saying it’s very easy to dip your toe in the water of learning new things right here, for nought pence, or in those other places, for some very well spent pounds, if you have them.

4. Lack of time

You’re so busy – life is full. There’s so much to juggle – you need to earn money to pay for food and housing, perhaps support a family. There’s no time left to do anything that doesn’t support that – you might even feel that putting aside time for your own interests would be selfish.

Why this is your inner critic talking, and how to shut it up.

I’m not going to try to be charmingly rude about this one, because it’s a very sensitive subject. But here’s how I look at it: I believe that I only get one shot at life, and I want to make it count. When I’m older I don’t want to regret all the things I never tried – I find that idea very depressing. This is not to say that I have no care for personal responsibilities; I have always earned all my own money and paid my own way in life, but I have made it a priority to show up consistently and put a bit of time in here and there to inch slowly – sometimes very slowly – towards my goals.

We have so much more choice than we might think about how we spend our time. Be really honest with yourself. What could you cut back on?

It might seem like we need long stretches of uninterrupted time to be creative: the perfect day where we don’t have to do anything else; where we wake up on exactly the right side of the bed after exactly the right amount of beautiful, restful sleep; where the weather is exactly as we like it, with the temperature is just so; where we have access to every single piece of shining equipment we could ever dream of, which we know exactly how to use, and is all set up and working perfectly, ready to respond to our great inspiration… But if everyone waited for these pretty weird conditions to be met, next to nothing would ever be made.

So many great novels have been written in half hour chunks before the writer went to work for the day, so many songs written in snatched moments between work time and family commitments.

Creativity is all about limitations: mediums, formats, edges. Carve out 15 minutes here, half an hour there, two hours over there, and just keep chipping away at it. It’ll feel way better than waiting for the perfect day, I promise.

How to slay your inner critic

I’ve gone through all four of your top creative barriers and neatly debunked them all, but it’s not as simple as all that, is it? Watching a woman talk at you on the internet will not fix all of your problems, though I do hope it’s helped a bit to find out that you’re not the only person dealing with this nonsense on a daily basis.

Can I tell you a secret? When I was planning this video I suddenly found lots of time to tidy my room, clean the kitchen and get the laundry done, which are the three things I probably care about the least in life. I know from experience that whenever I start fussing about in the kitchen I’m really just putting off doing something more important.

So, completing this video and uploading it will be a major achievement for me, and will really piss my Inner Critic off.

Speaking of which, it’s time to face up to that horrible creature and actually do something to…if not get rid of it, at least forcefully shush it so you can figure out what you’d like to do and actually get on with it.

It’s quite simple.

The next time you notice your inner critic saying something mean to you – take a pen and a piece of paper, and write it down. Then when it says something else – perhaps “Why are you writing this down, you weirdo?” – write that down as well. Keep adding to the list as and when you are informed by your Inner Critic that you don’t have the talent, the skills, the ability to learn new things, the time, the energy, the right gear, face, hair, teeth, shoes, or left earlobe to get going with whatever it is that you want to spend your precious, precious time on.

You’ve now reached the choose your own adventure part of this video. Only you can choose your path ahead.

Here’s the first option: rip the page or pages out of your notebook and crumple them up, while laughing derisively. You can tear the pages into shreds, you can (safely) light them on fire – you do you. Life is short! Have fun! Be careful with matches!

The second option is this: find a quiet 10 minutes to sit down in private and read through the list. Imagine that your closest friend has presented this list to you, saying it’s how they think about themselves. What would you say to them? Write that down. Be honest – no-one else is going to read this but you.

Next, imagine that someone you sort of thought you liked has presented this list to you, saying it’s what they think about you. What would you say to them? Write that down.

Then, go back to option 1 and laugh like a Bond villain.

We’re very good at telling ourselves all sorts of stories, which are usually presented as facts. But please try to remember – thoughts are not facts.

Your inner critic is a real thing to contend with, but it’s coming from inside you. The more you can identify, challenge and at least quiet down the chatter, the more you can give yourself permission to spend time on the things that really matter to you.

I hope this video helped you today. I really would love to hear about your creative goals, dreams, hopes and schemes in the comments below, and if you have any creative barriers I haven’t covered here, feel free to let me know about those.

I’ll be sharing more on creativity, mindful productivity and digital minimalism in future videos, so if you have any suggestions or questions, I’d love to read those too.

Thanks for watching, and good luck in the fight against your Inner Critic. You can do it.

Share this:
I’ll Start A Fire (18/5/21)

I’ll Start A Fire (18/5/21)

Creativity Homepage Feature Letterbox Music News Releases Singles

Release date: 18th May 2021
Label: My Big Sister Recordings

GET THE SONG

+ Click to download pay what you want/can from Bandcamp.
+ Get three album tracks immediately when you pre-order my new album “Exotic Monsters” with a download
+ Join The Correspondent’s Club and get all Penfriend singles as part of membership
+ Type “penfriend I’ll start a fire” into your digital music platform of choice.



ABOUT THE SONG

“I’ll Start A Fire” is a song about causing a ruckus even while everything is going wrong, cutting bad connections and ignoring all the noise in order to be free and express ourselves honestly. Taking whatever personal power we still have and making something with it, stopping ourselves from stopping ourselves. 

As soon as I’ve decided I’ve got all the songs lined up for an album, I can rely on one or two cheeky musical ideas to come along and demand my attention. 

“I’ll Start A Fire” was the first of two songs I wrote in September 2020 that jostled for a space on the record (the second was “Black Car”), and I’m so glad they did. 

Giving yourself permission to be you can be one of the hardest things, and has really been a process for me, but it’s brought great joy and fulfilment to my life in recent years. I highly recommend giving it a try.

CREDITS

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

LYRICS

I stole a car in a dream
And now I’m feeling paranoid
Well I spent so long ignoring my instincts
Now I’m searching to destroy

I’ll start a fire while the world burns
I’ll start a fire, I’ll start a fire

So I sink these heavy words in a diary
And take them all to heart
Gonna build myself a fortress of vanity
And then I’ll fall apart

I’ll start a fire while the world burns
I’ll cut connections while the planet turns
I’ll start a fire cos it seems we’re elbow deep
In cheap banalities
I’ll start a fire, I’ll start a fire

I’ll start a fire while the world burns
I’ll cut connections while the planet turns
I’ll start a fire cos it seems we’re elbow deep
In cheap banalities
I’ll start a fire, I’ll start a fire

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 your copy of my new album “Exotic Monsters” right here.

+ Get two free songs immediately when you sign up for thoughtful letters about art and music.

+ Browse episodes of my music podcast “Attention Engineer” here and subscribe via your favourite podcast platform.

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

Have a lovely day xo


Share this:
Seventeen (23/4/21)

Seventeen (23/4/21)

Creativity Homepage Feature Letterbox Music News Releases Singles

Release date: 23rd April 2021
Label: My Big Sister Recordings

GET THE SONG

+ Click to download pay what you want/can from Bandcamp.
+ Get three album tracks immediately when you pre-order my new album “Exotic Monsters” with a download
+ Join The Correspondent’s Club and get all Penfriend singles as part of membership
+ Type “penfriend seventeen” into your digital music platform of choice.



“Cavernous as its darkly-elliptical tale unfolds, “Seventeen” careens with compassion”The Autumn Roses

“An enormous pop-rock anthem with a heart-throttlingly poignant story [by] Penfriend aka singer/songwriter/producer/genius example of how to do independent musicianship right, Laura Kidd” Loud Women (single of the week)

ABOUT THE SONG

Seventeen. Is there a more complicated age? Not quite yet an adult, but impatient to be treated like one; navigating an avalanche of new experiences and urgent emotions, dismissed by the grownups as “teenage angst” or “just a phase”. An exhausting quest to negotiate a new space for ourselves, juggling the interests of parents, teachers and friends while not knowing to question their motives. 

This song is an excavation, a letting go, an act of self-forgiveness.

Traumatic events from the past can feel just as fresh, years later, the ghosts of our former selves creeping up to tap us on the shoulder with icy fingers. 

Sometimes we need to package up our memories with tidy words to dispel the haunting. 

Sometimes we just need to stop blaming ourselves. 

Sometimes writing songs is like painstakingly sculpting sounds from thin air; other times they arrive in a whoosh, fighting to be heard. “Seventeen” appeared on a summer Saturday evening, falling out of me in jagged swathes.

Facing up to our ghosts isn’t a pleasant experience, but this song helped me over a major stumbling block from my past, bringing me a fresh perspective and new freedom. 

CREDITS

Written, produced, performed and recorded by Laura Kidd at The Launchpad, Bristol. Drums by Max Saidi. Piano arranged by Laura Kidd, performed and recorded by Catherine Anne Davies. Mixed by Dan Austin. Mastered by Katie Tavini. Artwork by Alex Tillbrook, concept by Laura Kidd.

LYRICS

Happy birthday, time to say goodbye
Such a big girl, keep all this inside
Dial back those dreams
Wishing impossible things
Bursting your seams
It hurts when we grow

Tell me what you wanted
I was seventeen
Tell me I deserved it
Because I was seventeen

Toxic teens on mixtape afternoons
Photostatic memories of you
Fold paper planes
Pull them apart when it rains
Smash windowpanes
Stretching our wings alone

Tell me what you wanted
I was seventeen
Tell me I deserved it
I was seventeen
Tell me it was all my fault
I was seventeen
Tell me you remember

Tell me what you wanted
I was seventeen
Tell me I deserved it
I was seventeen
Give me a good reason
I was seventeen
Tell me you’re so sorry
I was seventeen

Thanks for visiting my website!

New to my musical world?

+ Get two free songs music immediately by joining my mailing list.

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

+ I make a podcast called “Attention Engineer”, where I speak to fellow artists about creativity, grit and determination. Visit this page to find out more.

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

Have a lovely day xo

Share this:
Black Car (26/3/21)

Black Car (26/3/21)

Creativity Homepage Feature Letterbox Music News Releases Singles



Release date: 26th March 2021
Label: My Big Sister Recordings

GET THE SONG

+ Click to download pay what you want/can from Bandcamp.
+ Get three album tracks immediately when you pre-order my new album “Exotic Monsters” with a download
+ Join The Correspondent’s Club and get all Penfriend singles as part of membership
+ Type “penfriend black car” into your digital music platform of choice.



ABOUT THE SONG

Black Car” is a song about love and death, guilt and gratitude, taking time to figure out what’s most important, feeling desperately sad and isolated and grieving the loss of so many. Dealing with anger and frustration at the UK government for making so many missteps. Trying to keep on keeping on, while finding it hard to see a way out of this, however many “roadmaps” are announced. Accepting – and feeling – our feelings.

“That this single release marks the first anniversary of the first UK lockdown is an accident, but sometimes things just fall into place like that when we focus on what’s important to us. Throughout this loneliest of years, I’ve tried to keep connected to humanity through making and releasing new music, podcast episodes and my weekly emails, doing what I can to create pinpoints of light in dark times. With all the gratitude in the world, I have to remind myself it’s still ok to feel wounded by what’s been going on and to feel scared about what’s to come. We will all be changed by this experience, and at the root of everything is the love we have for others.”

I don’t know what other bands “Black Car” sounds like, or have any clever phrases lined up to entreat you to click “play”. This is an honest, melancholy song about a universal experience that will be discussed in the history books of the future, guitars and synths centred around a heady electronic heartbeat, with a reverent Kurt Vonnegut reference (“loving echoes”) in the middle.

Keep your loved ones close x

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 Laura Kidd.

LYRICS

Remember the summer when everyone stayed at home?
Ships in a bottle, stacked up with our lives on hold

If we could really see the warnings that were written before
If we could really feel
Our hearts would smash all over the floor

Hear me now, I can feel the thunder
March me out with the fallen number
Will there be – is there a black car waiting for me?
Keep your loved ones close

This is surviving, but we’re having a god damn year
Tired of climbing, but the universe left us here

And on my worst of days
I want to keep wanting to be kind
But everywhere I see machines are taking over our minds

Hear me now, I can feel the thunder
March me out with the fallen number
Will there be – is there a black car waiting for me?
Keep your loved ones close

Keep your loved ones close
Even on calm waters, waves will rise
As my heart explodes
Loving echoes dancing in my eyes

Keep your loved ones close
Keep your loves ones close
Keep your loved ones close

Hear me now, I can feel the thunder
March me out with the fallen number
Will there be – is there a black car waiting?

Hear me now, I can feel the thunder
March me out with the fallen number
Will there be –
Is there a black car waiting for me?

Keep your loved ones close

Thanks for visiting my website!

New to my musical world?

+ Get two free songs music immediately by joining my mailing list.

+ I send a thoughtful email every week – 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 YouTubeTwitterInstagram and Facebook.

Have a lovely day xo

Share this:
Cancel Your Hopes (5/3/21)

Cancel Your Hopes (5/3/21)

Creativity Homepage Feature Letterbox Music News Releases Singles



Release date: 5th March 2021
Label: My Big Sister Recordings

GET THE SONG

+ Click to download pay what you want/can from Bandcamp.
+ Get “Cancel Your Hopes” plus two more songs when you pre-order my new album “Exotic Monsters”
+ Join The Correspondent’s Club and get all Penfriend singles as part of membership
+ Type “penfriend cancel your hopes” into your digital music platform of choice.


ABOUT THE SONG

The song that took 15 years to write…sort of. 

“Cancel Your Hopes” is about doing everything you were told was right and then realising the world’s going to end despite your best efforts. Left stranded by those who were once the grownups, our mission is to keep trying to appreciate the incredible fact of simply existing in this beautiful world, while attempting to navigate the toxic parts of technology, live a meaningful life of use to others, love deeply and learn to accept love, leaving as little negative trace on the planet as possible while doing so. 

In June 2019 I spent several hours enjoying Radiohead’s “Minidiscs [Hacked]” – a collection of demos and live recordings released on Bandcamp after they were somehow stolen. The experience was very moving – intimate, almost too fly-on-the-wall nosey – and a handy reminder that even the greatest bands on the planet have to work to create their art. 

I started to feel guilty for listening to someone else’s ideas archive when I had my own gathering dust in the corner of my studio. I started working through my own minidisc collection, listening through to snippets of ideas from my early days of writing, and was excited to come across a riff and chords idea from 2005 which became “Cancel Your Hopes”. I used the chorus melody from the original recording, wordless apart from the phrase “fucking beautiful”, which I also kept because it created such a key moment of intensity in that melodic line. I rarely swear in song, but sometimes there is no other option. 

The same week, I’d finished having my mind blown apart by Barbara Kingsolver’s beautiful, devastating novel “Flight Behaviour”. While reading I’d scribbled copious notes: scraps of words and phrases that resonated with me from the book plus thoughts, feelings and phrases of my own sparked by her writing. 

The music and words soon collided with a joyous bang. 

When I was at school I remember teachers and the newspapers saying we were going to have to deal with the effects of global warming in 15 years time…then everything seemed to go quiet. It’s an understatement to say there is work to do, but I want to believe in a future for this messy, complicated, potentially wonderful species. 

CREDITS

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

LYRICS

Cancel your hopes, dear 
Do you remember when this was all fields? 
Boys in the boardroom backslapping their deals 
There’s a hole in our bucket, dear Liza – a hole 

Walk the high wire with no mind for the crash 
Are we in denial or do we crave collapse? 
Can’t look strangers in the eye 
Is that cos we are terrified? 

Cos you know that we said forever 
And you see that there’s nothing left 
So let’s stand til we all fall over 
Take my hand cos it’s so fucking beautiful 

Cancel your hopes, please 
The planet’s on fire while we’re stroking our screens 
Buy better headphones to muffle their screams 
There’s a hole in our bucket 
And everyone knows 

Walk the high wire with no mind for the crash 
Are we in denial or do we crave collapse? 
Won’t look strangers in the eye 
Is that cos we are dead inside? 

Cos you know that we said forever 
And you see that there’s nothing left 
So let’s stand til we all fall over 
Take my hand cos it’s so fucking beautiful 

Now I see that we’re going under 
But I know that there’s nothing else 
So as long as we stand together 
Take my hand cos you’re so fucking beautiful

Thanks for visiting my website!

New to my musical world?

+ Get two free songs music immediately by joining my mailing list.

+ I send a thoughtful email every week – 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 YouTubeTwitterInstagram and Facebook.

Have a lovely day xo

Share this: