Album update: how not to get overwhelmed by big projects and the danger of endless lists

Album update: how not to get overwhelmed by big projects and the danger of endless lists

Letterbox Mindfulness Process Productivity

Old Tape” image by Ozant Liuky from Pixabay

Suddenly, I find myself with only a little bit of an album to complete.

You might know I started writing this new collection of songs in February 2019, and the next six months proved to be such a transformative period that I ended my longtime music project to start this new one – and I’m so thankful you’ve decided to join me on Mission: Penfriend.

I recorded and mixed six songs by the end of the summer then set off on various tours, spending long solitary driving hours pondering my musical future, making plans and gradually figuring out the best way to make my transition. Recording stopped, pretty much, til December, but snippets of songs were still being recorded into phone memos.

This February I wrote four songs in one day, egged on by my friend, guitarist Charley Stone. We were playing the 20 Song Game, which I love, and I went from being sure which 6-ish more songs I was going to finish and record to being a bit overwhelmed by choice. In music, this is very much a “high class problem”, but it was a problem nevertheless.

Last week I sat at my desk and listened to all the things I’d chucked into my Works In Progress (WIP) folder and made a shortlist. It’s not very short, but it’s a list and I’m going with it!

I find that with any self-motivated project, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the little decisions that need to be made. You can’t write “make an album” or “write a book” on your to do list and expect to get anything done. Your brain sees the words and runs away to hide in tasks that are easy to conceive of and easy to complete. I joke – though it’s not really a joke – that the only time I start thinking about cleaning the house is when I have a day free to make music. My brain just can’t handle such a tenuous concept. I have to sneak up on it, breaking down the massive inconceivable task into tiny pieces. Sit at desk, make list of potential songs, plug in guitar…

Deadlines help, but it’s hard to obey self-imposed deadlines, especially when there are so many other things I “need” to do, not to mention scary world events to deal with in some way. I recently hired myself for the pretty hefty part time job of podcaster, which is going really well, and could easily engulf my entire week if I let it.

I’m also acutely aware that I’m a terrible workaholic, more than happy to dive into my endless schemes and dreams at the expense of having any time off. I love what I do so much and have always been really bad at stopping, ever. I’m trying to get better at that.

There will always be more stuff I’d like to make and do and, because of how my mind works, that will never come to an end, so I could feasibly work 12 hour days forever and never be “finished”. I write this here to remind myself, more than anything else, and perhaps to nudge you to be good to yourself, too.

I spent part of Sunday reading through the daily diary I wrote in the year I turned 18. It was a disappointing read, to be honest, the amount of times I wanted to shake my younger self and say “please just break up with him once and for all and do NOT go back!” was kind of painful, and I closed the book feeling really sad for this confused young person who was already displaying the workaholic tendencies I mentioned earlier. Why I was working 3-4 very late nights a week at a pizza restaurant around supposedly revising for my A levels I don’t know, and I wish someone could have stepped in and explained a few things to me about sleep, priorities and focus.

This week I’ve been trying to meditate those futile feelings of frustration, anger and sadness out of my body, alongside trying to set myself up for a successful week. I’ve mentioned Cal Newport tons of times before, but I listened to episode 1 of his new podcast “Deep Questions” on the weekend and it was so timely for me. My phone is now switched off and sitting behind a closed cupboard door, I turn it on once a day to check for voicemails and WhatsApp my sister and a few friends and that’s quite enough. I’m not checking email til the afternoon, and only once if I’m not waiting for something from someone.

Evenings are for dinner with my husband, snuggles with the dogs, reading and board games. I have two days a week booked for podcast work and three for music making. I have an album to finish!

What are your weekly priorities these days? Have they changed since COVID-19? Do you have any productivity / focus tips or links to share?

I have one more before I sign off for the week – check out my favourite YouTube channel by Matt D’Avella. I highly recommend his videos on minimalism, essentialism and getting things done while living a balanced life. He’s great. I’m a bit addicted…

Take care, and I hope to get to play for you at my upcoming online gig:

Next Thursday 25th June at 8pm BST I’ll be playing my monthly Correspondents-only online gig. Digipals and up will receive a link by email on Wednesday which you can use to watch live on the night or watch again later if you can’t make it. Leave me any questions in the comments and I will answer them!

Laura xoxoxo

THANK YOU for visiting my website!

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

+ I send a thoughtful weekly email every Thursday – 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 YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Have a lovely day xo

Share this:
You are not a number (and neither am I)

You are not a number (and neither am I)

Homepage Feature Letterbox Mindfulness Minimalism Process Productivity


“Attention Engineer” episode 4 is available now, featuring my conversation with songwriter Frank Turner! Recorded on the precipice of the UK lockdown backstage at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, Frank talks very candidly about the highs and lows of touring, the importance of giving a leg up to other artists and the unsustainability of being an arsehole in the music industry, alongside his love of Chas ‘n’ Dave and a surprising story about an ex-Prime Minister that leaves me speechless.

Thanks to everyone who’s rated and reviewed the show so far, it’s massively helpful especially over on Apple Podcasts, because that’s how new listeners find out about things.


On 1st June I made a birthday promise to myself to meditate three times a week, after managing to completely let it slide for several months. Of all the things I put into my new morning routine at the start of the year, I know that meditation is by far the most nourishing, and so I have done 6 x 10 minute sessions in the past couple of weeks.

Meditation grounds me, energises me and focuses me. It’s an opportunity to reflect, to notice what’s jumping about uppermost in my busy thoughts, to process immediate stress, to feel like I’m doing something caring for myself. But the problem with being more self aware is…being more self aware!

Day to day, I’ve been feeling pretty much totally fine for the last little while. I’m very good at setting myself seemingly impossible tasks and focusing on them to the exclusion of all other things, which is a brilliantly effective coping tactic short term, but not a very grounded or holistic way to live life.

It would be pointless to put in time to meditate and then ignore the things that come out of it, so I’ve been trying to be more aware of how much I’m using work (fun work, this work, the work of making music and podcasts and communicating with this wonderful community of people) to deal with or minimise my emotions around this lengthy lockdown, and that has led to some wobbly days this week.

I think I’m generally doing a pretty good job in pacing myself during this long distance race with no clear end, but every now and then I just want the world to stop so I can get off. I’m nervous about lockdown rules easing in this vague and confusing way, of other people deciding it’s fine to walk right by me when I’m out because the government has told them it is. I’m wondering whether it will be possible or safe to celebrate my Dad’s 70th birthday with him in August.

How are you getting on with all of this?

Following my notes last week about assessing my social media use, I decided to bite the bullet and take a proper look at Facebook this week. I don’t think I can deactivate my personal account without it having affecting my ability to spread the word about Penfriend on there, so instead I started hacking down my “friends” list.

A few years ago I decided to say yes to every friend request. As I didn’t want to share my deepest secrets anyway, I thought it could be a good way to spread the word about music-related things. Unfortunately, that led to my feed being chock full of strangers and their thoughts. I’m not someone who can casually glance through a timeline of personal loss, political bile and images of animal cruelty without feeling lots of feelings, even when I don’t know the people posting, so I had to stop looking. I actually weaned myself off looking at feeds for quite a long time last year, and my brain felt so much better for it.

When I started scrolling down the list of 3000+ names the other day, I felt creeped out by how few I actually recognised. It was easy to start with, unfriending people who I’d never met, never engaged with in any way, people who seemingly cruise Facebook collecting people. I regularly have upwards of 70 friend requests a day from men around the world, and it’s not because I’m at all well known. It’s…odd.

The criteria became a bit more complicated as I went on. Someone I’d met once, years ago, befriended online and then never talked to again doesn’t need to be linked to me forever, do they? What about primary school friends who I haven’t spoken to since then? Or fellow musicians who use the site for networking? There’s nothing wrong with that, but as I’m not using the site for that purpose, why am I privy to the inner workings of their minds, and they mine? What about people I do know in real life, who wouldn’t say hello to me and have a chat if we saw each other offline? Why on earth are *we* still connected?

Ultimately, we all have to make our own decisions about whether to use certain sites and how to use them. When I read “Deep Work” by Cal Newport last summer, it changed my mindset entirely. He writes about how people use social media services because they’ve become convinced that at some point, there will be some benefit. Newport suggests we should view them as a tool, dispassionately, figuring out what we’d like to use them for and assessing whether that tool is the right one to achieve those goals. For instance, if I want to use Facebook to keep in touch with friends, but I can’t see their posts in my feed, and we never exchange any words, am I getting what I want from Facebook? No! Is there a more effective way of achieving that goal? Perhaps. Do I know what that is? Not yet, but that doesn’t mean Facebook wins by default.

What I feel very strongly is that it’s unmanageable to subscribe to so many other peoples’ lives.

Have you heard of Dunbar’s number? Evolutionary anthropologist Robin Dunbar shared approximate numbers of relationships the human brain can handle: 5 intimates, 15 good friends, 50 close friends, 150 friends. Beyond that, he surmises 500 acquaintances and 1500 people whose faces you could put a name to are the limits of what we’re able to manage. So you can see why 3200 people on a friends list was becoming stressful.

I eagerly jumped aboard the social media train and have had many positive experiences over the years, made real friends, had fun and shared my music. That may even be how we first came into contact, and that’s a wonderful thing! I’m not here to judge anyone else’s actions or to give unsolicited advice (that’s ALWAYS annoying), and I really don’t give a hoot what anyone else does on Facebook.

What I do care about is having energised, clear headed days where I balance my need for sociable interactions offline and online with time to make the things I care about. I want to have proper conversations with those 5 intimates and 15 good friends, and keep up with what my 50 close friends are up to, cheering them on from the sidelines.

As for the rest of it, I’ve found ways to communicate which suit me better. I write a weekly email, The Correspondent’s Club has its own forum, I have a Penfriend Facebook page, I dip into Twitter and Insta, I blog and now I have a podcast, too. I’m sure that’s enough of me for anyone!

If you used to be my Facebook friend and discover you aren’t any more, please rest assured it’s not because I don’t want to be in touch with you, it’s because I don’t think that’s a very good way to be in touch.

I always love to hear from you in the comments or by email.

Thank you for reading, have a great week and take good care.

Laura xoxo

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

Share this:
I wasn’t going to write this til I realised silence was worse

I wasn’t going to write this til I realised silence was worse

Letterbox Mindfulness

I am not a celebrity or a pundit (thank GOODNESS), or someone who thinks their “hot take” on every topic needs to be shared on all platforms. I’m on a complicated journey towards healthier internet and social media use; I go through phases of tweeting loads and really enjoying it and then hating everything and wanting to hide.

I’m planning to delete my personal Facebook profile in coming weeks, prompted by how weirded out I felt last Monday when so many people I didn’t know wished me “happy birthday, friend” (not YOU (if you did), I’m talking about people I genuinely don’t know. Facebook is weird). I want to have better relationships with the very small group of friends I would share secrets with over coffee, and also with the larger group of friends slash fans of my music who I communicate with through The Correspondent’s Club, my mailing list and social media. Hello, you.

I want to keep trying to be a better person. I’m very thoughtful. I read a lot – and widely – and try to learn about the world without getting sucked into the relentless 24 hour news cycle (because I don’t feel like that’s the best way to be properly informed). I meditate. I reflect. I think deeply. I ponder. I write my Morning Pages every day.

Tim and I talk all the time about what we’ve read and how we feel about it, how we can be better and do better. We nudge each other to explore new things. I care about people so much, and I see it as part of my life’s work to encourage self expression and creativity from those I am fortunate to be in contact with. I’m interested in your stories, as well as in sharing my own.

I don’t think I’m better, more important or more interesting than you.

While I believe strongly in the power of individuals, and in empowering people to feel like they can make change, I often prefer to stay quiet on big issues if I don’t think my opinion adds any value to the discourse. I tend to have my “hot takes” in private.

I spend my time making things and sharing them – that’s just what I do (and every time I feel guilty for that being the thing I do I try to remind myself I’m just going to work, and I’m allowed to go to work).

I don’t want to spend all day online telling you what I think, or what YOU should think, but I do try to share useful things that might help you on your unique journey.

I’d like to share three things with you today that I have found useful.

1) “The Good Immigrant” – 21 writers explore what it means to be black, Asian & minority ethnic in Britain today

I used to be someone who thought that by not being racist, and by being someone who would speak up if I saw or heard someone else being racist, I was doing enough. When I woke up a few years ago and realised that wasn’t true, I started reading, and I started with “The Good Immigrant”.

Actor Obioma Ugoala wrote a great Twitter thread which I shared last week: “SO YOU DON’T LIKE RACISM, BUT YOU’RE IN THE UK AND FEEL POWERLESS TO DO ANYTHING?”

I’ve been reading a lot of threads like this because I want to do something more useful than simply not being a racist. Obioma’s statement “education is key” is echoed across them all, alongside the very reasonable suggestion that white people need to do the work to acknowledge, understand and usefully empathise with these systemic issues.

How do we do the work? We read. We listen. We expose ourselves to ideas that make us uncomfortable or that we find challenging, rather than shutting them down and deciding it’s nothing to do with us.

It’s everything to do with all of us.

Obiomi tweeted yesterday:

“Whatever you can do, in whatever sphere you are in, please do

But through all of this, and this is essential,

-Listen to black voices
-Try not to centre conversations about you
-Do not expect black people to educate you for free

Thank you for reading
Welcome to the struggle”

In terms of educating myself, “The Good Immigrant” was a really helpful starting point for me. Before I read it I believed I empathised enough, but I really didn’t.

2) If you’ve ever asked the question “what is white privilege?”, this video by Kyla Jenee Lacey might help, and is a beautiful piece of work:

If you think you’re a good person (and don’t we all?) it’s hard to be told that you’re not being good enough. If you feel like you’ve struggled in life, it’s hard to be told you’re actually lucky. I feel that. But I keep trying to learn.

If you have to ask the question “what is white privilege?”, you are probably benefitting from it.

Being challenged is hard and often upsetting, but it’s a very small discomfort compared to the daily fear and anguish this causes others. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to start watching, reading and listening to things that can educate you on the subject – and if you have, we can all do more.

Please share any books, articles or videos you’ve found useful in the comments!

3) Finally, British musician Ghostpoet tweeted this clip yesterday which swiftly ended my week of assuming that the world didn’t need my input on this matter. While I do prefer to stay quiet, listen and learn and make space for other, more knowledgeable voices, I realise my silence isn’t helping – in fact, it’s just another sign of the privilege I enjoy. I get to choose what to be angry about.

Here are the key points which stood out for me:

“White people cannot just say, any more “I’m not racist” and think that that’s enough…this is our problem to solve.”

“How can the black community dismantle a problem that they didn’t create?”

“We shouldn’t just be trying to understand the rage. We should feel the rage.”

Watch all the way through to witness an extraordinary performance by British rapper Dave that left me in tears.

I feel the rage. Do you?

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

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

Share this:
Beware Of Darkness, online gig this Sat + why I’m launching a podcast

Beware Of Darkness, online gig this Sat + why I’m launching a podcast

Creativity Letterbox Mindfulness Music News Podcast Process

Art by @grandfunkrev

This morning I got up early to do yoga in the living room before walking the dogs round the block in the blazing sunshine. On returning home I was overcome with wistfulness and felt compelled to put on George Harrison’s “Beware of Darkness”. By the end of the first verse I had burst into hot tears.

I don’t know what exactly prompted me to find that particular song today; I knew I needed to listen to George, and I knew I needed to head to “All Things Must Pass”, then of course “Beware Of Darkness” was just perfect. There’s something about certain pieces of music that enable a sort of metaphysical circuit closing, they act as the missing connector between the things I need to feel and the means to feel them by unabashedly sobbing into my overnight oats.

Watch out now, take care 
Beware of falling swingers 
Dropping all around you 
The pain that often mingles 
In your fingertips 
Beware of darkness

Watch out now, take care 
Beware of the thoughts that linger 
Winding up inside your head 
The hopelessness around you 
In the dead of night

Beware of sadness 
It can hit you 
It can hurt you 
Make you sore and what is more 
That is not what you are here for

Watch out now, take care 
Beware of soft shoe shufflers 
Dancing down the sidewalks 
As each unconscious sufferer 
Wanders aimlessly 
Beware of Maya

Watch out now, take care 
Beware of greedy leaders 
They take you where you should not go 
While Weeping Atlas Cedars 
They just want to grow, grow and grow 
Beware of darkness

Reading the lyrics properly for the first time, I’m struck by how spookily appropriate they are today. Isn’t the brain an amazing thing? Thank you brain, and thank you George, for your beautiful songs.

Sitting at my desk now with the sun streaming through the attic window, birds chirping melodiously out the front of the house and perched above me on the roof, I feel lucky…but also a little lost. Life feels a lot more chaotic than it did a week ago, and I’m finding it hard not to let the UK news permeate my protective forcefield at the moment.

I’d love to hear what your go-to songs are for feeling your feelings, whether they’re happy or sad (my cheer up tune is “Sexx Laws” by Beck, btw). Let me know in the comments!


The first Penfriend gig ever, hooray! This will be for members of my Correspondent’s Club (DigiPal members and upwards), streaming live from 4pm UK (GMT+1) this Saturday 30th May. If you’d like to attend, just pick your tier from the options on this page, and remember you can up- or downgrade your monthly membership at any time.

In May, eligible Correspondents received a bunch of member perks including analogue welcome packs in the post, two free studio recordings, one live recording and a members-only podcast episode plus access to our delightful forum, which has fast become my favourite place to hang out online. We already have our own weekly Spotify playlist, with members taking turns to introduce their favourite songs to the group, and I’m interested to see where this is going.

Please browse free and paid monthly/annual tiers if you’re interested, but know that it’s a privilege and a delight to send things out to you, paying guest or no. Thank you for making this connection with me.


My weekly podcast series “Attention Engineer” launches next Wednesday 3rd June with a bumper crop of three episodes at once!

Visit this page to listen to the trailer and choose your preferred link to subscribe so the episodes pop up in your preferred podcast listening platform as soon as they’re published.

should be on all the major platforms by now, but please do let me know if I’ve missed one!

If you’re new to podcasts, the main place to go is Apple Podcasts, or you can listen on my blog every week if you prefer.


I’ve been on quite a journey over the past couple of years, exploring my relationship with social media. The internet has undoubtedly helped me find my people, but I needed to step back from this hyperconnected, information-saturated world to protect my own happiness, check in with myself and see if I wanted to keep making music.

The answer was YES, and that checking in process led to the idea for the Penfriend project and The Correspondent’s Club. So, how does “Attention Engineer” fit in?

My podcast is an attempt to slow down, go deeper and focus on the things that are most important to me in a thoughtful and mindful way. I’ve met so many interesting people over my music making years, and opportunities for a proper conversation are very rare, so I wanted to create this space to us all to stop for a while and reflect on why we do what we do, and what it’s all for.

My only criterion for asking someone to be a guest is a deep respect and enthusiasm for their work. I’m fascinated by the magic of the creative process, and always intrigued as to how other artists balance things like touring and home life, creative introspection and happiness.

I have the Plato quote “A life which is not examined is not worth living” scribbled on a Post-it note on my wall. As someone who embraces the positive changes that regular quiet reflection has brought to my life in the past two years, this is my contribution towards thoughtfully examining the whys and wherefores of this strange and wonderful thing that connects us all on such a deep emotional level.


Alongside the artist to artist interviews, I’ll be shining a light on YOU – the audience. Without you we would be nothing, truly, so I’m looking for volunteers to answer questions about your musical passions. This will be in recorded audio format (not video), for inclusion in future episodes.

Please email me if you’re interested in having your voice included.

BIG LOVE, have a great week. 
Laura xxxx

THANK YOU for visiting my website!

+ Get FREE music immediately by joining my mailing list.

+ I send a thoughtful weekly 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 YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Have a lovely day xo

Share this: