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.

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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.



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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!



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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




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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.



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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?



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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.

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I’ve been finding everything really hard lately

I’ve been finding everything really hard lately

Letterbox Mindfulness Productivity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

And that’s really the main thing.

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

Sending love,
Laura xoxo

The Only Way Out Is Through xo
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Chasing the mountain

Chasing the mountain

Creativity Homepage Feature Letterbox Mindfulness Productivity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THANK YOU for visiting my website!

+ Get FREE music immediately by joining my mailing list.

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

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

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

Have a lovely day xo

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Inspiration is for amateurs

Inspiration is for amateurs

Creativity Homepage Feature Letterbox Mindfulness Process Productivity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Over to you:

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

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

THANK YOU for visiting my website!

+ Get FREE music immediately by joining my mailing list.

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

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

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

Have a lovely day xo

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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!

Love,
Laura xoxoxo

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Have a lovely day xo

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