Writing regularly helps me build resilience and capacity for more
I’ve written over 350 songs in I Heart Songwriting Club and what this process has shown me is that the songwriting progress isn’t linear. When you write a volume of songs it really becomes about exploring new ideas and new places.
There can be a ‘mental load’ to writing songs. To me, it can feel like lifting a heavy weight, or like I’m going into battle with myself. But once you start writing regularly, the load is only in the lead up not once you’ve started the writing.
I reckon, 95% of the mental load is in the lead up and 5% remains in the writing, which may be needed to create some focus anyway.
“I’ve practiced my skills so much now that that the top 20% of songs is just so much more sparkly”
Some people try to edit all their songs but that’s often because they’ve not written a volume of songs to know that the golden songs will come if you keep writing. When you only have a handful to choose from, you end up using a lot of them and making them work for what you need.
One of the magical things about songwriting is that you’re creating something new – something ephemeral – from absolutely nothing.
In my regular songwriting practice, there is a spark, a theme, a guideline and a community and the rest is up to you. Be willing to experiment and not attach to what you create.
Songwriting totally helps my mental health and stay balanced as a working mum
“I’ve not had a major depressive episode since I’ve started regularly writing songs.”
Songwriting helps me process. “The act of songwriting is quite healing. I use writing to get out the sadness, frustration and anger in a positive way. To be able to process it, to be able to deal with it.
Once it sits in a song, I can play that song and rather than feel those feelings again – it reminds me that I’m okay.
The other thing about songwriting that has helped my mental health is the sharing of songs with my Club group. Knowing that there’s a group of people there listening, you feel heard. It feels like someone is there and you are not alone. Like someone’s holding your hand. An energetic support.
Be part of meaningful songwriting spaces that work with my busy schedule as a working mum
With so many virtual spaces opening up in the past few years, Helen shares what makes a virtual songwriting space so effective.
It’s important that what is shared is done in an authentic and vulnerable way, and it’s vital that there is equal participation from everyone – both giving and receiving.
These elements can make for a soul connection. Even online. Which then allows me to fit that in with my work and home schedule.
The other benefit of my virtual songwriting space in the Club is the feedback and the learning in that shared space. Whether you’re musically trained, following your ear or a process of experimenting, there’s something to learn from everyone. Anyone can inspire anyone. And the feedback allows me to confirm my instincts about what does and doesn’t work in my song.
Practical parenting tips for finding space and time to write
With everyone working and learning from home the past 2 years, I’ve had to create space to allow my songwriting practice to continue, whilst also being a working mum.
I also work from home so this transition from work-brain to creative-brain can make code-switching clunky. Going from analytical to flow state.
We like to write in total privacy, often because we fear letting people hear the creative process, because it doesn’t sound complete. We can think that if people can hear the process they will judge this. This can lead to procrastination and not writing.
The creative space and our connection to it and ourselves is so fragile and sacred that if we need to be another version of ourselves, like being a mum whilst songwriting, the spell can be broken.
I’ve learnt to cultivate less distractions at home – even with a full house and kids and partner – so I can stay in this flow state.
How to minimise at-home distractions to get into flow state
- Set time aside in your schedule
- Let your household know that this time is set aside and how long the time set aside is for
- Let your household know that the space is sacred and that they can’t be noisy and that if they are noisy this can create a resistance for you.
- Ask them to go to the other side of the house and give them an activity that is quiet (or find a way to get them out of the house for an hour)
- When you’re done, thank them and let them know you’re done and that they can make noise again!
In summary, it’s really about making time for the things that you want to include in your life and finding ways to support yourself to do that, regardless if you’re a working mum or not!
If you want some support to create a meaningful online space for your songwriting growth, check out The Club here.
Timestamps for podcast audio:
2:35 – Commitment and consistency versus perfection
7:50 – Songwriting progress isn’t linear, Helen shares some tips for effective learning
13:57 – We discuss editing songs and the impact of writing a huge volume of songs
20:02 – Helen shares how regularly writing songs in a community has helped her mental health
24:09 – How virtual songwriting spaces can be meaningful
28:40 – Formal music training versus learning through experience
34:18 – We discuss the mental load or headspace to write songs, being in flow state
37:33 – We talk about some of the funny songs we’ve written and how this can unlock creativity
41:45 – How to cultivate space to write at home with a busy household
51:27 – Helen shares about how she wrote “Over Again”, a love song to her husband and performs for us.
1:02:21 – Helen discusses her upcoming projects and reflects on her songwriting development over the past 10 years
About Helen Perris:
Self-confessed dork with a keyboard, Helen Perris, combines the influences of her regional AM radio and musical theatre upbringing with more contemporary sounds. Imagine if Kate Bush and Sia had a musical love child via a Megan Washington surrogate, and you’d have a fairly good idea of her aesthetic.
Helen Perris is proud to forge her own path in the independent music scene in Sydney. Eschewing the major-label model, she has successfully crowd-funded her two EPs and launched her own subscription community (similar to Patreon) to work on her music directly with her fanbase. She has been shortlisted for both the 2016 and 2017 Australian Songwriters Association Contest in two categories, was a finalist in two categories in the 2016 Australian Independent Music Awards, and was named in the National Top 20 (and Top 10 for NSW/NT/QLD/WA) Songwriters for the inaugural Listen Up Australia competition in 2016.
Since launching her solo career in 2011, Helen Perris has shared a stage with Amanda Palmer, Kate Miller-Heidke, Brendan Maclean, Kim Boekbinder and others, and her unique and honest suite of songs have been heard in iconic venues such as The Butterfly Club (Melbourne), The Newsagency (Sydney) and El Rocco’s (Sydney), and performed at Peats Ridge Festival, TEDx Canberra and in the world’s smallest music venue, Folk in a Box at Sydney Festival.
Song Credit: “Over Again” – Music and Lyrics by Helen Perris. Performed live by Helen Perris at I Heart Songwriting Club Headquarters.
Episode Show Notes:
Get your creativity, confidence, and songwriting output flowing. Join The Club and receive the support and structure to write 10 songs in 10 weeks and get feedback from a private peer community. This is THE essential writing practice that has changed the careers and lives of 1000s of songwriters worldwide.
Just getting started on your songwriting journey and need more hands-on support? Establish a firm foundation and develop your musical and lyric skills with our Beginner Songwriting Courses. They are the perfect place to begin and cover everything you need to know to write your first songs. You’ll receive lessons from Francesca directly!
Don’t struggle to write your next album – write an album a year with ease! Watch our Free Songwriting Masterclass.
Want more for your songwriting but don’t know where to go from here? Take the I Heart Songwriting Club Quiz to discover your next steps and inspire your way to writing better songs.
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Podcast theme song: “Put One Foot In Front Of The Other One” music and lyrics by Francesca de Valence
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