Quotes That Helped Me (Songwriting Edition – Part 2)

This last week has been pretty rough. I’m coming off the Phenelzine, which has been a pretty unpleasant process, and I just haven’t had the wherewithal to write anything to be perfectly honest. I’ve just been trying to get through each day. But I wanted to post something and this seemed as good as anything, especially since I’m officially finishing my Masters this week with Graduation on Tuesday. So here are some more of my favourite quotes about songwriting. I hope they inspire you.


“Songwriting really anchored me.” – Freya Ridings

“In a lot of ways, songwriting helped save my life.” – Mary Gauthier

“Creating something beautiful out of pain helps ease the pain. So, that’s kind of how I got to songwriting – quite honestly out of desperation.” – Mary Gauthier

“Music is catharsis for me.” – Sara Bareilles

“Songwriting is like going to church. I’m connecting to something, and it’s rewarding in really important ways. I don’t need to share it with anyone to feel good about it.” – Juliana Hatfield

“Music is the purest form of art… therefore true poets… seek to express the universe in terms of music. The singer has everything within him. The notes come out from his very life. They are not materials gathered from outside.” – Rabindranath Tagore

“For me, songwriting is something like breathing: I just do it. But that doesn’t mean you’re fantastic.” – Adam Duritz

“All I do is just try and learn from the best, and realise that however well I think I’m doing, I could always be better.” – Andy Fraser

“I use three main tools in writing: instinct, hard work and dumb luck. Dumb luck is missing a train and, while you wait for the next one, writing a key word, line or verse. When this happens often enough you begin to believe in fate.” – David Massengill

“My favourite songwriting trick is writing something like ‘XO.’ In my brain, I thought, ‘This is probably going to be a love song. How can I change that and find ways to twist that.’ As a songwriter, it’s your job for the song to take twists and turns that people don’t expect.” – Kelsea Ballerini

“I teach songwriting a lot, and I always tell my students, ‘You gotta write the little songs sometimes to get to the next big song in the chute.’ You gotta write ’em to get to it. You never know what’s going to be a little song or a big song.” – Mary Gauthier

“I think you can refine what you do, and become more consistent. And you write better songs that have a better shape and a better feeling. You evolve into and out of things, and go through stages, but, ultimately, you do improve.” – Richard Thompson

“You might ‘write from the heart,’ but you’d better polish with your brain.” – Margaret Atwood

“Don’t be afraid to write bad songs and then start over and re-evaluate. Songs are like plants, in that you grow them. Some grow really fast, and others need pruning and care… And, finally, a song needs to move you. If it doesn’t move you, it will never move anybody else.” – Corey Harris

“Ultimately all you can do is write songs the best you can, then put them out and see if people like them.” – Michael Kiwanuka

“Musical magic is created by human beings: learning their craft, trying things out, practising.” – Joe Jackson

“Songwriting never gets old. There’s always stuff to write about.” – Tori Kelly

“One of the nice things about songwriting is you can be inspired by absolutely anything.” – Jens Lekman

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” – Scott Adams

“It’s the ability to recognise valuable accidents that’s the key part of songwriting.” – Dean Friedman

“Anyone involved with songwriting will testify to the fact that each song, no matter how pure or from the heart, has its own story, its own peculiar way of getting written.” – C. Sigman

“I’ve always loved both writing and songwriting. The journey is fascinating to me.” – Manika

“What keeps me motivated to create new music is the joy of songwriting. The joy of being creative. The joy of writing a poem or essay. Writing anything. I just love writing, whether it is music or words.” – Nick Heyward

“Songwriting is the closest thing to magic that we could ever experience. That’s why I love songwriting.” – Rodney Atkins

“I write all the time, I don’t stop. I love it. It’s a fascinating and endless pool of ideas and thoughts.” – Mark Chadwick

“Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul.” – Plato

“Songwriting is such a sensitive energy. It’s just a vibration of frequencies.” – Victoria Monet

“Combining sounds that are from another universe with the classic songwriting structures never gets old for me.” – Harley Edward Streten

“I’m writing about emotions.” – Sara Bareilles

“My experience with songwriting is usually so confessional, it’s so drawn from my own life and my own stories.” – Taylor Swift

“For me, songwriting has become a practice of finding out what I’m really thinking.” – Kate Dimbleby

“I’ve always used songs and music and songwriting as a way to sort of let feelings go.” – Adam Gontier

“I fell into [songwriting] by mistake and I can’t get out of it. It fascinates me. I like to point out the rawer points of life.” – Keith Richards

“I never judge my own songwriting. It’s just my heart. What’s there to judge about your own heart?” – Jillian Rose Banks

“All songs are living ghosts. And long for a living voice.” – Brendan Kennelly

“I feel like my songs are like diary entries for me. So I usually write about things that have happened to me specifically or sometimes it can be someone who’s close to me.” – Sara Bareilles

“You know, I would say that songwriting is something about the expression of the heart, the intellect and the soul.” – Annie Lennox

“I think songwriting was the biggest way that I found my identity.” – Camila Cabello

“When you write a song… you’re sharing some of your life with the listener.” – Nina Baker


As I said, I hope these have been inspiring. I know they inspire me.

International Cat Day 2021

NOTE: This post was written to go up yesterday, on 9th August 2021. However, my phone – which, of course, had the video of the cats on it – completely died and only recovered this morning. Following some further technical difficulties, the video has finally been retrieved and this post can go up. So happy belated International Cat Day!

Happy International Cat Day! Yes, it’s a real thing!

When I first started writing this blog, I made a post introducing the animals in my life and talking about the importance of pets. There have been significant changes in the animal contingent of our family since then and given this holiday, I thought it was time for an update and, if nothing else, a post full of cuteness.

A short note before I get into the main post… if you’ve followed this blog for a while, you’ll know that our family dog, Lucky, had to be put to sleep at the age of fifteen just before the pandemic hit the UK. Although he obviously wasn’t a cat, he may very well have thought he was one (he did spend almost all of his life surrounded by various cats after all) and most of our cats adored him. He was an honorary member of our cat family and we miss him dearly.


LUCY

Lucy is the queen of the house. She always has been and she most likely always will be. And that is very clear. Having been an only cat, she can be a bit aloof and irritable with the younger generations, like it’s a great trial for her to have to share her house, her garden, her people, and so on. Sometimes she’ll smack them as they walk past for no apparent reason. But most of the time, she’s very affectionate, especially with me but with all familiar people, the other cats, and she adored Lucky when he was still with us. She demands her time with me in particular and gets somewhat ratty if she doesn’t get it: she hangs out in the bathroom with me whenever I’m in there; she’s the only one allowed to roam the house at night and she always sleeps on my bed (or nearby if we’re having hot weather); and she spends most of the day in whichever room I’m based in. It’s very sweet. She doesn’t always want to be snuggled up with me but she does like to be close by.

“I’m not sure why I like cats so much. I mean, they’re really cute obviously. They are both wild and domestic at the same time.” – Michael Showalter

MOUSE AND TIGER

Lucy had her first litter of kittens in 2016 which was a wonderful experience. We found them all homes (homes that were all linked actually, which was kind of adorable) and went back to being a one cat household, which I had missed. We discussed having Lucy spayed before deciding that we wanted to have one more experience of kittens, which resulted in Mouse and Tiger, both girls, in early 2018. They were, of course, unbearably adorable and I loved every moment with them. They also really helped me through the traumatic experience of moving house: their playfulness and innocence and general wonder at the world was incredibly soothing to my anxiety and distress. We hadn’t planned to keep them but both my Mum and I had just fallen head over heels and one day, watching the two of them play with Lucy in the garden, we acknowledged that the decision had already been made really. After that, we had Lucy spayed, content with our little family of three.

E00EE9B9-5D1C-450F-A93E-65D7E66C8FF5

Mouse is the elder of the two and she’s just the most beautiful cat: silver, sleek, and utterly gorgeous (as ridiculous as she looks in this picture). She looks very much like a Nebelung cat but given that Lucy and Tiger look nothing like her, I’m not sure how that would be possible. She’s pretty reserved and quite skittish but when she decides she wants affection, she will not leave you alone; it’s very cute. She’s very playful and very vocal, sometimes for no apparent reason, almost like she’s just making sure you haven’t forgotten she’s there.

Tiger is the younger and ever since she could wriggle across the floor on her tummy, she’s been following me around, climbing on me, and snuggling up with me. She’s somewhat obsessed and it’s kind of hilarious. As a kitten, she once climbed up my shirt (whilst I was sitting in bed) and fell asleep curled up on my shoulder. She demands my attention – loudly – and won’t leave me alone until I have thoroughly patted, cuddled, and appreciated her. There have been a handful of very funny Zoom/online class experiences over the last eighteen months where she just wouldn’t leave me alone for anything as I tried my hardest to maintain some semblance of professionalism. She can be a little skittish too, like her sister, but on the whole, she’s calmer and more obliging.

“You can not look at a sleeping cat and feel tense.” – Jane Pauley

SOOTY AND SWEEP (their birth order is actually Sweep and Sooty but, of course, we call them Sooty and Sweep)

When Mouse and Tiger reached the age of being spayed, we had to decide whether or not we wanted to do kittens one last time. After a lot of discussion, my Mum and I decided that it would be really nice to have one more litter. Tiger had been my baby since the moment she was born and I just couldn’t imagine her as a ‘grown up’ – if that makes sense – so we had her spayed and decided to just wait and see what happened with Mouse.

Life went on and nothing happened in the kitten department. Meanwhile my mental health plummeted and I was struggling to get by. In the end, the idea of things changing, of anything new happening, just felt too overwhelming so we decided to have Mouse spayed. We took her for the pre spay check up and the vet said she was fine, although she could lose a little weight so we should reduce her food some.

And then about a week later, we came home to find Mouse pacing by the front door. As soon as she saw me, she headed for my room, stopping every few feet to make sure I was following and yowling the whole way. We went into my room, she curled up in the cat bed in the corner, and a few hours later, we had two new kittens. So that threw us for a loop: just as we’d decided against more kittens, we had them. (The vet – who’d said that Mouse absolutely wasn’t pregnant – thought this was all very funny. As you can imagine, we don’t go to them anymore.) But despite the shock, it was wonderful to have kittens around, even though it took Mouse a while to figure out what she was supposed to do. Watching them explore and learn and grow was a very untainted, therapeutic experience. And their calming influence was especially appreciated when I started my Masters and was having almost daily meltdowns due to stress.

98027CE6-7287-444A-B7E8-E5070AC16956

“A kitten is in the animal world what a rosebud is in the garden.” – Robert Southey

When they reached rehoming age, we did look for a home for them (ideally, we were hoping that they could go to the same home together) but we weren’t in too much of a rush given how high my anxiety levels were. But time kept passing and I was still struggling and in the end, we decided that the joy they brought to the house outweighed everything else. So we kept them and I’m so, so grateful that we did.

Sweep, we believe, is the older sister and in full fluff, she looks very like a Norwegian Forest Cat but like her mother, we don’t know how that would be possible. I’d love to do DNA tests and find out the breeds of our whole pride but that would be incredibly expensive – too expensive just to satisfy my curiosity. She’s super chilled out, happy to curl up – or stretch out! – anywhere and starts to purr immediately when you stroke her. She’s very obliging – cuddling, anything medical, grooming, etc – as long as you let her go when she’s clear that she’s had enough, which rarely means more than pulling away a bit more forcefully than usual. She’s very sweet and has the cutest little face with these gorgeous green eyes.

Sooty is the baby of the family. (They all have their own nicknames: we refer to Lucy as ‘Queen Lucy,’ Mouse and Tiger as ‘the kittens,’ and Sooty and Sweep as ‘the beans’ and Sooty is very often ‘baby bean.’) She’s little and skinny with a ridiculously long tail; she’s like a monkey. She’s super chatty and makes a clear noise of ‘hello’ whenever you enter the room or stop to stroke her. She’s very inquisitive and affectionate and during the winter, she’ll spend hours curled up on the sofa with me (preferably stretched out in between my legs. Like Tiger before her, she’s always been very attached to me; now there is some degree of competition between the two of them and they’ve had to figure out how to take turns in getting my full attention.

While Lucy kind of separated herself from Mouse and Tiger after a certain point (I think she felt she’d done her job and didn’t understand why they hadn’t left like the previous litter had; I think that, if they’d been her first litter and she hadn’t already had the experience of mothering and then watching them leave, things might’ve been different but who knows), Mouse has remained very maternal, especially with Sweep. They curl up together, they cuddle, they groom each other, they play… The two of them in particular are two peas in a pod. Mouse and Sooty are close too but Mouse and Sweep are a special little unit. It’s very sweet.

And that’s our family of cats, also known as the pride of cats. I love them deeply and… Not to say that I wouldn’t love them as much if not for the pandemic, but they were (and still are) one of a handful of things that have kept me going through the hardest parts of the last eighteen months. They were there for cuddles when I needed them, they made me laugh (which was not easy to do), and their complete obliviousness to everything going on in the world was very soothing when my anxiety got overwhelming. I honestly don’t know how I would’ve made it to this point in the pandemic without them.

Over the last year, ever since I discovered that International Cat Day was in fact a real thing, I’ve been collecting clips of them. I thought it would be something fun to post today…


Over the last eighteen months, my pride of cats have been one of the great joys of my life. Managing five cats isn’t always easy and when something goes wrong, it’s incredibly scary – as any pet owner will know – but when all is good, it’s so good. They are truly wonderful little souls… I can practically feel the glare I’d get if they knew I was calling them ‘little souls’ so I’ll amend that statement. They are truly wonderful, big and beautiful souls in little bodies.

29D7902E-3E8F-4F39-B5A1-62F98FACB247

And to finish this post, I want to include a particularly apt quote. Of all the cat related quotes I found, I’m not sure there are any more perfect for me…

“There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” – Albert Schweitzer

Quotes That Helped Me (Hard Work Edition)

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about hard work recently, putting in the hours, motivation, effort, and all of those sorts of things. I’ve always been someone who’s constantly working on something and that’s gotten worse during the pandemic, to the point where I feel guilty if I’m not working (I’m aware of how unhealthy that is and I’m working on it in therapy). I think that’s the new toxic positivity (not that that’s gone), the new idea that’s posed as good but when taken too far is actually really damaging: toxic productivity. I mean, I can see where it came from: telling people that working hard will get them further in life than hoping they’ll get lucky or whatever isn’t inherently bad but when you have famous or notable people saying that they never took a day off or are advising people to never let up… it’s well intentioned but it can sink into the brain and become something dangerous and unhealthy. It can create a mindset that sees valuable fun and relaxation and decompression time as a waste when it’s not only necessary for our health but can have beneficial and important results, like helping us to better regulate our emotions or inspire bright and shiny new ideas.

So I’ve tried to put together a collection of quotes that are about working hard but don’t encourage that work-yourself-to-the-edge-of-mental-stability mentality. At least that’s what I hope I’ve done. Hopefully they’re as helpful and inspiring to you as they have been for me.


“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.” – Barack Obama

“It does not matter how slowly you go, so long as you do not stop.” – Confucius

“Luck is great, but most of life is hard work.” – Iain Duncan Smith

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” – Dale Carnegie

“Start by doing what’s necessary, then what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” – Saint Francis

“The level path is easy, but it will not bring you to the mountaintop.” – Dr. Idel Dreimer

“Dreams don’t work unless you do.” – John C. Maxwell

“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” – Pele

“Let us remember then that we were made to do hard things, not easy, for if we do nothing but what is easy we will not go forward; then, as there is no standing still in the universe, we will degenerate, so that by doing something a little harder each time we prepare ourselves against something really hard.” – The Agricultural Journal

“Never slow down for the world, one day it will catch up with you.” – Nike

“If you can’t outplay them, outwork them.” – Ben Hogan

“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Stay positive and happy. Work hard and don’t give up hope. Be open to criticism and keep learning. Surround yourself with happy, warm, and genuine people.” – Tena Desae

“Sometimes in life you have an appointment with destiny, and sometimes you just have to get destiny to squeeze you in.” – Robert Brault

“Doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.” – Oprah Winfrey

“Don’t work for recognition but do work worthy of recognition.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

“Inspiration usually comes during work rather than before it.” – Madeleine L’Engle

“Keep on going, and the chances are that you will stumble on something, perhaps when you are least expecting it. I never heard of anyone ever stumbling on something sitting down.” – Charles F. Kettering

“When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.” – Paulo Coelho

“Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don’t turn up at all.” – Sam Ewing

“Be true to your work, your word, and your friend.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Don’t wait. The time will never be just right.” – Napoleon Hill

“It’s not about money or connections – it’s the willingness to outwork and outlearn everyone.” – Mark Cuban (I think, particularly in some industries, money and connections absolutely determine a level of success but overall, in the long run, hard work and learning everything you can will get you further in life and make your achievements all the more satisfying.)

“Inspiration is the windfall from hard work and focus. Muses are too unreliable to keep on the payroll.” – Helen Hanson

“To think too long about doing a thing often becomes its undoing.” – Eva Young

“If you make something you love, you should just put it out into the world.” – Taylor Swift


I’m not gonna lie, I love being productive: I love working through a list, ticking things off, feeling like I’ve accomplished things at the end of every day, but I’m also aware that while this urge to be productive can be helpful, it can border on pretty unhealthy. As I said, I’m working on it. Productivity can be (and should be) beneficial in our lives, not a tightrope we walk where we’re trying not to fall into unhealthy habits. Hopefully these quotes reflect that perspective rather than a toxic one.

What about you guys? What quotes do you use to motivate yourself? Please throw them in the comments!