Francesca de Valence

Five Small Steps to Big Songwriting Goals

Posted by Francesca de Valence on Thursday, January 21, 2021



Do you ever feel like you go through life without consciously choosing how you think, how you want to feel and what impact you are having on those around you?

Last week in I Heart Songwriting Club, I've invited our 900+ members to reflect on their legacy and what they want to leave behind in this world. That was last week's theme.

I also recently shared how having uplifting conversations with people and visiting amazing places are two things that I have consciously chosen to make part of my life.

Over the holiday period I had 10 amazing conversations with people from all over the world - people that I didn't know from Australia, UK, USA, Poland and New Zealand. Some conversations were about songwriting, creating, overcoming creative blocks, how to create a creative career plan moving forward, spiritual conversations and more. Rich, expansive and uplifting. And I visited Tasmania and walked the Overland Track…

The Overland Track
is an alpine walk in the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park on the west coast of Tasmania. It was a journey of 6 days, hiking through the wilderness in some of the most spectacular scenery I’ve ever been amongst.

There was such a variety of walking terrain - sometimes boardwalks that park rangers had lovingly crafted, but mostly tree roots and rocks, undulating over many mountain ranges (including Tasmania’s peak) and down valleys and across plains. Through the rain, the mud, the snow, the mountains, the wind.

Sometimes the steps were easier than others, and sometimes it was really challenging.

The first day I walked over Cradle Mountain and down the other side. About 7 hours of walking and my first day of carrying a load. Everything was new (including my shoes). The pack was uncomfortable and heavy.



I was so enthusiastic for the first few hours. But fatigue kicked in as I was coming down the mountain. This wilderness was unknown to me. I didn’t know what the next step would look like and when the end would come. And this unknown created a tape playing in my head - “this is so hard, when will this be over, why am I finding this so hard, why does everyone else seem to be fine doing this, what’s wrong with me?”.

Are you familiar with this tape loop?

If anyone looked at me they would have seen me taking step after step. Putting one foot in front of the other one. But inside, I was feeling a strong sense of struggle.

Despite this, I kept going, one foot in front of the other, and eventually I got to the end of the first day - totally fine, intact, healthy, in one piece, not broken.

I sat down at the end of day 1 and took it all in. I knew I was not going to quit (I’m not a quitter), but I knew that I couldn’t keep that loop going. It was draining my energy. And the reality was I could do it, I was doing it, but I kept doubting myself and burning energy thinking about it constantly.

I knew I couldn't keep the loop playing. It was draining my energy.

So over the next 2 days, with my conscious effort to catch it and stop it, the tape played less and less and I found myself enjoying the view more - connecting to and breathing in the experience. I started seeing new and uplifting views and perspectives which kept fueling me to keep going.



Day 4, the tape loop had completely stopped and I was able to be fully present with the surrounding landscape. This was probably the most magnificent day. It’s like a fog had cleared and I could imagine the snow capped mountains connecting to the heavenly Gods. With this presence, the fullness of my creative energy was energised and my imagination was back in full swing.

It was on this day that I wrote a song on the track. [Yes, I am that committed to my songwriting practice and can tap into my creative energy even whilst on a hiking track. Yes, that took years to cultivate.] This song captured the fullness of the magic that I was experiencing. And of course that magic-in balances itself out with magic-out. Back home now, I have recorded this track and will be sharing it with you all next month. Watch this space.

In this rich and expansive experience of the Overland Track, the biggest lesson for me was the reminder of how to be a beginner again. And I am so grateful for being reminded of this.

The biggest lesson was the reminder of how to be a beginner again.

Through this experience, I am reminded of all the skills I have developed, all starting from the place of being a beginner: learning the guitar almost 5 years ago, learning French 3 years ago, learning production 2 years ago, learning how to run 9 months ago. And of course learning to write songs every single week which was something that I started 6.5 years ago.

I also remember whilst doing each of those activities I had a tape looping in my head telling me that I wasn’t good enough, that this was hard, that everyone else could do it easier and better than me…

But I knew I wanted to get further with this, so I kept showing up week after week, session after session and kept doing it. Putting one foot in front of the other one.

And after some time, those things were no longer a struggle. Simply by taking steps forward regularly. (Though running and production still stings sometimes)

The outcome of taking steps forward regularly is that all those activities are an absolute joy in my life now (and they are skills that I can use with ease). They energise me to want more for my life. They uplift me, they help me feel expanded.



This morning I had a conversation with a songwriter - my last new holiday tradition conversation. In this conversation, I was once again reminded of the beginner mindset of a songwriter, especially the adult songwriter.

This songwriter was beating herself up emotionally because she didn’t feel good enough, that everyone else had more talent than her, that she couldn’t do it...

In our conversation she realised that she’d let the tape play for so long that it had paralysed her from taking steps forward. And she knows that to become a songwriter who can write songs with ease, songs that feel great to have created, will mean that she has to take steps forward - by actually writing songs.

She knows writing the next few songs will feel like wading through the mud, with the discomfort of a heavy pack, uncomfortable. But after a few songs, a few weeks, a few months, she knows she will feel different.

I couldn’t have reached the end of the Overland Track without taking steps forward consistently. And she knows she can’t be the songwriter she wants to be without writing songs every week.

Where do you want to get to? What steps are you taking to get there?

The load feels much heavier on the first few days, but as you keep going it will start to feel lighter and eventually you will no longer feel the struggle. It will be a joy. A rich and expansive experience.


Here are my 5 Small Steps to Big Songwriting Goals:

  1. Make the decision to commit.

    It’s either yes or no. Decide on a full and complete yes, or a full and complete no. But don’t make it a um, yes/no/maybe because you’re doubting yourself and looping a tape in your head and that takes up way more energy than you realise.

  2. Set small and achievable goals that you can take regular action on.

    Think big picture in understanding how to set your goals. A professional songwriter writes 300 songs a year. Is this what you’re aiming for? Even if you’re not aiming to go pro, you probably want to be writing 10 great songs every year for an album, at least.

    If you’re currently writing 10 songs a year, probably 1 or 2 of them will be usable. So aim for 50 songs a year, that way 5-10 of those are songs you can use. You’ll be one step closer to your bigger picture goal.

    Breaking that down, that looks like 1 song a week. Totally manageable!

  3. Allocate time in your calendar to make that happen and when that time comes do it.

    Just saying that you’re going to write one song a week doesn’t mean you’re going to do it. You have a busy life. Your days will be filled up with other things if you don’t carve out the time to write a song. And let’s face it, there’s no urgency to write a song. So dedicate a time that you can write a song each week. Is that Thursdays at 5pm, Sundays at 11am, Tuesdays at 2pm. When is it?

    In I Heart Songwriting Club we write songs every week and only spend an hour doing so - keeping it fun and fast (great practice for letting go of attachment). So put aside 1 hour a week and lock it in the calendar. And when that time arrives, no matter what tape is playing in your head, go and write a song. Do it even if it is hard. The struggle will lessen the more you do this.

  4. Have/ask/find a group of people that can help you stay accountable to your songwriting journey.

    It’s one thing taking those steps alone, but when you’re around others doing it alongside you, the struggle lessens. There is a sense of collective uplifting energy encouraging you to keep going every week. Especially on those weeks where the tape is looping a little louder.

    In I Heart Songwriting Club we write alongside a group of songwriters that we share our new songs with, taking accountability to another level - where we can also get feedback on our songs from a group of people who have also written a song that week in an hour.

  5. Every 10 weeks check in with your goals to reflect, adjust and adapt as necessary to take into account your growing confidence, life situation and more.

    At regular intervals, look back and see where you’ve come from and how you did. What songs were easier to write than others? Where did you feel you grew as a songwriter, in terms of skills, craft, resilience? When did the tape play loudest, and when did it stop playing?

As you continue on, know you’ve already come a way and that the path ahead will keep becoming clearer as you simply put one foot in front of the other one.


Francesca

P.S. Find out more about I Heart Songwriting Club here.

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These are some of my Christmas 2020 pictures, from The Overland Track, Tasmania, Australia.

"Francesca is a true visionary, she is someone that is not afraid to challenge the status quo and has a lot of really wise things to say about creating, and about the music industry. She is showing up every single day to make a difference for songwriters and music consumers all around the world." - Sam Buckingham, Songwriter, Musician and Podcaster