Part One: Telling Your Inner Critic to Get Lost!
A blog series which follows Kate Valentine, Founder and Director of Singing Mamas, on a very personal journey to ‘Unlocking Songwriting’. Enabled by a grant from the Arts Council called ‘Developing Your Creative Practice’. Follow Kate’s journey here and through her series of VLOGs.
What do we need to know about you, Kate?
I have always loved music and singing; they are the main feature of my world and they keep me feeling vital, positive, happy and well. I get excited by new music of all genres, all of the time! I believe that creativity exists in all of us, but that society and how we’re trained to view ourselves can limit how we express our creativity.
When I was younger and deciding what to do with my life and career, alongside a love of music was a strong calling to become a nurse. I followed this path and for the last 22 years I’ve benefitted from intimate human connection, working alongside some wonderful people.
Part way through my nursing career and inspired by becoming a mother, I combined all of my passions to become the Founder and Director of Singing Mamas Choir CIC, and I’ve recently become the grateful recipient of a grant which will enable me to unlock parts of myself that both excite and terrify me!
Tell us more about the grant you have received, ‘Developing Your Creative Practice’?
It’’s a grant from the Arts Council that funds individuals to pursue their own self-development in their art, and places a high value on the creative process. It allows people time and resources to go deep and learn new ways of working. It gives people permission to be bold, take risks, be daring and breakout of their comfort zone!
After many years of singing and leading songs written by other people, I realised that it was time to do something proactive about a secret longing of mine… that as much as I loved these songs and admired these song writers greatly, I was also living with an overwhelming desire to be to lead choirs to sing songs that I’d written myself!
Song writers from the Natural Voice world have a knack for finding notes and sounds, and combining them with words to create beautiful patterns which bring a unique feeling and harmonic experience for groups of people. This special gift is something that I feel a closeness to. However, connecting with this process, allowing myself to believe that I possessed the skills to write these beautiful songs has been frequently blocked by my inner critic, and self-limiting beliefs.
I am determined to unlock this skillset within me, I know it’s there, I just need to convince myself!
What do you hope to achieve on your song writing journey?
I want to discover and explore all of the different routes into creating songs by answering many of these questions: How do I begin? How do I open up my creative channels? How do I combine giving the process some structure with time for play? Do I start with music theory? How do other people do this?
I want to gain in confidence and feel comfortable in my style of communicating, both personally and professionally. When I speak publicly on the topic of song writing and my process, I want to do it with a sense of authority and leadership, hopefully inspiring other creatives along the way.
By publishing my journey and songwriting process; I want you to come along with me and keep me company, talk to me about how it’s going and hold me to account.
But mostly I want to write songs!
You’re a few months into your songwriting journey, any challenges so far?
The feeling of sheer terror mainly! I thought that managing this feeling in the months when I was preparing my grant application was hard, but the biggest challenge has been making a start once I’d been successful in applying and receiving the grant.
Grappling with a very loud, hugely judgmental inner critic telling me “you can’t do this” and “who do you think you are?” has been tough. I know deep down this critic is a defense mechanism, trying to protect my own emotions from the prospect failure or embarrassment. It also feels like a very bold move to call myself song writer but I’ve just decided to claim my right to do this anyway – Basically, my inner critic has been holding me back for too long, and needs to do one!
I’ve had several light bulb moments that have supported my change in mindset – For instance realising that when I’m walking, driving or in motion, that judgmental part of my brain is otherwise occupied, which allows me to sing, improvise and be more fluid in my creative process. Or when my colleague and song writer Helen Yeomans showed me a musical score from the early days of her song writing career with her name at the top… I imagined my name at the top of my first musical score and I made space for a new voice that said “you can do this” and “you are a songwriter”.
At first, I threw myself into the music theory side of song writing because that’s how you’re supposed to do it, right? I was once quite proficient at the flute and I can read music but when I sat down at a piano and tried to make my fingers work… they just didn’t. Nothing wanted to come out of me, and I found this really disheartening!
The big surprise came when I started trusting in my voice instead.
It makes perfect sense to me now, because it is my most accomplished and practised tool. My ears have heard it all and I’ve sung a lot of songs! I know from experience that when I let my voice flow freely there is no stopping my creative output. My voice is my instrument for song writing now.
Another surprise was suddenly writing a song after a rather painful ‘Mothering moment’ to do with my son. When I later shared that song with him it felt really important and cathartic.
What should we expect to see or hear from you next?
I’m very happy with the sounds that I’ve created so far, and with not feeling so embarrassed about what’s coming out of my mouth, but my ultimate goal is being able write songs that speak to a more universal, collective experience.
I want to show people that whatever their background they can access this creative process too – I want to bust myths all over the place!
I want to write songs about things that don’t get sung about: the slightly more challenging aspects of life, songs with some value that provide light and good in challenging times. But in doing so I’ aware that things might get a bit messy for me, because I’m reaching into deeply personal feelings related to trauma and tragedy, as well as joy.
This process will be transformative and it’s already the engine that’s pulling the rest of my life forward; I feel energised by having access to this sort of creative expression, and I’m looking forward to sharing more of my journey with you all!
How can people follow your progress?
Watch my VLOG series where I talk in depth about what’s happening for me in the moment, and I share my arrangements and songs: