Don’t Be A Dobby, Get Yourself A Rose Book!

A while back, I wrote about becoming a positive listener and the importance of being able to hear the positive things that are being said to us in a singing lesson.

Sometimes the need of training positive listening stretches outside of the singing lesson. We might not only be unable to hear the positive things that are being said to us in a lesson, but we might also be deaf or “immune” towards other positive comments or feedback about our singing in general, or about the shows and concerts we give.

I was reminded of this today, when I worked with a fabulous singer. She has her own show and is touring with it internationally, something many singers are dreaming of doing. Not only does she have a singing career that leaves many singers jealous, she can “sing the stars off the sky” – as the Dutch saying goes (“de sterren van de hemel zingen”). In other words, she can sing challenging repertoire including “Defying Gravity” from Wicked, like many singers would only dream of singing.

I’ve been working with this singer for a while and I can recognize when her “Inner Censor” is kicking in during the singing lessons, analyzing and making opinions about her own singing as the song proceeds. She’s like many other singers I know, making comments while we are singing (either verbally: “that sounded awful”… “that was supposed to sound different”…. or non-verbally, by rolling eyes or with various cringing facial expressions).

What breaks my heart is not only that she doesn’t believe my positive comments about her singing, but also that she is like so many other singers out there who keep telling themselves they absolutely suck at everything, despite all the positive comments they receive from their audiences, teachers or peers. It’s as if there’s this whole bunch of singers who act like Dobby the House Elf from Harry Potter, who keeps punishing himself. Instead of taking in the positive comments, we like to do this to ourselves:



I’d like to share another tip for becoming a positive listener with you, because we talked about it today with the singer I worked with. It’s a simple and powerful strategy: you document and keep track of all the positive feedback and comments you receive (about your singing, or sometimes even about other things). Keep doing this at least for one month.

This is especially good for people whose ‘Inner Critic Voice’ has become way too loud. And in case you wonder if your ‘Inner Critic Voice’ has become too loud, you’ll recognize this if:

  • people tell you they loved your show
  • if you keep being booked to do the job again and again
  • if your vocal coach tells you what you’re doing is great
  • people in your audience are touched or moved to tears
  • or similar things

…but you still can come up with 1000 reasons why you are not satisfied with ANYTHING AT ALL about your singing.


photo credit: studio-d via photopin cc

photo credit: studio-d via photopin cc



Christina Kürstein-Lecocq, who was one of my teachers at Complete Vocal Institute, once called a collection of positive comments “The Rose Book”, and because I really like that name I keep calling it the same. “The Rose Book” could be a notebook or journal (or iPhone/iPad app) in which you write down ALL the positive comments and feedback you receive. Think about those positive comments, and now imagine someone giving you a bunch of roses after a performance you’ve had (see why I love the name?).

…and now, I challenge you to keep a Rose Book for the coming month! 

Here’s how it goes:

Write down every compliment you receive during the coming month. It might be a compliment about your singing. Or it might be a compliment about other things. Read your Rose Book and your compliments daily, or at least once a week. 

Don’t be a Dobby, get started today!


Mini-Breaks and Oyster Moments

This weekend I had to think about the importance of rest and ‘oyster moments’ (let me explain that one later on). Rest for body and mind (emptying your head), and rest as in sleep (so underestimated!). For me, ‘rest’ can also mean a change of scenery, going away from daily life for a while and visiting places I have never been before. That kind of rest can include the two types of rest mentioned earlier, but also another aspect: the ‘retreat’ type of rest that is very necessary for every (creative) human being.

Creative Retreats And Mini-Breaks

I like to think of ‘creative retreats’ as any activity that fills your creative well. If you just keep taking out water from the well it will dry up at some point. Filling the well means you do things that inspire you. Filling the well also means resting, pampering and spoiling yourself.

Julia Cameron writes in ‘The Artist’s Way’:

Making art begins with making hay while the sun shines. It begins with getting into the now and enjoying your day. It begins with giving yourself some small treats and breaks.

A simple change of scenery can give you lots of new ideas and inspiration. It’s not always necessary to travel far in order to fill your well. Enjoying a good cup of coffee in a nice café close to your home can be a treat, and a long walk on a nearby beach can be a mini-break. But sometimes it’s good to get away from your daily routines. Exploring new places makes time pass by slower and empties your head.

Allowing yourself treats and taking mini-breaks sounds very simple, but actually doing it can sometimes be difficult. Being my own boss, I found one of the hardest things is actually to schedule my free time and allow myself to take (mini) breaks. I have even had to learn not to feel guilty about taking time off for myself (can you believe that!?). I never felt guilty about my free time when I had a so-called ‘normal job’. Isn’t that strange. I am getting better at being a much nicer boss for myself though, because I have learned that if I don’t take breaks my (creative) work suffers.

Last weekend I went for a mini-break to Ghent in Belgium, a town that had been on my list of nearby places to visit. I stayed in Bed & Breakfast Bel Etage, a studio apartment on the first floor of a neoclassical building very close to the historical center of Ghent. The apartment has been recently redecorated with good taste and attention of the authentic details. The hostess Sofia is very friendly and will give you lots of nice tips on cafés, restaurants, and shops. The street outside of the apartment is pretty busy, but I still slept like a baby!


There are signs like these all across town in Ghent. It made me think of how important it is to pause, even if it’s just for a little moment. The sign might as well say ‘mini break’!

Oyster Moments

Belgians enjoy the good life and eating out, and there are lots of good restaurants to choose from in Ghent. I think making a reservation is smart especially during the weekend. If your favorite restaurant is fully booked, you can perhaps still manage to have a culinary experience like I did, by scoring some fresh oysters and cava from the street vendor on the Groentenmarkt (opposite of the Yves Tierentyn Mustard Shop, which is a must visit for foodies). Having delicious oysters and cava on a Saturday afternoon get you in a perfect relaxed mood!


You might ask yourself, what do oysters and cava have to do with creative retreats? For me, they have everything to do with feeling alive and relaxed. These kind of ‘oyster moments’ also give me a sense of luxury and abundance, and feel like a reward for taking myself and my creative work seriously. If you don’t like oysters, you can invent your own ‘oyster moments’. And remember, luxury doesn’t even have to cost money.

When is the last time you took a mini-break or treated yourself for something special? How do you fill your creative well? What makes you feel inspired and rested?

©2012 Katja Maria Slotte


Originally published in my blog katjamariamusic in March 2012.