It’s that time of year again! In February, as I’ve mentioned before, I take part in FAWM (February Album-Writing Month), which is an online challenge where musicians, composers and lyricists from around the world attempt to write 14 songs in 28 days.

Not only is February a lot more fun when you’re making music with like-minded people, but taking part in FAWM over the years (this is my tenth challenge!) has taught me a few things that are helpful in my business life too:

1. Removing the pressure makes you more creative.

You may be surprised to learn that I’m not planning to become a rock star any time soon! When writing songs I don’t have any particular aspirations other than to play around, try new things and enjoy myself. So doing FAWM gives me a chance to have fun exercising my creative mind without feeling that I’m going to be judged for it.

When it comes to translating or writing a blog post, I try to remember that and not put myself under pressure when writing a first draft. It doesn’t have to be perfect immediately. I aim to go with the flow during the first draft and then come back later for a tweak and a polish.

2. But a little bit of pressure can be helpful

Having said that, I do find that having a goal in mind helps me stay focused. Weirdly, it worked best when I had the least time. When my kids were smaller there wasn’t much room for hobbies, but when I did have time I got down to things straight away. These days I’m more likely to procrastinate, and then get going and write a bunch of songs once I feel the end of the month approaching.

With translation, too, I find I work best when I have a good amount of work to do, because I know I have to be efficient and keep going. And I do love a good deadline.

3. Surround yourself with supportive, like-minded people

FAWM brings together musicians, lyricists and composers of all skill-levels and genres from around the world. One of the best feelings is posting a song and then having someone comment on it. There are also forums where you can discuss anything to do with songwriting (and other stuff!). So people give each other advice on everything from how to find inspiration to which microphone to buy.

In the same way, my working life would be completely different without my fantastic network of fellow translators and business buddies. It’s great to have someone to ask about tricky issues, or to hear a “well done” or a “yes, that’s happened to me too”.

4. You don’t have to do it all yourself – collaborating rocks!

What I love best about doing FAWM is when I post some lyrics and someone comes along wanting to put them to music. It’s an amazing feeling when you hear someone bring your words to life and breathe their own magic into them.

In my day job, too, it can be fun to collaborate, whether it’s working with my favourite editor to really make a text shine, joining a fellow entrepreneur on their podcast or working with a colleague who’s an expert in a particular field.

5. Let your writing ‘marinate’ and come back with fresh eyes

I’m a big fan of brainstorming and then letting the ‘back brain’ take over. If I’m trying to tell a certain story in a song but it’s not coming together, I’ll note down everything I can think of that might be relevant, even if it seems cheesy, and then leave it to marinate overnight. When I come back to it, I’ll often find that I’m more likely to see connections or will suddenly notice a particular thread that makes the whole song come together.

When I’m translating or writing a post, I ideally like to leave a text to sit for a while before coming back to it with fresh eyes for a final check. Leaving it overnight is best, but going for a break and returning, or even doing another piece of work in between can be a great help when it comes to checking that what I’ve written flows properly.

6. Build a habit and keep going

The point of FAWM is not (necessarily) to create a masterpiece, but to get into the habit of writing songs. And once I get into the swing of it each year, I start finding inspiration in everything. It’s about getting into the creative mindset and exercising the muscle. You won’t find your voice by waiting and hoping that inspiration will strike.

When it comes to my business, this is how I feel about blogging or posting on social media. Both work best once I get into a rhythm and start posting regularly. The best way of improving your writing is… by writing! And whether I’m writing songs or blog posts, the practice also benefits how I write when I’m translating.

As you can see I’ve learned a lot from FAWM over the years, and not only things like how to stay in tune or come up with a killer hook.

What do you do in your spare time? How has it helped you in your business? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.