Monday, September 7, 2015

What's New And What's Next: Editorial Calendars

So those of you who read this blog on occasion will know two things:

1. I have to spellcheck "occasion" because it is one of those words I just can't quite figure out
2. I am constantly talking about how to write and publish more consistently

The first one will probably never change, but I am working on the second one in a very concrete way by creating an editorial calendar. Editorial calendars organize writing topics and publishing schedules so that you always have something to write and always have a post in the pipeline. Right now, it looks like this:

That coffee cup in the lower left corner is empty. #NotGood
Yes, that is a planner, an old-fashioned tool if ever there was one. Guess what? I love a planner. I love it more than the fancy editorial calendar I signed up for online because it will allow me to work on the future without lugging my laptop around. I don't always want to be chained to electronics.

But I digress. For those of you who are writers, wondering how an editorial calendar might help you, here's what I have learned:

1. You need to use what works for you. CoSchedule is a great online editorial calendar that also helps organize and schedule social media, but I prefer the tactile sensation of writing it down. Once I get the act of planning and working ahead down, then maybe I will look at it again, but for now, my June-July planner works great. Plus, CoSchedule costs money, and I am a big fan of #free.

They do offer a 14-day free trial, so if you are a fan of online tools, give it a whirl. 

2. Everything is a blog idea, but creating overarching topics help. I currently have two blogs and a million ideas for both. Anything can spark an idea, but if you have main topics that you cover, you can easily tailor the ideas to your blog. For example, my food blog right now has four main topics: how-tos, recipes, ingredients and local food, and reviews. My next blog on the calendar is a recipe for gluten-free pizza, but I am also working on a blog about the Maryland blue crab (local ingredients and local food) and a book review of Ratio by Michael Ruhlman (life-changing book for a cook). I keep a running list of quotes, ideas, and websites, then look for an angle that fits my mission.

3. Speaking of a mission....Write a mission statement for your blog. I will be honest and tell you that I am still in the process of this. I will also be honest and say that until it is finished I will have an uneasy feeling. A mission guides everything that you do, as an entrepreneur or a writer, and without one you are simply flailing about wildly.

From here
Side note: A mission is not quite the same as a goal. My goal is to monetize my blogs usefully for my readers so that they make money for me and replace my mercenary writing income.  This goal will hopefully be realized as I focus on each blog's mission. 

4. Don't sweat it. I won't lie: I sweat it hard. Anxious is my operating system. I am a worrier. I get overwhelmed by everything I don't know about what I am doing. This is bad business and patently unhelpful. In these times, like today, where I have a million little notes scattered across three notebooks, I like to remind myself of this lovely little saying:

What's the best way to eat an elephant? One bite at a time. (click to tweet!)

So today I am working on organizing blog ideas into topics and matching them with a theme or a structure for the end of September. I am writing this blog to help me track the process and to start to test some new technologies (like the "click to tweet" and the gif above).

5. Social media should be an integral part of your editorial calendar. I have used social media in a haphazard way, but an editorial calendar can help you plan and keep track of how well a blog post is doing. I use Hootsuite to schedule social media, but I don't follow up and re-visit posts that do well (or do poorly). This is part of the learning curve for me (tailoring the message to the media), and honestly one of the reasons I have avoided this whole process for so long. But as the seasons change, it's time to move forward and get serious.

I am still a bit overwhelmed by this beginning, and the realization that I am going to have to do this type of planning on a regular basis, but I am also hoping that I will be able to streamline what I do a little bit. Right now, I don't take any days off from working, and I sometimes have long gaps in publishing. This is not good for me as a writer or my blogs as a place to get any kind of legit info. I want to be able to take a week off and still have all of my blogs and social media go out. I want to be able to spend a day at a museum or on a road trip exploring without worrying about how far behind it will put me. I can build these things in. #EyesOnThePrize

Writers, what about you? How do you stay on track with blogs and social media? Do you use an editorial calendar? 

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