Editorial Calendars are an organized way of scheduling your content in advance, offering ample time to churn out quality and thoughtful content consistently. They can be medium-specific or encompass all your content marketing efforts. I use mine for blogging. I do a weaver on both paper planning and digital planning. I needed a structure of sorts so as not to write into the void.
Developing A Writing Culture
To do that I embarked on three writing endeavors:
- Morning Pages – write 3 pages every morning of nothingness. Anything that comes to mind.
- Break The Block – participate in writing prompts found on Reddit on any given topic. Just a paragraph a day.
- Blog – post weekly but endeavor to have a pile of content drafted on the ready. That means blocking out time to knock out 3 posts per week. That way you’re always a month ahead of schedule.
Despite the well laid out structures including the “as soon as you post, your next article should be in queue” guideline, I have to admit May was a rubbish month for me. I learned a lot about my self-imposed pressure and the steps to take when I hit rock bottom yet did very little about it. I sulked, pitied, angered, relaxed, panicked, guilt-tripped and let myself go.
The one passion project I choose to be a part of despite the mind blocks, complacency, excuses and life as we know it is writing. Let me tell you that went well until it didn’t. Humans have this annoying habit of showing rebellion and intermittent self-sabotage whenever routine eats them up.
My goal was to post weekly. The first time I didn’t, it opened room for complacency. I went from having content for the blog 3 weeks earlier to struggling to write on the eve of publishing to then abandoning the mission altogether. A week went by, and then 2. Before I knew it, I only had one post out of the four that had been scheduled on my previous editorial calendars. I had these many ideas on what to write yet clueless on how to put it together. Writer’s block and its brothers. At first, I beat myself up about it, then I didn’t. It became normal and accepted. It felt like a chore. I stopped, with minor regrets but it is what it is.
The Self Call Out
I had to check myself. Is it only me who appreciates calling myself out? I used to be such a patronizing put-down but now I am learning to channel my negativity to something meaningful and helpful. Every time I call myself out I have to come up with the solution there and then. This has to be followed through.
So I mulled over conversations about just what went wrong? Why does it feel like a task to blog? I went over the Editorial Calendars I created only to find so many untapped ideas, so many drafts that do not go beyond one paragraph and definitely lots of resourceful content. I realize the ideas are still things I want to write about, things I am passionate about, but what ran them down was the self-induced pressure to write for my audience. That happens when you feel you need fodder for the day’s post.
Internet culture has tricked us into believing we must create for attention. But that only leads to unhappiness & disappointment. Create stuff because you HAVE to. Because you love it. Because you're utterly fascinated. Create like no-one is watching. 💃
— Holly Exley (@hollyexley) June 12, 2018
By refusing to fully niche down and embracing Lifestyle as a catch-all, finding the balance between addressing the concerns my niche audience has and communicating about what tickles my fancy is an exercise in futility. At least that’s what the gurus say.
The gag is I cannot find that balance until I figure out who my niche audience is. That does not mean I shall simply sulk away or hang on to an excuse when the very reason I went back to writing was for self-nourishment first.
The Process for Creating Editorial Calendars
I audited my blog and reviewed its previous goals. Questions such as why do you blog and who is your audience are helpful here but for a beginner. So I dug deep:
- What times did you struggle to produce content?
- What times were particularly good?
- What categories worked best?
- What categories didn’t?
- What was the hardest part of creating content?
- What were the emerging themes you enjoyed to write about?
- What questions were you asked by your readers?
Once you’ve made a mind map on the topics and subtopics you want to write about, you align your ideas with a fresh approach. To become an idea machine you must read widely and explore life without limitation. There’s no such thing as a new idea but as Mark Twain says, we give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations.
You can draw inspiration from Subreddits, Pinterest, YouTube, Social Media topics, Niche Blogs, Life Experiences, Unanswered Questions on Quora, Articles on the same (I save them for future reference on Pocket) Old notes etc.
Make sure the ideas are things you are very passionate about. Struggling through a topic you find boring for the sake of your readers won’t guarantee that they will be glued to it. Always write from the heart. Whatever you’re passionate about, you can weave that into your writing. Just ask yourself which of your varied interests do you want to share with your readers.
Revised Work Flow For Editorial Calendars
A workflow is a better place to start. Perhaps you want to blog daily, weekly, monthly, twice a month… Weekly was the best fit for me. Still is.
My most productive hours are between midnight and 2 am (yes) so if I know staying will be beneficial on a particular night, I do it. Most of my efficient ideas are usually thought of during showers so any opportunity to turn little subtleties into big ideas is welcomed. To write is to see beyond the surface layers of thinking that we confine ourselves to.
With your list of ideas, you can now schedule them in your calendar or tool of choice. I use Trello and integrate it with Google calendar for the actual dating.
On Trello, the lists (folders) are categorized into:
Draft – Anytime I am inspired I do a brain Dump in the drafts. Some people use blog post templates to come up with ideas for the post. This can ease up your work and promote a consistent style of writing. Others choose not to. Whatever works for you.
Scheduled – The articles are edited and ready for posting, from different categories well spaced out and on a schedule. Mixing up content using defined monthly themes works best. That doesn’t mean you will strictly stick to the order. Priorities shift so there’s room for rescheduling.
Published/Archived – Once I hit send, the article goes in here.
Hitting Reset button
After having that needed conversation noting down the setbacks and progress I made however minimal, I pressed reset. I have chosen to start afresh, no shame in that. This time I am in a different headspace. You don’t have to religiously post something for the sake of it or because of your schedule demands. You don’t have to scour your entire world to notice these details. When you feel like you’re losing your identity in the process, don’t trust the process. Take a step back, ask yourself the tough questions and regroup.
I know there will be days I won’t follow the schedule, days I won’t even open my content ideas page, days I would just want to not write, days I will be all over the place with my stances. I will allow myself to feel that way because only then will I see if I’m drowning and need to pick myself up again. It’s only after you wake that you realize how long you were out. Creativity should never feel like a job. When it stops being a passion, you’re doing it wrong. To anyone struggling to create, your work is important. Long may it flex.