Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Planning for Inspiration

I hear this a lot: many bloggers choose not to plan posts in advance. They want their voice to remain authentic, and therefore choose to only write when they feel like they have something to say. Planning in advance, scheduling content--these are the enemies of authenticity. But are they? I appreciate their desire to remain authentic. But it’s also true that planning is not the enemy of authentic improvisation. Planning can actually foster it.

"That's not how creativity works!"

I love the Canadian duet Whitehorse. They were in my town a few months ago, and I got to attend the show and catch an interview with them. They were asked something like, “I just love the second track on your new album. It’s so different and fresh and creative: did you build the album around that song?” They laughed, and said something like, “That’s not how creativity works! The most creative songs never come at the beginning of the process. The real magic happens at the end of the album-creating process, when we know we already have enough material and we’re not under any pressure to make something amazing.” When you blog whenever you feel like it, there’s no pressure. But paradoxically, planning content in advance can also take the pressure off (with the added advantage that your readers won't ever have to wonder if you quit without telling them because you haven’t posted in 3 months). You can wait for inspiration, or you can plan for it. Bloggers can plan for it with an editorial calendar.

An editorial calendar lets you:
  1. evenly distribute blog content. For instance, on my blog I like to space posts on my different categories--like books and reading, beauty and style, relationships and family--fairly evenly. My editorial calendar helps me distribute my content.
  2. have time to think things over. I’m a slow processor; I need lots of time to turn issues over and over in my head. If I decide days or weeks in advance what I’m writing about, I have lots of time to process--and my writing will be better as a result.
  3. make the most of your writing time. I love to write, but my life is full. When I have an hour to write, I need to focus on the writing--not on deciding what to write.
When inspiration strikes, you can change your calendar. There are times when you’ll want to blog about something right this second. You can still do that! The editorial calendar is your servant, not your master. Improvise freely, but make a plan. And prepare to get creative.

Do you plan your content in advance?

Anne Bogel loves strong coffee, long books, and big ideas. She puts a timely spin on timeless women’s issues at her blog Modern Mrs Darcy.

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