I didn’t publish a single post last week. I volunteered to serve at a four-day tournament, and my commitment left no free time. I couldn’t write anything new, and I had no blog posts or podcast episodes in reserve.
So last week, I published nothing.
May I serve as a cautionary tale?
Work Ahead on Content
If you’re a blogger or regular guest columnist for another publication, I urge you to do what I failed to do: write several articles or blog posts and store them up—better yet, prep and schedule them—so you’ll have content for the weeks you head off on vacation, catch the flu, or volunteer to serve at a four-day tournament.
If you don’t, you’ll end up like me and have no choice but to recycle something from the archives or simply take the week off.
Now, taking a week off is certainly an option.
But your readers like hearing from you. They look forward to your updates. They appreciate your solutions to their problems. They’re entertained by your stories. They show up looking for whatever it is you write and when you and your words aren’t there for a week or more, they wonder what’s going on. They hope nothing’s wrong.
I wish I’d worked ahead, so I could have offered great content to help you reach your writing goals—and have fun. We missed a week when, together, we could have been more curious, creative, and productive.
It Takes Grit to Work Ahead
I know it’s possible to work ahead, because I pulled it off last year when I was going to be gone for several weeks. The month before I left, I got up early and stayed up late to double the work, writing one piece for the week I was in and another for a month out, when I would be traveling. My pace was nutty—unsustainable, really—but I pulled it off and felt great having a month’s worth of content finished, prepped, and scheduled.
It took grit; I had to push to get ahead. But what freedom!
And the beauty is that once you’re ahead, you can revert back to a normal schedule, producing only one piece at a time knowing there’s a safety net. If you fall behind one week, you’ll still have something to publish.
I wish I’d kept it up and maintained that work-ahead advantage.
But I didn’t.
And that’s why last week, I did not record a podcast or write a blog post.
And that’s why this week, I’ve resolved to work ahead.
Write When Productive to Have Content When Blocked
The work-ahead advantage is a great gift not only when you’re busy, like I was, but also when you hit a creative lull.
Call it writer’s block or call it a dry spell. Whatever it is, writers often enjoy mega-productive seasons followed by weeks of meager output. If you can manage to write extra when words are flowing freely, you’ll accumulate essays, articles, blog posts, or poems you can continue to send out even if you enter a phase when you’re unable to produce polished pieces.
What Season Are You in Now?
If you’re in a mega-productive season, write. Write a lot. Write more than you need. Write until you have a month’s worth of material or more. Make hay while the sun shines and all that.
If you’re in a dry spell, hang in there. Read some great literature and relax into it. Underline phrases that generate a sigh or laughter. Copy into your commonplace book sections that seem significant and deserve further consideration. Take long walks. Sip tea. Exercise. Write in a journal.
During that lull, maybe—hopefully—you’ll have some extra content on hand that you can send out or publish. If not, that’s okay. Call it a hiatus or a sabbatical or something.
At some point, the muse will return and you’ll feel that surge of energy. Ideas and inspiration will once more flow through your fingers and onto the screen. Once again, you’ll produce content. Once again, you’ll feel the joy of creativity. And once again, you’ll have the option of working ahead, writing two or three or four more articles, poems, blog posts, or essays so you can set some aside for safekeeping.
Work ahead when you’re able. That’s my plan, too.
Your future self—and your readers—will thank you.
To listen to the full episode, click on the podcast player above or use subscription options below.
- Ep 21: One Thing Every Writer Needs to Succeed
- Ep 82: Plan a Sustainable Year for Your Writing Life
- How and Why to Keep a Commonplace Book (Ryan Holiday’s card system)
- Evernote on the Commonplace Book (includes images and suggestions for how to turn Evernote into a high-tech commonplace book)
- All podcast episodes
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The podcast is also available Stitcher, and you should be able to search for and find “Ann Kroeker, Writing Coach” in any podcast player.