Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Freelance Writer Commandment #5: Have an Editorial Calendar

Most busy freelancers swear by an editorial calendar. The method of tracking ideas and deadlines may vary: Excel spreadsheets, large desktop calendars, specialized software, but the outcome is the same - better control over your time and a boost in productivity.

I admit, I was slow to warm to the editorial calendar idea. Sure I posted deadlines, but mapping out what I would be writing or blogging day after day seemed a bit restrictive to me. That is until I started getting so much work in I couldn't keep myself straight. After a couple of eyeball-busting nights spent hunched over the keyboard and I shouted "Uncle!" and tried to organize my thoughts and work for a week in advance.

It worked out well. Each morning I woke up, I knew what I needed to work on and didn't have to look to my plants for inspiration. As ideas and work came in I was able to plug them into the calendar. It has been working swell for me.

I use a pretty old fashioned method - the giant wall calendar. It allows me to see at a glance what all I have going on. I need that visual. It hangs right above my desk as a gentle reminder to "keep working and stop twittering" and allows me to sync up my family's activity calendar with my work calendar. I now know if I need to start working early one morning (like today) because my evening is going to be lost to an outing - like the Sex and the City movie preview I get to go to tonight!

There are some ways the calendar can fail you however - not looking at it. Right now my office is off-the-hook with supplies, loose papers, etc., so I've been at my kitchen table. With no calendar to keep me on task I've taken to copying my calendar into my smaller planner. Yes it's redundant, but whatever works!

Not updating your calendar won't help very much either. Even the simplest productivity enhancer take a little discipline.

Do you use an editorial calendar? What method do you use and how has it helped?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Freelance Writing Commandment #6: Write Everyday

It doesn't matter if you don't have an assignment due. Each day that you put finger to keyboard - or pen to paper if you're old school, you are working your writing muscles.

Like any exercise, writing daily helps you become a faster, stronger, more flexible and fit writer. That's what we all want right? The writing equivalent of a six-pack? There's no magic pill that replaces exercise nor one that will make you a better writer.

Daily writing must not be a sloppy endeavor. Weightlifting with bad form will not maximize your time or tax those muscles. Same for writing. A sloppy blog or journal filled with bad transitions and poor subject/verb agreement could actually hurt you by allowing you to develop bad habits.

Think of your self-editing, as one more rep. Oooh, feel the burn.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Why Do Editor's Hate It When Freelance Magazine Writers and Journalists Corporate Write?

Really, I'm asking. I don't have the answer, but I keep running into this discussion on other blogs. Apparently this is a controversial topic in the writing world, so I really want to hear about it. When there is no conflict of interest, say a writer develops brochures for a local travel agency but their niche is writing about parenting and child issues for national mags. What is the issue?

I haven't had any problems - that I'm aware of - but it came up when I went to revamp my Web site. Should we include corporate writing clips or not? I argued I'd seen the big whips like Linda Formichelli list their corporate work along with mag clips. Maybe after you're established to the point where people put you in their blogs as big whips you can.

I would love to hear editors take on this. Is it a big deal or is the blog world blowing it out of proportion?

Finally, if you do both, how do you "hide" your corporate writing - especially in this information heavy world? Is hiding it being dishonest?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Technical Difficulties: MACBook Pro Battery

I love my MacBook Pro. Well, I love my family and I'm infactuated with my MacBook Pro. We've been together two years now and we've had a great relationship. We had a rocky period when Leopard jacked my system up and I fell into the keyboard of a PC, but it was purely physical - I had deadlines. A girl has her needs.

A couple of tears and some memory later we were back together, living and loving like nothing ever happened. Lately, I've been getting more and more frustrated with my MAC's stamina - it's battery stamina.

I used to get oh, close to four hours. Now I get one. I noticed a sharp decline after installing Leopard and more RAM. I know that people have complained about Leopard eating up battery life, but this much? What about my usage - I've used this laptop everyday for two years - give or take a couple of days for sickness and what not.

So readers, my question is this: What do I do about the battery? Break down and buy a new one? Any good deals out there? Buy a battery refresher? Do they really work? Or resign myself to being connected to a cord all dang day.

Help a sistah and her MAC get the power back. I need some MAC Viagra!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Freelance Writing Commandment #7: Stay Focused.

I admit, I do it myself. Every so often while cruising the job boards I spot gigs that suit me pretty well, but are not quite what I want to be doing, yet I apply anyway and apply and apply. Three hours and 12 email applications later, I look up and wonder where the time has gone. I was distracted by the shiny gig.

As freelancers we are always on the hustle, find the next gig to replace a project that's ending soon, find the next source of income to help you meet your quarterly goal, etc. Slowly, we find ourselves applying to or spending time working on gigs that have nothing to do with our niche or career goals.

A great writer and friend Dawn Friedman always has me look at a new gig with a critical eye. I send her an email with plenty of "Whoo hoo's" and she asks if it works with my platform, if it pays me what I am worth, etc. That source of calm helps me determine if I am undermining my career goals or my family's financial needs by accepting a position.

It's never easy to turn down a job, at least it isn't for me. I've got a family. There will always be a slight pause before I pass on a gig. But ultimately, we must all set our career goals and bypass the "Oh shiny!" gigs that distract us.