Over the past year or two, spreadsheets seem to have become increasingly common in the book blogosphere. Bloggers routinely share scheduling habits with their followers, explaining how creating a spreadsheet keeps them organized and on task. Some bloggers may even offer their spreadsheets for others to use, as well. The complexity of some these spreadsheets can be staggering, with bloggers recording everything from season of the year to genre to age range, then determining how to arrange it all. Whatever keeps a person organized is probably a good idea! But does every blogger need to keep a spreadsheet to be successful?
The proliferation of spreadsheets can sometimes make it seem like there is only one “right” way to blog. And the sheer complexity of these spreadsheets can make them seem authoritative. Surely anything that has 15 columns and a sophisticated color-coding scheme must be the secret to successful blogging! However, I think it is important to remember that, ultimately, there is no one correct way to blog, to write, or to schedule. Everyone’s personality, habits, and style are going to be different, and what works for one person may not work for another.
One helpful way to look at this may be to recall how writing is taught in schools. Usually, teachers inform their students that the writing process consists of brainstorming, creating an outline, writing a first draft, revising the draft extensively, and then editing/proofreading. The process laid out tends to be very linear, and to suggest that all effective writers go through the same steps in the same order. But do they?
My writing process, in fact, looked very different in school. Most often, I would simply think about a topic for days or weeks, perhaps jotting down quotes or snippets of ideas on a piece of paper. Then, I would sit down and write out the whole paper, revising, not at the end of the draft, but as I wrote the draft. I do not believe I ever did a major revision of a draft because I had already done that work previously. I never did a mind map or anything else students are taught to do in order to brainstorm. And, if I was required to turn in an outline for credit, I would simply make one up, or I would create what is called a reverse outline, relying on the full draft I had already written. I suspect a good many students also create their own, effective writing processes that are nothing like the process they have been told they “ought” to do.
I think blog scheduling is very similar to this. There may be good organization ideas or “rules” out there that make sense and provide a good starting place. But they are not rigid. Just because one person likes to color-code books by genre does not mean everyone needs to do the same. My own scheduling process, in fact, tends to be very loose, and it is something I store in my head rather than in a spreadsheet. For example, I know that my co-blogger posts reviews on Mondays and I post reviews on Thursdays. Either of us can post a review on Saturday. Friday is reserved for our Classic Remarks memes. The rest of the dates are flexible, though I like to post discussions on Tuesdays since so many other people tend to post memes on that day, and I think it makes our content stand out. I also keep in mind seasonal trends, remembering to schedule reviews of spooky books in October, lists of romance reads for Valentine’s Day, and so on. The organization is simple enough that I can memorize it without spending time creating a spreadsheet, filling it out, and color coding it. Personally, I would rather spend time blogging than fussing over a spreadsheet.
The current popularity of blogging spreadsheets suggests that they are a tool many people find useful. And that is excellent! However, bloggers who are unsure about starting a spreadsheet or who do not feel enthusiastic about it need not worry. Just because something is trendy does not mean it is the the only way to do something. Everyone has their own unique blogging style–and that includes scheduling. Starting a spreadsheet may be worth a try, if a person is looking for more structure in their scheduling or a more effective way of scheduling than they currently have. But if scheduling without a spreadsheet works, then it works! In the end, there is no real “secret” to blogging success, just different approaches that may all achieve the same goal.
What do you think? Have you tried keeping a spreadsheet? Why or why not? If you have, did you find it useful?