Tag: blogging

Two Posts A Day Keeps The Stress Away

green typewriter on brown wooden table
Photo by Markus Winkler on Pexels.com

I set a goal for myself in 2022 to write two blog posts each day. This is a step up from my 2021 goal of publishing one post every day of the year. Note the subtle difference: in 2022, the goal is to write two posts per day, not necessarily publish two. As far as publishing goes, I still plan on one-a-day as my baseline, with some days having more. I was motivated to do this as our vacation wound to its end because I had pre-written three weeks worth of blog posts so that I wasn’t stressed about missing a day while on vacation. It got me thinking about the value this writing has to me. There are two parts:

  1. Writing is a form of meditation for me. When I sit down to write, stress is temporarily abated. Sometimes it is because I am writing about things that stress me out and doing so acts as a kind of relief valve. But mostly, the act of writing is calming.
  2. Having a goal of publishing a 600+ word post every day of the year can, itself, be stressful. Writing two posts a day can help alleviate this stress by ensuring that if there is a day that I don’t feel like writing, or don’t have time to write, there will still be posts scheduled in advance.

Because of vacation, I started on this goal on Sunday, and since then, I have written two posts every day, scheduling them out one per day. I am writing this post on Tuesday morning (January 11) but you won’t see it until Friday or Saturday (I sometimes move things around). What I find interesting about this is that if I keep it up through the month of January, then I’ll have all of February’s posts written by the end of this month. And by the end of June, I’ll have a year’s worth of posts written.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that I won’t write an ad-hoc post to comment on something timely in the news, or even have multiple posts in a single day on some days. It turns out I did that quite a bit last year. But the main goal for me is to write two posts each day and build up a lead.

I’ve gotten pretty good about jotting down ideas for posts. I tag these ideas in my daily notes file and when I review that file each evening, I assign myself two ideas to write the following day. The posts I write aren’t always the ones that I assign myself. I am not that disciplined. Indeed, this post was not on the list of posts to write today, but I thought it would be interesting to write so I wrote it. The second idea I was going to use today I’ll push to tomorrow instead.

There will be days when I don’t have time to write, or don’t have the motivation or ideas. I find that the latter (motivation and ideas) come in waves. So in reality I suspect my average “posts written per day” in 2022 will be somewhere between 1 and 2. In 2021, this number was 1.24 posts per day. I’m hoping that I’ll be closer to 1.75 or above in 2022.

One interesting side-effect to this that I learned while on vacation is that I don’t always remember what posts are coming, especially the further out they get scheduled. So the posts that appear that day become a kind of surprise for me as well.

Do you have any writing goals for 2022, blogging or otherwise? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Did you enjoy this post?
If so, consider subscribing to the blog using the form below or clicking on the button below to follow the blog. And consider telling a friend about it. Already a reader or subscriber to the blog? Thanks for reading!

Follow Jamie Todd Rubin on WordPress.com

Blogging as a Hobby, Writing as an Affliction

a vintage typewriter
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

What makes something a hobby? For me it is something you do because I love to do it. You love it so much that you are willing to pay to do it, rather than be paid. The thing that matters most is the enjoyment it brings me. People can and do make money from their hobbies. I did that when I was writing fiction and nonfiction articles for various publications. But it is not about the money. Indeed, I make no money from this blog and I have continued to work at it for more than 16 years because I enjoy it. For me, when money becomes involved in a hobby, it begins to feel like work, and my hobbies are one escape I have from work. I was reminded of something I read in Oliver Burkeman’s book Four Thousand Week: Time Management for Mortals:

In an age of instrumentalization, the hobbyist is a subversive: he insists that some things are worth doing for themselves alone, despite offering no payoffs in terms of productivity or profit.

This is true for me, and is the main reason I pass on offers to monetize what I do here on the blog. Here is a place where I can write about whatever I want, and have it in front of an audience as quickly as I want. There are no submissions, no dealing with contracts or expenses. There is also, alas, no working with editors, which is one part of freelance work that I particularly enjoy because I learn so much from them. But I am fortunately to have readers who are kind and gentle in diligently pointing out the spelling, grammar and typo infelicities in my writing. That is almost as good. It means people are reading closely.

Over the years, I’ve considered reading to be my hobby, and writing stories and articles to be my hobby. But in truth, writing for the blog here is my hobby. Blogging is writing and through the transitive property, writing is my hobby. I think it is better for me to hold writing as a hobby than as a career. I’m not sure I’d could make it as a career. I like what E. B. White had to say about writing as an occupation while filling out a government questionnaire during the Second World War:

Writing is not an occupation nor is it a profession. Bad writing can be, and often is, an occupation; but I agree with the government that writing in the pure sense and in noblest form is nether an occupation nor a procession. It is more of an affliction, or just punishment.

White goes on to justify my own position, someone for whom writing is not a primary professions, but which takes place in the spaces between everything else I do: my day job, time with the kids and family, reading, chores around the house. He wrote,

I think the best writing is often done by persons who are snatching time from something else–from an occupation, or from a profession, or from a jail term–something that is either burning them up, as religion, or love, or politics, or that is boring them to tears, as prison, or a brokerage house, or an advertising firm.

There are many writers out there who make their livings from their blogs alone. I find that amazing and encouraging for writers. For me, I enjoy writing as a hobby. The more I think about it, the more I realize how much I look forward to this writing I do each day. I enjoy my day job, too, but there is a edge to that, a level of stress that doesn’t seem into this daily affliction of mine. Nor does this daily writing add to the stress of the day. Indeed, it acts as a stress absorbent. If something bothers me, I sit down to write about it, often in a humorous way, and feel the stress of the thing evaporate.

I sometimes wonder if my writing has improved at all by writing here on the blog. I’m not an objective observer on this matter, but when I go and look at older posts–posts going back 12 or 15 years, and compare them to the ones I am writing today, I think I can see some improvement. I like to think of these posts as essays, and it seems to me that no one can write more than 7,000 essays without showing some measure of improvement, especially when spurred on by readers of said essays.

I like thinking of writing as an affliction. For me, there could be no truer expression. I was afflicted by this particular bug as far back as at least third grade, when I wrote a story about two friends visiting Moscow for a social studies class. (This was the early 1980s and I’d seen pictures of the Kremlin splashed over the television news.) From that time on, I wrote, unable to resist the virus running through my veins. I can’t help but write, and if blogs didn’t exist, I’d be writing anyway, for an imagined audience, to imagined cheers and accolades.

Fortunately, I have this blog, and this audience upon which to spread the germs of this affliction.

At the beginning of 2021, I had a goal of trying to jump start things here on the blog. I had written only 51 posts in 2020, 47 in 2018. As of today, I’ve written about 417 posts in 2021. That is more than all of 2017-2020 put together, and a good part of 2016 as well. I set out to post every day of the year, and as of December 1, when I am writing this piece, I have managed to do just that, with quite a few days containing multiple posts.

This hobby, this affliction of mine has produced about 265,000 words so far in 2021. I might have spent the same amount of time and words attempting to write two novels, and not nearly have as much fun as I am having here.

Did you enjoy this post?
If so, consider subscribing to the blog using the form below or clicking on the button below to follow the blog. And consider telling a friend about it. Already a reader or subscriber to the blog? Thanks for reading!

Follow Jamie Todd Rubin on WordPress.com

How to Start an Enjoyable Blogging Experience in 3 Easy Steps

I originally gave this post the clickbait-y title of “How to Start a Successful Blog in 3 Easy Steps.” I recently made the mistake of subscribing to a blog1 about how to build a successful blog. I went there to see if there might be anything I was doing that I shouldn’t be doing, or not doing that I should be doing. I came away from the experience unsubscribed, and feeling a little bit dirty. Some of it must have rubbed off, and thus that original title. Fortunately, I was able to change it in the nick of time.

The gist of this particular site is a familiar pattern that I’ve seen as the foundation for a lot of pieces on this topic. There are three steps:

  1. Produce good content.
  2. Build an audience through a multichannel marketing scheme.
  3. Measure, fine-tune, and repeat.

These steps are short and vague enough to make them seem like good advice, and perhaps, depending on one’s goals, these are the right steps to take. The devil, however, is in the details, and much of the thinking behind this sort of advice is anathema to my way of thinking.

Producing content makes me think of a production line, with an endless line of the same thing rolling along conveyor belts side-by-side, one after the other, in an endless parade of mediocrity. I’m a writer and so I write. I don’t think of what I write as “content.” Instead, I write essays. I’m okay with the term “posts” as a synonym for essays in this age of blogging. I try my best each time I set out to write something. Not all of it is good. But it is from those essays that aren’t good that I can learn how to do better.

The rationale behind blogging advice like the three steps above is to bring eyeballs to content in order to increase revenue. The implication, with some truth behind it, is that most blogs out there are attempting to earn money. More eyes means more clicks, more clicks means more ad revenue.

What’s missing is a model for blogs, like mine, which is a hobby, free of ads (because I find them annoying when I see them on other blogs), of sponsored content, done as an avocation, out of the joy I get from writing and discussing what I write with others. For someone who wants to build an audience without a business plan in mind, just a hobby, just to have fun, the model seems to fall apart.

One way to increase clicks, for instance, is to display only a lede paragraph to a post, and then require a reader to “Click to read more.” From a stats standpoint, a specific post will get more views in this model than one in which the entire post is available without clicking into it directly. I prefer the full post be available, and that’s how I have it setup here. You don’t have to “click to read more.” The entire post is there for you to read. The downside of this is that my stats undercount how many people see a given post. If the post is one of the 12 that are on the “front page” of the blog at any one time, a reader can read through the entire thing without ever clicking into it. This counts a “view” toward my “Home Page/Archives” but not to the specific post. It is a tradeoff I am willing to make to avoid inconveniencing readers.

There are other tricks that these advice sites give. Clickbait-y titles are another draw, and indeed, many of the advice blogs I’ve looked at focus on the importance of a post’s title, almost to the exclusion of everything else. They argue that if the title doesn’t draw in a reader, then no matter what you’ve written, it won’t get read. There is some validity to this. But titles should be accurate descriptions of what a piece is about, not bait-and-switch. Drawing in readers with one title only to show them something else is just annoying2.

As a writer, I want more readers because I write for readers. But I don’t want to get readers at the cost of annoying them. For a blog like this one, growth of readership has to be more organic. Success that I’ve had in the past has been largely based on 3 different factors than the three steps listed above:

  1. I write fairly well.
  2. I write consistently–meaning every day.
  3. I got lucky with what I was writing.

The first point is obviously debatable. But having sold fiction to the major science fiction magazines and some anthologies, I think my judgement in this is justified. I was paid for writing that was accept over other writing that could have been published in its place. This is also true for the dozens of pieces of nonfiction I’ve sold over the years.

Consistency is my superpower. Back in the heyday of this blog (say, 2012-2015), I was writing at least every day, and often multiple times a day. Readers could rely on me to have new stuff for them to read on a regular basis, and because of that, they kept coming back (assuming they liked what I was writing about).

Luck is the big unknown. If it goes your way, it can make a big difference. I was lucky to have an audience of readers who read what I wrote because of the fiction or nonfiction I was publishing. I got really lucky with my writing about Evernote. They reached out to me, because of my writing, and asked me to be an ambassador. That led to my Going Paperless series, and with Evernote’s signal boosts, dramatically increased the readership of my blog. It was more than I could have ever imagined. In 2013-2014, I was exceeding a million views each year. But it was mostly due to luck. The fact that I could write helped. And the fact that I was consistent helped make that luck, but there was still luck involved.

I don’t know what the average blog readership is and I doubt it is possible to get accurate stats on this. There is not a category for “blogging” stats in my 2021 edition of The World Almanac. They do list top newspaper websites and information website, but not “top blogs.” A Google search produces mixed results that tells me that smaller blogs should aim for at least 45,000 views/year with month-to-month growth of 6%. I found one site that suggested that if you are trying to make a full-time living from blogging, you should be aiming for at least 100,000 monthly page views. In that peak of 2013-2014, I was seeing number of about 120,000 monthly page views.

I’m not seeing those numbers today. There are several reasons for this. I burned out on the Evernote stuff, and a lot of people were coming to the blog to read those posts. There were years where I wasn’t writing as much or as consistently. Readership steadily dwindled to a low point last year (when I wrote only about 50 posts the entire year). This year, after more than 8 months of consistently writing at least one post a day, I am beginning to see the numbers come back up–slowly, but definitely up. Once again, two things have working in my favor:

  1. I still write fairly well. I like to think any writing today is better than what it was in 2013-2014, but that is an entirely subjective observation.
  2. My superpower is still consistency. With this piece, for instance, I have now posted for 255 consecutive days. In that time, I’ve written and posted 300 pieces. That’s write, you are reading my 300th essay of 2021.
Heat map of my posts for the last year. Since January 1, I haven’t missed a day.

What’s missing–and what is making the difference in terms of numbers from 2013-2014–is that element of luck. I don’t have an Evernote retweeting my posts to its 400,000+ followers.

Which begs the question: do the numbers really matter? They matter for blogs that are businesses, and for people who are trying to make a living from their blogs. But for hobbyists like myself, does it really matter how many people read what I write? From a practical standpoint, it probably does not. But from a human one, of course it does. I write so that people will read what I write and engage with it, and hopefully find value in it, whether it is simply something fun to read, or something that illuminates a part of life for them. The more people I can do this for, the happier it makes me. Maybe that shouldn’t be the case, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t care about how many people read what I wrote.

I started this piece with a clickbait-y title suggesting advice on how to start a successful blog in three easy steps. Let me conclude it with some real advice, for those who may be seeking it, for how to start an enjoyable blogging experience in three easy steps.

  1. Be able to do something fairly well. Writing is a good start since most blogs are centered around the written word. But there are photography blogs, music blogs, art blogs, AI blogs, you name it. Find something you are pretty good at and start there.
  2. Be consistent. Both in terms of quality (I always try my best) and frequency (I write every day, but consistency could mean weekly, monthly, etc.)
  3. Be patient. Don’t give in too soon. It takes time. Sometimes, a lot of time. I began this blog in 2005 and it took 8 years of writing, and consistency before luck stepped in and played its role. Remember that each time you want to give up could be the time that luck steps in for you.

Did you enjoy this post?
If so, consider subscribing to the blog using the form below or clicking on the button below to follow the blog. And consider telling a friend about it. Already a reader or subscriber to the blog? Thanks for reading!

Follow Jamie Todd Rubin on WordPress.com

  1. I’m not going to link to it here. It is not my intention to be cruel.
  2. I almost did it here, but it was in the spirit of satire.

Retro Posts, Experimentation, and New Features Coming Soon

I have been doing some experimentation with the blog. If you follow me on Twitter or my Facebook page, you’ll have noticed that I’ve been trying to increase the visibility of the posts I’m writing. I’m doing this by spreading out the announcements of the posts at different times of the day, in order to catch different audiences. Buffer makes this scheduling easy. This is still in an experimental stage. I was hesitant to try this because I didn’t want to come off as annoying. For instance, when I look at my own Twitter feed, it looks as if I am Tweeting about the same post consecutively. What I realized, however, is that people generally don’t look at my feed, they look at theirs. So if a Tweet goes out when I publish a post at 8am and another goes out for the same post at 3 pm, it will likely be seen by different audiences.

Today, I also began to experiment with something new: Retro Posts. It seems like I should be doing more with the posts I have already written. To that end, I had two ideas. The first is a daily “Retro Post”. These are links to older posts that I select, and I note the year of the post in the message. Today’s “Retro Post,” for instance, was for a Going Paperless post from 2012. If you are interested in following along with these Retro Posts, you can find them on Twitter or Facebook. I have plenty to choose from: Here is a look at how many posts have been published in just the last 10 years:

I am also working on a couple of new features that help expose some of the posts I have here on the blog:

  • A curated index of posts that I think are among the better posts I’ve written. With about 7,000 posts on the blog, my goal is to pick about 10% of them that I think are the best, and have a index page that lists, by topic those posts. The page can serve as a place people can go to get a wide variety of posts at a glance, while also showcasing what I think is some of my better work.
  • I am in the process of moving my list of books I’ve read since 1996 back here to the blog. I have a design in mind that will make it easy to navigate my reading list. What’s more, if I’ve written posts about a book on the list, I’ll have links to the posts right there with the book on the list.

Both of these may take time, as they require a fair amount of curation to get them put together. You can be sure I’ll make an announcement when these new features are available.

As always, I appreciate everyone’s patience as I experiment here, and apologize if the repeated tweets and Facebook posts come across as annoying. Also, as always, I am open to your suggestions and feedback, what you’d like to see more of here, and what you don’t like so much.

And if you want to follow along with the retro posts, they’ll be posted daily to the following feeds:

Did you enjoy this post?
If so, consider subscribing to the blog using the form below or clicking on the button below to follow the blog. And consider telling a friend about it. Already a reader or subscriber to the blog? Thanks for reading!

Follow Jamie Todd Rubin on WordPress.com

My Process for Writing Every Day for the Blog

I set a goal for myself in 2021 to try to post something every day. I wasn’t sure how that would go when I started out, but 217 days into 2021 (as I write this), I’ve been successful. I’ve made at least one post every day. On 28 of those days, I’ve made more than one post. Since I sometimes get questions about writing a blog, starting a blog, and the ever-popular how to build an audience, I thought I’d spend a little time writing about my process for posting every day on the blog.

The key word being posting, not necessarily writing every day. As I have said elsewhere, streaks can be a helpful form of encouragement, but they can also weigh you down. I don’t want that kind of pressure. So while I try to write every day, there are times when I don’t. Instead, I try to get a post out every day often by writing several posts ahead to give me a buffer.

With that in mind, let me tackle this a bit more systematically. I’ll start with the ideas and go from there.

Weeding: Separating good from bad ideas

For me, getting ideas is not a problem. It never has been. The challenge is weeding out the bad ideas and keeping just the good ones. On a typical day, I might jot down four to six ideas for posts. On a recent 2-page spread of my Field Notes notebook, I saw 7 ideas noted. I make ideas easy to identify by prefixing them with a P in a circle.

For those who may have difficulty deciphering my handwriting, here is a translation of the 7 ideas that appear on these pages:

Regular readers will see that some, but not all of these ideas were eventually turned into posts. Two of the 7 ideas never made it, yet, anyway. “Sounds of Santa Monica” was an idea I had for an internal blog I do at work, about the music I remember listening to when I worked in our Santa Monica office from 1994-2002. The “What to Say to WETA” post evolved into a recent post on Unposted Writings.

The trick to this is figuring out: what is a bad idea and what is a good one? If I had the answer to that, I’d have a development deal with a major studio and at least a dozen number one box office blockbusters under my belt. Here is what I can say about this: I’ve been writing this blog for nearly 16 years. I am coming up on 7,000 posts totaling 2.7 million words. I am just beginning to get an inkling of what separates a good idea from a bad one. And I’m still not entirely sure. Sometimes, I am just so excited about the idea that it practically writes itself. Other times, I ask myself questions:

  • Would this make a good essay? I tend to think of these posts as essays.
  • Have I written about this before? With nearly 7,000 posts it is likely.
  • If I have written about this before, do I have something new to add? Have I changed my mind about something?

Interestingly, what I don’t tend to ask myself is: is this something my audience would like?

Idea Drafts: Where I store the good ideas

Once I’ve decided I have a good idea, I immediately created a draft in WordPress with a title and possibly a few notes that happen to be in my head for the idea. The notes are usually just bullet points to remind myself of things I want to include in the piece. Here is what the idea draft for this post looked like after I got the idea back on July 26:

  • using drafts
  • post length, ~600 words
  • writing off the top of my head, rough outlines at best
  • what to write about? where do i get my ideas?
  • pure enjoyment
  • writing ahead when I know I’ll be unavailable
  • trying to stay ahead to reduce pressure

I don’t always write the post as soon as I know I have a good idea. The Idea Draft serves as a reminder of things that I want to write about when the mood strikes me. Sometime, I do write the posts immediately. The draft then moves into a “scheduled” or “published” state. But often times Idea Drafts sit in the WordPress Drafts folder for while. In this case of this post, a while was ten days. Having a bunch of Idea Drafts sets me up for my daily writing.

Daily Writing: Where the ideas become posts

As part of my morning routine, I set aside an hour to write. During that time, I can write, or I can stare at a blank screen. But I can’t do anything else. I generally aim for about 600 words on the average post and over the years, I’ve gotten a good feel for when I hit that mark. If things are going well, I can write a typical post in 20-30 minutes. That means, on a good morning, I can sometimes write two or three posts. On other mornings, I manage to write only one. Sometimes, that is because it is a longer post, or takes a while to put together. Other times it is because I am struggling with the idea and can’t quite get it to work the way I want.

This is where good ideas can die, and become unposted writing.

Generally, I look forward to writing every morning. For me it is pure enjoyment, even when I struggle. Struggling means I am learning the hard way, but learning nevertheless. The writing comes after my morning walk, and after my meditation, and with those two things done, I am usually keen to work on one or more of the Idea Drafts. Once I get started, I write off the top of my head, using or discarding any notes I’ve made as I see fit.

The hour each day is what I set aside for myself to write. It is not a limit, however. If I have more to write, I’ll look to carve out more time later in the day (usually in the evenings) to write more.

Planning ahead, or posting while ghosting

To help keep the pressure off the daily writing, I plan ahead. I try to have at least 2-3 days of posts scheduled in advance so that you are typically reading them 2-3 days after they were written. This isn’t always the case. Sometimes, I have a plan ahead a little more. For instance, I wanted to make sure I had no pressure to write every day on our recent road trip vacation. So in the week leading up to our vacation, I made sure I had posts scheduled throughout the vacation. I was largely successful–except for today. I left the Friday slot open (even though I’d scheduled Saturday and Sunday) because this is the slot that I’ve used recently for my Weekly Playbook posts. I was on the fence about whether I’d do one of these for vacation, and decided to wait and see. In the end, I wrote this post instead, because it had been waiting its turn a long time (ten days!)

This does help keep the pressure off. Knowing that I have a two or three day buffer means I don’t feel like I have to write something every day. My streak isn’t about writing every day as much as it is writing what I enjoy as much as I can. Indeed, I don’t even keep track of how much I write or how often I write day-to-day. The only thing I keep my eye on is if I am posting every day. That can make it seem like I am writing every day, but rest assured, there are days when I am posting while ghosting. I had a few of these days on our recent vacation.

This process may not work for everyone, but it works for me. I wake up each morning knowing that I have a post coming out, whether I can finish a new post that morning or not. I feel particularly good on the days when I can get two or three posts written and scheduled, knowing that expands my buffer a bit. A bigger buffer allows me to write the occasional longer post (like this one). Your mileage may vary. The important thing I’ve learned over the years is to try different methods until you find one that works for you. Posts like this provide one possibly method. There are many others.

Did you enjoy this post?
If so, consider subscribing to the blog using the form below or clicking on the button below to follow the blog. And consider telling a friend about it. Already a reader or subscriber to the blog? Thanks for reading!

Follow Jamie Todd Rubin on WordPress.com

Quality Control

This morning I wrote a post and when I finished, I decided to set it aside, and maybe come back to it another time. The reason: it was a stinker. I’d say that 99 out of 100 times, when I write a post for the blog, it feels right to me and goes up without much second-guessing. But every now and then, I write something and think to myself, you are just trying to get something posted, regardless of how good it is. When I think that, it usually means I should set aside whatever I have written and revisit it later.

This kind of quality control has evolved over the years. If you go back to the early days of this blog (late 2005, but really, 2006 is when things started up in earnest) you’ll find that I wrote about anything that came into my head, no matter how trivial. Since then, I have grown more selective. There are plenty of posts that I have written but have never appeared because afterward, I didn’t like them for some reason. When it happens, it is usually because I was trying too hard to get something written and went about it poorly. That’s what happened this morning.

A lot more post ideas never even get written. I jot down post ideas all the time. Usually, they idea goes into the Field Notes notebook I have in my pocket, and from there it gets transferred to a list of possible idea to write about. But even in that step there are quality control checks in place. One of the best quality controls I have in my toolbox is time.

I’ll jot anything that comes to mind in my Field Notes notebook. Not all ideas from there make it into the ideas list I keep on the computer. Just flipping through the current notebook in my pocket, I see several ideas I jotted down that, thanks to time, won’t make the cut. (“Things I do to avoid maskless people” seems liked an amusing idea when I jotted it down, because there are silly things I do to avoid them, but there just aren’t enough of them to make for a good post.) I have another note about “Sleeping in your own bed” which I jotted down on the long drive back from Florida after being away from home for more than a week. Now, having been back home for a while, it no longer resonates with me.

Even when an idea from the notebook gets transferred to the list of potential ideas, time still works in my favor, protecting me against those ideas that seems great in the moment, but after some time has passed feel stale. Those will eventually get deleted from the list.

Some ideas stay on the list for a long, long time, mainly because there is a lot of research involved, or a lot of time required to put them together in a way that will satisfy me. (One idea, which appears on my list as “Bookstuffing” is an example of this.) Generally, though, if an idea makes it from the notebook to the “curated” list its chances of getting actually written as a post are much higher.

But maybe not right away. Again, time serves as an excellent quality control tool. Sometime an idea that excites me will make it to the list, and I’ll find that I’m not ready to write about it. I like the idea but some of the shimmer has worn off and I need time to find the right pieces to make it resonate with me again. Often this happens one two separate ideas are joined together. Other times, an idea is really just a great title with nothing behind it, and it takes time to find whatever it is that is behind that title.

Once I have written a post, it is rare that I decide not to post it. This is the final quality check I impose: does it feel like a good post? Of course, a feeling a complete judgement on my part, but it is my blog, and I have enough experience at this point to trust my gut. I can go through a number of reactions upon completing a post: Jumping up from my keyboard and pacing in a circle because I am so pleased with what I have written is one extreme. The other extreme happens just as quickly; indeed, it often happens before I finish writing. It’s a feeling I get that I know I just don’t like what I have written.

The most typical reaction is general satisfaction with what I have written. Nice job, check that item off the list and move on.

Today was one of those rare days when an idea made it from my notebook, to my idea list, and finally, into a completed post before I realized it was no good. For those who may be curious about what I’d written about, let me just give you the title: “RTFM Is So 1990s”. Yeah, it was that bad.

Thank goodness for some measure of quality control here.

Blogging in 2021

I published 51 blog posts in 2020, not quite a low water mark for me (that was 2018), but nothing like my heyday here on the blog. In 2012, for instance, I published 567 posts, and in 2013 I published 482 posts. I miss those days.

In recent years, I have been more selective in what I publish on the blog. Rather than post just anything that comes to mind, I’d wait for something I considered “post-worthy”–whatever that means. But I miss the days of just sitting at the keyboard and pounding out something that just occurred to me. And so rather than wait for what I feel is a “post-worthy” idea, I’m going to swing back toward posting here when things happen to pop into my head.

What this means for you is more posts in 2021. Some will be certainly be the essay-like pieces I have been writing here for the last several years. Others will be more ephemeral. I suspect not everything will think that is a good thing. But after a year like 2020, any kind of connection with the outside world, even through the posts on the blog, feels freeing.

So expect more of what I have been writing in recent years, along with a casserole of other posts, some one technical topics (I may revisit some Evernote ideas and personal archiving), others on writing and reading, and other non sequitur posts on whatever happens to be on my mind at a given moment.

And since I haven’t said so in a while, if there is a topic you are interested in seeing me write about here, send me a message at feedback [at] jamietoddrubin dot com and let me know what is.

Finally, thank you for stopping by and continuing to read and comment on posts here. It might seem cliche, but from the feedback and comments I get here on the blog, I’ve got the best audience I could ask for.

Wishing you all a happy new year in 2021. Here’s hoping for a better one than 2020.

Isaac Asimov: Proto-blogger?

I have been reading some of Isaac Asimov’s essays on science fiction over the last few days. Over the course of his prolific career, the Good Doctor wrote thousands of essays ranging a wide variety of subjects. I’ve probably read most (although certainly not all) of these essays and it occurred to me yesterday that one might consider Isaac Asimov one of the earliest bloggers–or at the very least, a “proto-blogger”. In honor of his 91st birthday today, I thought I would discuss this in more detail.

There are some common features to most successful blog:

  1. They have an audience
  2. They are updated with some degree of regularity
  3. They often contain commentary on a specific topic area, although some run the gamut
  4. The engage readers in a discussion or dialog through the comment system

In the world of science fiction, blogging often involves any or all of the following:

  • Reviews or critiques of science fiction
  • Discussions of the writing process or the business of writing
  • Social commentary from the perspective of a science fiction writer
  • Occasional discussions of science as it relates to society (or science fiction)

And every now and then, the blogger will write about his or her personal life.

Isaac Asimov’s thousands of essays meet almost all these criteria and then some:

  • He had a huge audience, one that continued to grow from the mid-1950s (when his essays became more regular) until his death.
  • The essays appeared with an unprecedented degree of regularity. He wrote 399 consecutive monthly essays on science for the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction; he wrote columns for American Way for a decade or more; he wrote columns for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate; and he wrote editorials for each issue of Asimov’s for more than 15 years.  In addition, he had essays appearing in all kinds of other places from TV Guide to the New York Times, to say nothing of the hundred of introductions he wrote for other people’s books.
  • Several of his columns focused on a broad area, such as science. Others were political commentary, or literary critiques, or personal essays about writing or about science fiction.

The most significant difference between Asimov’s essays and blogs today lies in the discussion aspect. And even there, readers of the essays could and did write to Asimov to engage him on various points and opinions in his essays. And where he could, Asimov responded (there were more than 100,000 letters in his files, according to his brother).

Reading Asimov’s essays on science fiction (many of which appeared as editorials for Asimov’s Science Fiction), I can’t help but look at them as a primitive form of blogging, a kind of Whatever, twenty years before Scalzi’s pioneering blog appeared. They often talked about science fiction or the writing of science fiction, but they sometimes also commented on some kind of social or political issue, and his views were discussed by fans in the letter columns, a kind of primitive comment system. He was what I call a proto-blogger.

I wonder what would have happened if he had lived into the early 21st century. Would he have become a full-fledged blogger? I suspect not? He was set in his ways and already had a vast audience for the essays he wrote. I think he would have approved of the notion of blogging, but I don’t think that he personally would have embraced it (in the way that, say, Frederik Pohl has).

Happy 91st birthday, Isaac!


I was at RavenCon this weekend (about which I will have more to say in a subsequent post) and while there, I attended a session on Blogging for Writers.  Among the panelists were   and Edmund Schubert, both great guys (and during this particular session, bon vivants). The discussion revolved around why writers blog, and the pros and cons thereof.  It so happened that I had been thinking about this topic for a while, and the discussion that took place convinced me of a decision that I had, perhaps, already subconsciously made:

I have to cut back on my blogging.

There are several reasons for this, but first and foremost is that I now have the feeling (as many writers before me have discovered) that most of the writing I do should be on stuff that I am trying to sell.  Granted, I write short stories.  Yet up until now, I’ve written two or three a year at most.  My aim is much higher now.  One might reasonably ask how a brief blog entry each day can really impact short story writing.  Let me answer in terms of real number.  Since I started my blog in January 2006, I have written just over a three-quarter of a million words.  That’s the equivalent of producing 8 or 9 science fiction novels in the span of three years (or two fantasy novels of the same amount of time).  Now, I don’t yet write novels.  And I certainly couldn’t write a quarter of a million words in short fiction.  But I can certainly use some of this time to do more fiction writing.

A second reason is obvious to anyone who follows this blog:  we have a baby coming soon, and caring for the baby will take lots of time.  Some things have to be sacrificed, and I feel that I can sacrifice the blog writing.

Finally, most of what I write on this blog amuses me, but isn’t really useful or interesting to anyone else.  So in that sense, why bother?

This doesn’t mean I’m quitting blogging cold turkey.  On the contrary, I am redirecting my aim.  Those blog entries I do write should be useful not only to myself but to others too.  It’s my idea that I will continue to blog about a few topics, primarily writing and science fiction.  Both of these are relevant to me, because they tie into my ambitions to be a science fiction writer.  But they might be useful to other writers as well.  I’m still a fairly new writer, and it’s my idea to write about those things that new writers experience and deal with.  Maybe this will help someone like me.  I can’t say that I won’t write any entries about the new baby or an occasional entry about some other topic, but going forward, the main theme of this blog will be on writing and science fiction.  And it won’t be everyday.  I imagine at first it will be several times a week, and eventually, fall into some regular schedule.

For those who do follow everyday, I’m sure most of you will be greatly relieved by this change.  For those who enjoyed all of the mundane stuff I wrote about, fear not:  I will be continuing to micro-blog on twitter (follow me) and these get relayed to Facebook.  Since these are fast and easy to do, I see no need to give these up.

Also, I will continue to read all of my friends blogs.  I couldn’t dream of giving that up at this point.

Word Press

Tonight, I installed WordPress on my domain server.  I did this primary as a content management tool to make it less time consuming to manage my new website.  However, the more I looked at the features and capabilities of Word Press, the more impressed I became.  And so, I’ve decided to give it a chance as a primary blogging tool as well.

This does not mean I’ve given up on LiveJournal!

I’m still heavily invested in LiveJournal as a social networking site.  I still read lots of blogs there and I plan to continue this.  I found a Word Press plug-in called LJ-XP that allows me to cross-post my blog entries at jamierubin.net to LiveJournal automatically.  This post, in fact, was automatically cross-posted.  You can still leave comments on LiveJournal, but you can also leave comments here.  Over time, I hope to make this my main site, although I plan on continuing to cross-post to LJ for the foreseeable future.

There is an easy import tool to get LJ posts imported into Word Press and I’ve done that for all my posts for 2009.  I’m still fooling around with things so the new site and new blog are not perfect yet.  They’ll get better over time.

Originally published at From the Desk of Jamie Todd Rubin. You can comment here or there.

Up for air

Fourth day in a row in which I’ve gone into my office, closed my door and worked without taking a break. Today, I didn’t stop until after 2 PM, and then it was only to get something to eat before moving on to some document review I needed to do. I’m now wrapping things up and can I just say I’m exhausted! It’s a good thing everything is re-runs. There’s absolutely no need for me to stay up and watch TV tonight, even though Tivo would be recording it anyway. I’d like to try and get some writing done today (I only managed around 800 words yesterday), but I’m pretty beat.

This week has flown by. Tomorrow is Friday! On Saturday, I’m going paint-balling with Kelly and a bunch of her friends. I’ve never done it before and it sounds like it might be fun.

I’m fast approaching the end of the B’s in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. I looked at my reading list for this year and it’s pitiful. My worst year ever in terms of total books read and total words read. It’s pathetic and will remain so, unless I finish the Encyclopedia before the year is out (which I doubt).

I’ve been working on a project to consolidate the tags that I use on my blog. I’ve used over 800 tags in the 2 years that I’ve been at this regularly. I’ve come up with a taxonomy and have been working on mapping old tags into the new taxonomy–which should be something much more manageable (one-eighth the number of tags). More on that once it’s been implemented.