All posts by Jamie Todd Rubin

About Jamie Todd Rubin

Jamie Todd Rubin is a science fiction writer, blogger, and Evernote Ambassador for paperless lifestyle. His stories have appeared in Analog, Daily Science Fiction, Intergalactic Medicine Show, Apex Magazine, and 40K Books. He vacations frequently in the Golden Age of Science Fiction. Jamie lives in Falls Church, Virginia with his wife and two children.

A Heatmap of Over 900 Days of Writing Data from My Google Docs Writing Tracker

A few days ago, I mentioned that I was looking to add a Github-style heatmap feature to the Google Docs Writing Tracker code. Well, I’ve got something to show for it. Keep in mind that I am still experimenting, and none of this code has been checked into the Google Docs Writing Tracker repo as of yet. But, here is what all of my writing data looks like going back over 900 days:

900+ Days of Writing Data

For each year represented above, the rows are days of the week (top row is Sundays, bottom row is Saturdays), and the columns are weeks of the years.

The scale goes from 0-250 words (the lightest green) to 1,500+ words (the darkest green). You’ll also note that in July 2013, there are two white cells. Those are the only days that I had no writing. The last day, July 21, 2013, was 770 days ago. I have not missed a day since then.

This was relatively easy to do thanks to the Cal-heatmap JavaScript library. After installing the library files, I exported my writing data (dates and words counts) to a JSON file. Once the JSON file was created, the rest was easy. The entire rendering of the heat maps looks like this:

Heatmap Code

The bulk of the code is customizing how I want the heatmaps to look. Now that I have the look I want there is only one more thing to do, and that is to automate the process of generating the JSON file from the Google Docs Writing Tracker spreadsheet. With that done, anyone who uses the Google Docs Writing Tracker will be able to render a heatmap like the one above.

You can see my writing heatmap in action. If you hover over the cells, you’ll get the word count for that day. Check it out, play around with it. Let me know what you think.

First Days of School, Last Days of School

Remember when the Little Man was born? It seems like it  was yesterday. Turns out it happened over 6 years ago. This morning, the increasingly Not-So-Little Man set off for 1st grade.

First day of 1st grade
First day of 1st grade

First grade is a special milestone, because it is the earliest grade for which I have a pretty clear memory of things. I remember snippets of preschool, and bits and pieces of Kindergarten. But I still remember the songs we sang in first grade. I remember my first grade teacher’s name (Mrs. Sapala) at MacAfee Road School in Somerset, NJ. I remember playing (and intensely disliking) soccer1. I remember walking to school with my best friend. I remember going to the school library, and discovering a book called The Nine Planets by Franklyn M. Branley–a book which set me on the course of becoming a science fiction writer, although I didn’t know that at the time.

Naturally, I wonder what kind of things the Little Man will discover in first grade that will set him on his own course. I don’t remember being particularly frightened in first grade2, and I suspect the Little Man won’t find anything to be frightened of either. He goes to a small school, Pre-K through 8th grade, but only one class per grade. That means that most of his friends from Kindergarten will be back in his 1st grade class. He’ll have a new teachers, but the teaching assistant from Kindergarten will be in the 1st grade class. I’m already excited to hear how his day went.

Today also happens to be the Little Miss’s last day at the Montessori school. Next week, she’ll start attending St. Ann, just like her brother. The Little Man started at St. Ann in Kindergarten. The Little Miss will start in pre-K4. Our kids have attended the Montessori school across the street from our house since the fall of 2010. So today concludes a 5-year period during which we had one or both of our kids in the school. This weekend, we met the Little Miss’s Montessori school teacher for ice cream, to say goodbye. It is the end of one era, and the beginning of another.


  1. Sorry, the baseball gene formed early in me, and baseball snob that I am, I do find other sports lacking.
  2. With the exception of a short period during which I had a to-do with some humongous third graders.

What I Have Been Reading, End of Summer 2015 Edition

I have not written much about my reading lately, so I figured I should say something about it, now that the summer is rapidly coming to an end (the Little Man starts 1st grade on Monday!). The list of books I have read since 1996 has grown by about 7 books over the summer. 4 of the 7 books have centered around Theodore Roosevelt. One of the books was Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, which I can’t recall haven’t read prior this reading. One of the books was Judy Blume’s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, which I read to the Little Man, and which I hadn’t read since I first encountered it in 3rd grade. Last, but not least, was Dreaming In Code by Scott Rosenberg.

You’ll see that I have not read any science fiction. The last original science fiction book I read was Jack McDevitt’s Coming Home back in April. While I won’t say the science fiction gene has withered within me, I will say that my interests have been moving in other directions. Nonfiction, and particularly good biographies (like Edmund Morris’s bio of Theodore Roosevelt) or journalistic books like Scott Rosenberg’s Dreaming in Code star has risen in my view. That said, the science fiction/fantasy world is by no means off limits to me.

At present, I am reading Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind1. I started this book once before and got sidetracked with other things, but I have made it far enough this time around to where I think I am hooked. This is fantasy, and it wasn’t until I read George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones a few years back that I really enjoyed fantasy novels. But I’m enjoying this one, so far.

In another branching out of sorts, I am going to try Chuck Wendig’s Star Wars: Aftermath, when it comes out. I think it will be the first time that I have ever read a tie-in novel to some movie universe2. If I enjoy Wendig’s book, I may end up reading it to the Little Man, who has grown fonder of Star Wars than I am.

Otherwise, I don’t expect these trends to change much in the near future. The bulk of my to-be-read list consists of nonfiction books: biographies, histories, more journalist takes on various subjects.

What have you been reading? Anything to recommend? Drop your lists and suggestions in the comments.


  1. Which was published on my birthday back in 2007.
  2. I read Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton, and Jumper by Steven Gould, but I read both of those novels before the movies came out. And besides, they are not really tie-ins.

A Dashboard for the Google Docs Writing Tracker

A while back, I created a kind of dashboard into my writing statistics, courtesy of my Google Docs Writing Tracker tool. I never made the code for the dashboard available on Github mainly because it was highly tailored to me. Recently, I have been thinking about better ways of dashboarding my writing data, and it was my use of Github itself that provided a useful insight. I’ve created a heatmap of my writing in the past, and I liked the concept of it. So began wondering how I might produce a heatmap that would be a good representative of my writing. Then I remembered that just such a heatmap exists on Github to show my contributions:

Github contributions

What if I could produce a similar heatmap for writing, using data from my Google Docs Writing Tracker? So I have started to experiment with this. Turns out, it is probably relatively easy. Github uses the D3.js object model for producing the year-long calendar interface for the contribution chart, and that library looks fairly easy to use. I’ve started to experiment with some sample code. Once I have something that works, I’ll post the code to the Google Docs Writing Tracker repo under a new branch and other people who use the tool can mess around with it and see if it works for them.

And as a reminder: my Google Docs Writing Tracker is freely available on Github to anyone who wants to use it, or improve upon it.

The Perfect Project Storm

If you are wondering why it has been so quiet here, the reason is pretty simple: I am inundated with day job work. This has been building over the last few months for a variety of reasons, but the main crux is that I am project manager and technical lead on 3 projects, all of which appear to be converging for a simultaneous rollout. How I will manage this is still a question. Mostly, I have been focusing on one task at a time whenever possible just to get through the day.

It has, obviously, affected my blogging. It has also affected my writing. A glimpse at the last 3 months of writing data paints a pretty clear picture, and brings to very real life the bare fact that there are only so many hours in the day.

Last 3 months of writing

Where as I was coasting along pretty smoothly at 800 to 1,000 words a day, these days, I’m lucky to hit 500 words. My consecutive day streak is still unbroken (767 days as of this writing) but the pace has slowed dramatically.

So what is this perfect story of projects that is keeping me working through the day, and often well into the night?

One of the projects is an implementation of a conference room reservation system. This project was supposed to rollout back in February, but enough critical bugs were uncovered that we went back to the software manufacturer to get fixes before we could release it. We got some (but not all) the requested fixes, and are now doing our own internal regression testing in preparation for rolling that software out by the end of our fiscal years, which happens to be the end of September.

One of the projects is outsourcing our building information software to a cloud-based system. This requires ensuring that we can generate the same types of reports we get today, but also requires us to build integrations with internal systems, which complicates things somewhat.

And one of the projects is a data warehouse project, in which I am acting as project manager, technical lead, and sole developer. It’s a great project, but the timing couldn’t have been worse. Unfortunately, this is one of those great ideas that keeps getting pushed off for more urgent things, and this is one of those now-or-never situations.

That’s not all I am working on, but that is what is keeping me most busy in the day job. This is leaving me very little time for writing, and no time for blogging. But I do want to change that. I miss posting here, and I want to get back into the habit of it. This November marks 10 years that I’ve had this blog, a pretty significant milestone. I’d love for that milestone to be a jumping off point for new and exciting things here. But first I need to get through this storm.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but the worst of the storm is yet to come, and so, while I will do my best to drop in here more frequently, if you don’t see me, you can safely assume it is because I’ve been sucked into a project tornado, and whisked away to some kind of Oz of Project Land. Hopefully, by October or early November, all of this will be behind me.

 

Thomas Jefferson: Lifehacker

On Saturday, on a whim, we drove down to Monticello to visit the home of Thomas Jefferson. One of the many things I like about living in this area is the rich history. We can drive north to battlefields at Gettysburg, or we can drive south and visit the unique home of Thomas Jefferson. So on Saturday, we gathered up the kids and hit the road at 9 am. Google Maps told us the trip would take 3 hours on Interstate 95. It suggested taking Route 29, which would take only a little over 2 hours. It failed to mention the beautiful farm country we would pass through.

None of us had been to Monticello before, and I was particularly excited about it. I love history, and have a special place for American history. Within that special place is a niche reserved for colonial history, which I adore above almost all else, perhaps because I was living in New England when introduced to that history in school.

Monticello

Wandering the grounds of Monticello was a treat. The weather was perfect, the skies clear, and as we walked the grounds, I kept thinking to myself: Jefferson walked here. He walked here. I remembered a similar feeling I had once, a decade earlier. I was walking on the campus of William and Mary, and happened to be reading a biography of Jefferson at the time, when it occurred to me that I was walking past the very dorm that the biographer said Jefferson stayed in while at the school.

We had a tour of the house. Our guide took us through it and I was amazed my Jefferson’s attention to detail. Jefferson was, like Benjamin Franklin, a lifehacker. The clock he made that mounts the front door made it easy to tell the day of the week. While standing beneath the portico, you could look up and see the wind direction marked on the ceiling, by a clever mechanical connection to the weathervane on the roof.

Jefferson’s “book room” made me green with envy. The shelves were full of books (at the time he sold his collection to start the Library of Congress, he’d amassed 7,000 of them). The books in the room were all the same titles and editions that Jefferson had in his collection. In two glass cases were book that Jefferson was known to have handled himself.

Jefferson had even considered that books get moved, and made it easy to do so. Each shelf was an independent unit that could be removed. A board could be be nailed over the opening without removing the books, and the box could be placed in a wagon for transport.

There were other clever touches to the house. Pocket beds kept the rooms spacious. Jefferson had a pocket bed between his study and his sitting room, so that he could get out of bed and start working right away. He had a revolving door in the dining room with trays for food to make the transport of food to the table quick and efficient. He had wine dummy’s built into the sides of the fireplace. He used narrow staircases to conserve space.

At the end of the tour I asked the guide if she knew of anyone who had seen Monticello and decided to replicate it for their own home. In fact, she had. She told me about someone in Pennsylvania who had done just that. It makes sense. It is a house designed for a reader and a writer. It is a house designed by an early lifehacker.

Jefferson was a lifehacker in other ways. He wrote more than 19,000 letters, and used1 a device that allowed him to write one letter, and automatically make a second copy. It is for this reason, apparently, that we know as much as we do about his life. He also invented a revolving bookstand which could hold 5 open books at once. Try switching that quickly between 5 books on a Kindle!

The trip reminded me that I eventually want to get through Dumas Malone‘s 6-volume biography of Jefferson someday. Six books on Jefferson! That biography would not fit on Jefferson’s clever bookstand in its entirety.

For more pictures of our trip to Monticello, check out the pictures on Google Photos.


 

  1. But did not invent.

First Impressions of My Karma Go

On Friday, I received my Karma Go, a WiFi hotspot device that I ordered back in September, and that just began shipping last week.

Karma Go
(Roughly, the actual size.)

A Karma Go is a device that provides Internet access wherever you happen to be. This is useful if you happen to be working in a park, or a hotel for which you don’t want to pay outrageous Internet access fees. It’s “pay as you go,” meaning you only pay for the data you use. And the system is built with sharing in mind. Another Karma Go user can use my Karma WiFi to access the Internet. They don’t use my data; they use their own data. What’s more, each time a new Karma user access my device, I am credited with data. Win-win.

I hadn’t a chance to use it much until yesterday morning. I was working from home, when my Internet access suddenly went out. We have Cox for our Internet provider, and they are about the best Cable company/Internet provider I’ve ever had. Our access is very fast, and rarely goes out. Yesterday, however, it was out for 90 minutes. Cox was great about getting the service restored, but in the meantime, I had work to do.

That’s when I remembered the Karma Go.

I fired it up. It can support up to 8 devices connected to it at once. I only connected two: my desktop iMac, and my work laptop. For the next 90 minutes, I was able to work as seamlessly as if my Internet connection had never gone out.

How’s the speed?

The Karma Go uses Sprint’s network for its Internet access. They say that you can get download speeds of 6-8 Mb/s, including highs of 25 Mb/s. Upload speeds are around 3 Mb/s. The speed seemed fine to me yesterday.

Under normal conditions, when I am using Cox at home, my upload and download speeds are about the following:

Speed Test - Cox

When I tested my Karma Go this evening at around 5 pm EDT, I got the following results:

Karma Go Speed

That seemed plenty fast for the kind of work I was doing. I wasn’t streaming video (although at that speed I could have). I was writing code, sending email, uploading images. Oh, and since I forgot to disable CrashPlan, I was also backing up my iMac in the background. This was using two devices. I was plenty satisfied with the speeds.

Data usage

Since you pay as you go, it’s important to be able to monitor your data usage. Karma makes it easy. You can see your day-to-day usage from any web browser:

Dashboard___Karma

Better still are the mobile apps that allow you to look at your usage. Using the iPhone app, I can see my usage hourly, daily, or monthly. Here is the daily view:

Karma Usage

Karma prices data at $14/1GB; $59 for 5 GB; and $99 for 10 GB. If you don’t use it, you don’t lose it, so the data is entirely under your control. Moreover, you can get data credits when other Karma users connect to your device

Overall

So far, I’m very happy with my Karma Go. It saved my bacon yesterday, and allowed me to continue to work when I would have otherwise been dead-in-the-water. As someone who depends on Internet access to get my work done, I think that the Karma Go will prove to be an invaluable tool in getting things done, where I happen to be.

Karma gives its users a code that allows others to get a $10 off a Karma Go device. If you are thinking about getting a Karma Go, and want $10 off, you can use this link. You can find the specs for the Karma Go here.

Going Paperless: On the Qualities of Useful Paper

If Sherlock Holmes lived in a paperless world, he might have said,

When you have tried to eliminate all paper, whatever remains, however improbable, must be useful.

In the years that I have been on this journey to go paperless, I’ve found that there is some paper that, no matter how much I’d like to get rid of it, I still find useful. In the last year or so, two types of paper have managed to survive, and recently, I have given up trying to get rid of them. Like a virulent strain of bacteria, these have survived my attempt to banish them, only to come back stronger.

As I have often emphasized in these posts, going paperless is an ongoing and evolving process. I will never be completely paperless until the rest of the world is completely paperless–something I very much doubt I will see in my lifetime. Going paperless means process the paper I do get, and minimizing the paper I use, but there are still a few places where I find paper useful.

1. Moleskine notebooks

In the last few months my primary method for taking notes has reverted to paper. I use an Evernote Moleskine notebook to take notes in meetings, and on phone calls1. If I watch a video on YouTube, I’ll jot the notes down in my Moleskine. I’ve found a renewed fondness for scratching out the notes with a pen on paper, but it is not this fondness that drives my use of the notebook: it’s my memory.

A page from my Evernote Moleskine notebook

I have found that, as I’ve grown older, I remember things far better if I write them down as opposed to typing them out. I’d read articles that discussed how handwriting had good cognitive benefits, but until I tried it myself, I wasn’t convinced. Of course, it could entirely be a placebo effect, but I feel like I better remember my notes when I write them out in a notebook, than when I type them via a keyboard2 Actually, this makes sense. Back in college, I wrote all my notes for lectures and reading in a notebook, and on later typed them into Microsoft Word 5.5. for DOS3. I was younger, but writing the notes, followed by typing cemented them in my mind.

Getting my handwritten notes into Evernote

Just because I’m writing the notes in a notebook doesn’t mean they don’t find their way into Evernote. I use Evernote’s Scannable app on my iPhone to pull my handwritten notes into Evernote. Here is the same page of notes from above captured in Scannable:

Continue reading Going Paperless: On the Qualities of Useful Paper

  1. And because I will almost certainly be asked, I use a Pilot G-2 0.7 pen to write in my Moleskine
  2. Of course, this is me. Things might be wired differently for you.
  3. Still my favorite version of Word.

DC17: Washington D.C.’s Bid for the World Science Fiction Convention

I live in the metro Washington, D.C. area, and I would love to see the World Science Fiction Convention come to our area in 2017. DC17 has a bid for the convention, and the August 10 deadline to receive mail-in votes is fast approaching.

Personally, I can think of 3 reasons why I’d like to see the World Science Fiction convention come to D.C. in 2017, and I’ll list them in order of increasing importance to me.

1. It’s local! It would be great to have a Worldcon in my home town. While I love traveling to other cities for Worldcon (San Antonio was blast, and I’m really looking forward to Kansas City next year), I’d be lying if I said it would be nice to attend a Worldcon at home. Of course, this is a great benefit for locals, but it still means that everyone else coming to the convention has to travel.

2. It’s Washington, D.C. But you get to travel to Washington, D.C. I’ve lived in the area for over a decade, and I still think its history is well worth visiting. Playing in the Senate softball league on the National Mall, I would occasionally look up to see the Washington Monument, or the Capital Building in the background and think: I’m playing ball in a place where Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt once walked. We’ve got the Air & Space Museum, the Library of Congress. We’ve also got the Washington Nationals. And in the surrounding area, you can find Mount Vernon to the south, and Gettysburg to the north.

3. It’s being run by the folks who run Capclave. The most important reason I want to see the World Science Fiction convention here in the Washington, D.C. area is because it is being run by many of the same folks who run Capclave, my regional science fiction convention. I have been going to Capclave ever since I began selling stories. It’s become my favorite science fiction convention, and I look forward to it each October. I’ve written about my time at Capclave at lot: here, herehere, and here, to list a few time. A big reason I enjoy is because of the hard work of the people who put it together. They get great guests, great panelists, they draw crowds of diverse, engaged, interesting, and fun people, and we spend 3 days talking about science fiction, what it means to us, and how it impacts us.

If you are so inclined, grab a ballot for site selection and cast your vote by mail before the August 10 deadline.

L.A. Stories

I lived in L.A. from 1983 – 2002–almost 20 years. I come back to L.A. for work every now and then, and it is always an interesting experience, one that fills me with mixed feelings. A lot of things have changed about L.A., but a lot of things have remained the same. Cities evolve. Santa Monica looks very different from the days that I worked here1. People seem to stay pretty much the same. On the east coast, if you tell someone you are a writer, the response if often the reasonable, “What do you write?” or “Have you ever been published.” In L.A. the response, more often than not, is “Do you have representation.” I hate stereotyping, but “Do you have representation?” is stereotypical L.A. for me.

Some things never change–or change so slowly that it is impossible in a human lifetime to notice the change. There is, for instance, the Pacific.

The Pacific

Through a quirk of memory, I can often remember where I was when I read a particular book. I can recall fondly, driving from the Valley to Pacific Palisades and sitting on a park bench overlooking the Pacific and reading William Gibson’s Idoru back in 1996.

I have worked at the same company for nearly 21 years, something virtually unheard of today. It’s funny how often I see TV shows or movies or commercials that take place at the Santa Monica pier. Folks: for 8 years, between 1994 and 2002, my office practically overlooked the pier. Walking home from dinner with good friends tonight, I took a detour and walked past the pier. The view of the entrance to the pier at night has been made famous by television and movies, but it is something that I look at with a wistful eye to the days when I worked in our Santa Monica office.

Santa Monica Pier

The funny thing is that I saw the Pacific ocean and the pier so often that I never really paused to enjoy them. They were tourist spots, much the same way I think of the Washington Monument and the Air & Space museum today. Walking by the pier this evening, with a crescent moon overhead, I felt like I wanted to knock some sense into the 22 year old version of myself, and say, hey, sure this may be something you see every day, but do you really see it?

Moon over the Pacific

When I worked in Santa Monica, my experience was tainted by traffic. I lived in Studio City, 20 miles from Santa Monica. It often required traversing the infamous Four-Oh-Five, and One-Oh-One. I’d leave the house at 5:10 am and get to the office at 5:30, making it in ahead of the traffic. But I’d leave the office at 5 pm and get home at 7 o’clock. L.A. seems glamorous until you sit in eight years worth of traffic2.

The thing is, I met my best friends in the world in L.A. I met them at Cleveland High School, in Reseda, California. 28 years after we first met, we are still friends I went to dinner with two of them this evening3. The friends I made living in L.A. made it worthwhile. The 2,200 hours of traffic I sat in over the course of 8 years was a small sacrifice for those friends.

Steve Martin’s L.A. Story was touted as the first great comedy of the 1990s when it came out4. For all its humor, L.A. Story is probably the best movie about life in L.A. that I have come across in the quarter century since it first came out. There have been great movies about L.A. before, and since, but none of them capture the spirit of L.A. the way Steve Martin did in L.A. Story. As Shakespeare once said (according to Steve Martin):

This other Eden, demi-paraside, this precious stone set in a silver sea, this earth, this realm, this, Los Angeles.


 

  1. There’s a train station that is almost finished where Sears used to be on 4th and Colorado.
  2. Sitting in L.A. traffic not long before I moved back east, I once calculated that over the course of 8 years, I spent about 2,200 hours commuting. 2,200 hours is the equivalent of 1 full-time-employee for a year. A year. Think of what else I might have been able to do with that time if not for sitting in traffic.
  3. At Santa Monica Yacht Club, in case you were wondering.
  4. Writing that line makes me feel old. The first great comedy of the 1990s. The movie is 25 years old, gang.

A Story in Santa Monica

There is a new story that I have been wanting to write, but I have been so focused on the the novel that I just haven’t had the time. But I am going to try a little experiment. On Sunday afternoon, I head to Santa Monica, California for a week for work. While there, I am going to try to write the first draft of the story. It doesn’t necessarily mean taking a break from the novel–I’ll just prioritize the story first, and fill in whatever time I have left to work on the novel. Except, there’s not likely to be much “time left.” So for all practical purposes, I’ll be taking a break from the novel next week.

That’s okay with me. I could use a break. And not only do I think I have a pretty good story idea, but I finally figured out how to tell it. The voice of the story is always important to me and I can never make it far until I figure out the voice. Now that I think I have that covered, the story should good well.

We’ll see. I’ll give it a shot, beginning on Sunday and see if I can have a first draft finished by Saturday. I don’t have a title for the story yet, but my working title is likely to be “Fat Man and Little Boy.”

“So quiet in my Sekrit Writing Room”

My pal, Fred Kiesche (@FredKiesche) made the following remark on Twitter this morning,

and at once I felt guilty for neglecting to post here more frequently. So I figured the least I could do was offer some explanation as to why I haven’t been posting as much as I used it.

1. The day job has been very busy. I’ve been doing more and more project management and less and less hands-on software development, which I think shows career progress, but also means that my days are just busier. Each time I reach a new level of busyness, I feel certain that I’ve finally hit a plateau–only to discover that the trail continues on up and up. More time at work means less time here with you all.

2. My energy level has been a little lower lately. Ten days ago, I gave up caffeine cold-turkey. I did this once before, back in 2004. I gave up caffeine for over 6 years. I started up with it again in 2010 during NaNoWriMo. My relationship with caffeine is akin to how I’ve heard an alcoholic’s relationship to liquor described: I don’t want just one Coke, I want five. The only way for me to cut back is to cut it out entirely. Which I did on the last day of our vacation. I have now been caffeine-free for ten days. The headaches have mostly passed, as has the grumpiness, but I feel unusually sluggish throughout the day.

3. Summer schedule is chaotic. Kids are in camp, hours get shifted to cover the times that they are not in camp. During the school year we maintain a very regular schedule. Right now it is precariously controlled chaos. That becomes a little draining.

4. I’ve been doing a lot more reading. On average, I probably get in between 50-60 hours of Audible listening1 each month. In June I had over 80 hour, and July is on pace to hit 100 hours. I’ve been reading enormous amounts of nonfiction. I’ve been working my way through a period of American history that I am least familiar with (the Civil War through the Great Depression), although not quite chronologically. I find the reading fascinating, and can almost always been seeing with my earbuds in place, listening to one book or another. Of course that much reading means less time for other stuff.

5. I started reading the newspaper again. After 15 years of not reading newspapers, I started again. I started, coincidentally, right around the time I gave up caffeine, but I really think that is a coincidence. What started me up again was Doris Kearns Goodwin’s excellent book The Bully Pulpit, which describes the relationship between Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, as well as the birth of investigative journalism. Reading about Ida Tarbell, Lincoln Steffens, and Ray Stannard Baker, and muckraking journalism jumpstarted my desire to read the papers again–although I don’t deceive myself into believing I am getting Tarbell, Steffens, or Baker in what I read. Reading the paper takes up more time, however, and is yet another thing I’ve been doing in my Sekrit Writing Room.

6. Fighting tooth and claw with the novel draft. I am still writing every day, although considerably less each day than last month. As of today I’ve written for 725 consecutive days, and will, in 5 more days, hit 730–or two years without missing a day. Novel writing is the hardest thing in the world for me. But I’m not giving up. I’m fighting back with everything I’ve got. Sometimes, thought, it wears me down to the point where I just don’t feel like posting.

7. I’m traveling more. The family recently returned from a vacation in New York and Massachusetts. On Sunday, I fly to Los Angeles for a week for work. Travel takes something out of me, and places writing high on the list of things to get done early in the day so that I don’t miss it later.

8. I feel like I don’t have as much to say as I used to. I used to post 2 or 3 times a day. Many of those posts, however, were frivolous. When I post today, I want it to be about something meaningful. So I’ve hesitated to post here to tell you what I had for breakfast, or to rant about some bad customer service experience I had. There is no originality in that, and I don’t want to bore you. Sometimes, I’ll jot down a note to write about something that captures my interest that moment, only to reflect on it later, thinking, nah, this really isn’t something interesting. I’d love to write more here, but the writer in me does not want to bore an audience.


 

I’ve found that this comes and goes in waves. This blog is nearly 10 years old. There have been periods of time where I posted for years without missing a day, and periods where I didn’t post for a month at a time. The pendulum swings back and forth. When things settle down in my head, things will probably resume something like a more normal schedule here, too.

In the meantime, I am alive, I am still writing, and I am still very much committed to, and appreciative of, the folks who come here each day to read what I’ve written.