3 of the Most Helpful Writers You’ll Ever Meet

Yesterday, I came across an article on the 13 most annoying writers you’ll ever meet. It was an amusing article and for the most part, I recognized most of the stereotypes listed therein. I even recognized a few of them1 in myself. Posts like these are funny because we probably all know a writer (or wannabe writer) who fits into one or more of these categories. But the same article could be written for just about any profession out there, using the template,

The [n] most annoying [profession] you’ll ever meet.

where n is a number and profession is any profession you can imagine, lawyers, doctors, baseball players, teachers, taxi drivers, retailers, salespeople, welders, fishers, ranchers, plumbers, IT workers. You get the idea.

I thought it might be interesting to flip the notion of the article on its head and write a post about 3 of the most helpful writers you’ll ever meet. In doing so, however, I am using my own experience, and that means committing the sin of writer No. 32. I hope you will forgive me.

1. The mentor

This writer takes you under his or her wing out of the kindness of their heart and their desire to pay-it-forward. They offer career advice, offer up their experience and wisdom, and introduce you to other people, writers, editors, agents, publishers, and fans. I have been very lucky in this respect, with not one, but three writers who have mentored me to various degrees through my writing career.

The first was Michael A. Burstein, who is my longest-standing friend in the science fiction world. Michael was offering advice and introducing me to people even before I made my first sale. His writing and process served as a model for How to Do It, and his easy camaraderie  and they way he introduced me (and others) to people, provided an example for how I try to do that today. The first phone call I made after finding out I’d sold a story to Analog was to Michael.

Allen Steele has also acted as a mentor to me. (And I met Allen Steele only thanks to the introduction I got from, you guessed it, Michael Burstein.) We are both collectors of old science fiction magazines, we are both non-scientists who occasionally write hard science fiction, and I think we have similar styles of writing. Allen has offered me incredibly valuable career advice. And aside from being a great, long-standing writer in the field, he is also one of the nicest people you’ll meet, in or out of the science fiction world.

A constant mentor behind the scenes has been Barry N. Malzberg. I first read a Malzberg book in my senior year in college. It was Herovit’s World and I was hooked. What I learned from his books is that the writing can be just as important as the story. I got to know Barry (once again through Michael Burstein) and he has been a kind of guiding light behind the scenes. He reads my stories and offers some of the most brutally honest critiquing I’ve ever gotten. I love it because I learn more from those critiques than from an entire semester of creative writing.

2. The open book

These are the writers who attempt some level of transparency in their work with the thought that maybe others can learn being seeing how it is done. Isaac Asimov stands at the top of the list for me in this regard. I’ve read all 3 volumes of his autobiography[3. In Memory Yet Green (1979); In Joy Still Felt (1980); I, Asimov (1994).] 16 or 18 times. In the introduction to the first book, Asimov writes that part of his intention is to show “how he did it” because other would-be writers might find it useful. I certainly did. It is from Asimov that I learned, right or wrong, that the editor is the boss. Not everyone agrees with this, but I think it has given me a good working relationship with the editors that I’ve worked with, in fiction and nonfiction. I also learned the value of diversifying my writing–that is, not being a one-market writer, or even a one-genre writers. I’ve sold stories to Analog, but I’m not a typical Analog writer. I’ve also sold stories to many of the major science fiction magazines. I’ve sold nonfiction to the science fiction magazines, and have recently branched out into nonfiction outside the genre entirely. All of this comes from Asimov’s influence, his “open book” that allowed me to learn how to be a writer of anything.

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Notes

  1. Nos. 3 and 12, if I am being completely honest with myself.
  2. Name-dropping.

The Junior/Senior High School Years Playlist

I said this on Twitter earlier today:

and then I ran off to the dentist leaving people guessing what that playlist might look like. I’m too lazy to type it all in, so here is a screen capture of the list, which centers around the years 1989 and 1990. This is part of my Autobiography playlist, which I put together mostly from memory of what songs I associated from what periods of time. It does not necessarily mean the songs are from that period of time; that just when I was listening to the song. It also doesn’t necessarily mean I like the song, just that it reminds me of the time–although in the case of this period of time, I like most of the songs on the list.

Here it is:

High school song list

ETA: At my friend Lisa’s suggestion, I made this list available on Spotify.

Blog Stats, First Half of 2014

I hadn’t looked at the overall stats for 2014 in a while, but I peeked at them this morning, and was pleased to see that I am outperforming last year by more than a quarter of a million page views. Here is what the first half of 2014 looks like compared to the same period last year:

Page Views 2013-14

I was pretty surprised when I saw I’d had nearly 700,000 page views in the first 6 months of the year. At that pace, I’ll come close to 1.4 million by the end of the year, far surpassing any previous year. It also puts me on track for hitting 1 million pages views for the year sometime in September.

The unique visitors to the site appears to be outperforming last year nearly 2-to-1.

Unique Visitors

I am grateful to everyone who comes to visit and maybe finds something useful here. Seeing the numbers continue to improve is extremely gratifying. It is also amazing to thing that just a few years ago, I was averaging about 30 pages views per day. To go from 30 to over 3,000 per day–2 orders of magnitude–in just a few years seems incredible to me.

Bio and Bibliography Updates

I made some minor bio tweaks this morning, and brought my bibliography up-to-date. I’d been meaning to do these things for a while, and finally, finally got around to it first thing this morning.

You can find my bios, which often are used with pieces that I write outside the blog, on my Press Kit page, along with some author photos.

You can find the updated bibliography on, wait for it, my bibliography page.

Going Paperless: 3 Ways Evernote Helps Me Remember My Vacations

I have recently returned from our annual summer vacation up in Maine. It is always fun, and always relaxing, and except for a relatively minor touch of food poisoning1, this year was no exception.

One thing I noticed was that I was less active online for the week I was on vacation–even more so than I usually am when I’m on vacation. I attribute this to trying to live more in the moment and enjoy the time with my family. I wasn’t trying to capture every moment, as I often had in the past. That said, I still have a pretty good record of our vacation, despite dialing things back a notch, and for that, I have Evernote and some automation to thank. So today, I thought I’d share 3 ways that Evernote helped me remember my vacation, without too much of an effort on my own part.

1. Checking in with Foursquare

When we would arrive somewhere that I wanted to remember, I would take one simple action when we got there: checking in on Foursquare. I use Foursquare in the social sense. Instead, I use it to capture where I’ve been. I don’t use it for every place I go. I don’t check into grocery stores, for instance. But if I am traveling somewhere, I use it as a quick way of capturing the places I visited.

I have an IFTTT recipe that sends all of my Foursquare check-ins to Evernote. These notes in Evernote become the basis for the record of my vacation.

IFTTT Recipe: Capture check-ins on foursquare in Evernote connects foursquare to evernote

My IFTTT recipe tags these notes as “foursquare”, making them easy to find. With a simple search, I can find all of the check-ins for my vacation. For the trip to Maine, for instance, that search looks like this:

created:20140627 -created:20140707 tag:foursquare

This tells Evernote to look for notes between 6/27/2014 and 7/7/2014 tagged “foursquare.” It results in 15 notes for the places I checked-in while on vacation:

4sq Checkins

2. Add notes to my check-ins as part of my Daily Review

When I am on vacation, I still do a daily review of my notes each evening. One thing I do on vacation is add any additional notes about the trip to the check-in notes. If I learned some interesting fact that I want to record, or if the kids had a certain reaction to something that they saw, I’ll record it as part of the Foursquare check-in. This allows me to have it all in context of the place we visited. Here is one example from our visit to Acadia National Park:

Jordan Pond Note

Adding the notes in my daily review allows me to review the events of the day after they’ve happened, instead of what I used to do, pausing in the middle of the action to jot something down. I like this new way much better. It’s less intrusive on the family time.

There are some things we do, or places we go where I don’t check in on Flickr–for instance, visiting a friend or relative. In this case, if there are things I want to remember, I’ll just created a note during my daily review to record to those things.

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Notes

  1. It really wasn’t too bad. Not nearly as bad as the case of food poisoning I got camping 15 years ago or so.

Sometimes I See The Moon…

Sometimes I see the moon high in the eastern sky, with plenty of daylight left in the day, and I think: 45 years ago, we were walking around up there. How bad-ass is that! Then I remember that it has been more than 40 years since we’ve been back. A kind of miniature battle takes place within me, an angel and devil duking it out to determine what matters more: that we haven’t been back, or that we got their in the first place.

For now, at least, the angel is winning.

Yes, I am Alive–and Finally Home

I know that things have been quiet here for the last few days. Part of the reason is that we’ve spent two long days driving back from Maine to Virginia. The other part of the reason is that those two long days of driving came on the heels of what looks to be a minor food poisoning incident I experienced on the Fourth of July.

Things should return to normal here beginning tomorrow, including details of the vacation and the aforementioned incident. Just wanted to check in and say that we are home, and I am, indeed, alive.

Reminder: My Google Writing Scripts are Available on GitHub

After my inaugural post for The Daily Beast appeared, I’ve been asked almost daily if the scripts I mentioned in the post are available. They are available on GitHub. I put them there last July. I hesitated to mention them in the post on TDB because I didn’t want to come across as promoting my own stuff. But since I’ve been asked almost daily since the post appeared, I’m thinking that maybe I should have. Ah, well. If folks are interested in trying out the scripts, or improving upon them, you can access the code on GitHub. Be sure to read all of the instructions there to get them working correctly.

Writing Stats for the First Half of 2014

Hard to believe it is already July. Half the year is over and that means I have writing data for the first half of 2014. Here is what the first half of the year looked like:

Writing 2014 Jan - Jun

In case it isn’t clear, the blue bars represent each day’s worth of writing (word count). The yellow line is the goal I set for myself to try to reach each day. It is secondary to getting any actual writing done, but I find it useful to have. The red line is the most useful when looking at trends. It represents the 7-day moving average word count. You can see that the first 3 months or so were kind of spiky, moving up and down around the goal, but beginning in April, when I started in earnest on the second draft of the novel, things picked up. Indeed, since mid-April, I haven’t written less than 500 words on a given day, the longest span I’ve gone doing that. Further, you can see that the 7-day moving average has not only exceeded my daily goal, but has been more than twice that goal for the better part of the last three months.

I thought it would be interesting to compare the first six months of 2014 with the first six months of 2013. I didn’t start my daily writing regimen until late February 2013, so there is some data missing early on. But here are the two years compared:

Writing 2013 and 2014

The red is 2013 and the blue is this year. You can see that since about May 2014, I’ve been regularly outstripping that same period last year.

In the first 6 months of 2013 (including the 2 months before I started my daily writing) I wrote just under 100,000 words. In the first 6 months of 2014, I’ve written 163,000 words. While I have also tracked my writing time using Rescue Time, I haven’t parsed that data in any detail. That said, I have worked out a model for estimating time from words written. 163,000 words comes out to about 109 hours spent writing in the first 6 months of the year. That’s 4.5 days worth of writing. Not very much in the grand scheme of things, but then again, with the full time job and two little kids, my time is fairly limited. It averages to about 906 words per day, or roughly 35 minutes per day of writing.

I have only a few deliverables to show for all of this writing so far: a couple of nonfiction articles. Otherwise, the writing has been working toward two projects: the second draft of my novel, and a novella that I’ve been working on intermittently when I need a break from the novel. So my published words in 2014 is a tiny fraction of what I’ve written. But I expect that to change as the second half of the year unfolds.

Going Paperless Quick Tip: See Evernote Reminders in a Calendar with Sunrise

I have been using the Sunrise calendar app for a few years now, and recently, they introduced a new feature that greatly expands the applications with which Sunrise integrates. Previously, I’d used Sunrise to view my Google Calendars, as well as Facebook calendars, the latter mostly to see birthdays or events.

In it’s most recent release, Sunrise now allows you to integrate other applications, including Evernote, so that you can see all of your calendars and Evernote reminders in one place. I love being able to see my Evernote reminders on a calendar. Here is what it looks like on my iPhone:

Sunrise iPhone

In the above image, you can see that I have items from my Google Calendar (“Vacation in Maine”) as well as reminders from Evernote (“Changed filter in water”). There is a web-based desktop version that you can use on your laptop or desktop machine, and that version looks like this:

Sunrise Desktop
Click to enlarge

I used to use Sunrise exclusively on my iPhone, but since the latest version, I’ve replaced my desktop-based Google calendar with Sunrise because it is so convenient to have all of my calendar’s in one place.

Sunrise is easy to setup with other services. You simply add an account in the Add Account section, select the services that you want to add, and follow the instructions to integrate with those services. Folks who use tools like Asana (for to-do lists) or GitHub (for coding) will be pleased to see you can integrate calendars from those services as well.

Sunrise Add Account

The integration with Evernote has been particularly useful because I use Evernote reminders for more and more things, from keeping track of when freelance contracts expire, to reminding me when to change the water filter, or register the car. Now I can see these things all in one unified calendar, and that saves me time and frustration. And best of all, it lets me see the big picture all in one place.

And for those wondering, Sunrise is available for the desktop (via a browser), iPhone, iPad, and Android.


If you have a suggestion for a future Going Paperless post, let me know. Send it to me at feedback [at] jamietoddrubin.com. As always, this post and all of my Going Paperless posts is also available on Pinterest.

Last week’s post: 10 Ways My Use of Evernote Has Evolved Over Time.

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A Quick Programming Note

Being on vacation, I got a little behind on things yesterday, and this morning, we are heading off to Acadia National Park. Bottom line is that this week’s Going Paperless post will come out tomorrow (Wednesday), instead of today. Sorry for the last-minute change. But, you know, vacation.

My Makeshift Writing Space This Week

I posted a similar picture on Twitter a little while ago, but I figured I’d share it here as well. This is another view of my makeshift writing space for this week. When you look at this picture, keep in mind that rumor that the writer’s life is a lonely, angst-ridden one where every word on the page is difficult, and finding inspiration is nearly impossible. We cultivate these myths carefully, and so far as you are concerned, they are absolutely true. You never heard any different from me.

Writing Space