Monday, December 16, 2013

Ask JKM a Question: How Do I Stay Disciplined?

Regular Reader David Brand asks me:

“How do you stay so disciplined?  I'm trying to blog but all my attempts on doing it on a semi-regular basis have failed miserably. Life just gets in the way...”

David, I love that question, and I’m honored by it.  I’m especially honored that you believe I must be disciplined!

But if I were truly disciplined, I'd be done blogging through 2013 right now and deep into January, 2014, and I’m not quite there yet.

In all seriousness, I try to stay several blog posts ahead, sometimes as much as thirty or forty posts.  This doesn’t mean I have filled in the entire calendar.  It means I have knocked off the low-hanging fruit so I must only blog three or four times each week, and the rest is “filled in.”

In terms of blogging, I also find that it helps to write on different subjects (toys, TV, movies, writing), and vary up long and short posts where possible, to keep it fresh.  It's like juggling, but sometimes I really drop the ball, for sure. 

If I’m deep in a book, approaching deadline, or falling behind, I now have a nine year archive of posts, and I’m not shy about popping up an old post and labeling it “from the archive” if things get desperate.   

Occasionally, featuring one old post among twenty new posts in a one week period is just the thing to get you over a temporary crisis.  Sometimes, as I did recently with Outland (1981), I can go back, use the original post as a template, and re-write, edit, and improve it with new thoughts.  That’s one way blogging really beats book writing.  I rarely get to back to something in print and fix something I don’t like, or that I didn’t say as elegantly as I might have said in the first place.

So I would suggest that you plan your blog in this way: prepare ten or eleven posts before the next time you go live, and then start scheduling those dozen posts over, say, fifteen days or so.  Then, blog three or four times during that period, plug in the holes, and extend the last date by one every time you sit down to write.  Before you know it, you’ll have a blog up and running, and it will be functioning on something like a normal daily schedule.

Secondly, I would urge you not to throw in the towel.  I’m probably repeating myself here, but blogging is like going to the gym, or exercising: the more you blog regularly, the more you want to blog, and the more you “grow” that muscle.  
I always blog first thing in the morning. That’s how I start out the day, before leaping into other projects, like books or essays.  

If I haven't blogged by mid-morning, I know I probably won't write at all during the day, and I’ll be kicking myself by nightfall.  That's how my brain works.  I might as well go play Mario Kart on Joel’s Wii if I’m not deep into blogging by 9:00 or 10:00 am (but preferably by 7:30 or 8:00 am, depending on if it is a school day).

So part of the key to blogging is to understand your own creative rhythm.  You might be a night owl, and do all your great thinking at 11:00 pm at night, or so.  If so, reserve that hour no matter what, and get blogging.

Great question, my friend!

Readers: Don’t forget to send me your questions at


  1. John good advice on blogging. I like the shelves, in your office, organized by science-fiction subjects. I have a Sony laptop like yours, but white. Considering the amount of writing that you do[books, etc.] your blog runs smoothly.


    1. Thank you, SGB! I try, but sometimes I do drop the ball. I have gotten a cold today, and am falling further behind by the minute! But I took a nap and am now going to race back on schedule...I hope! :)

  2. Bah. I don't worry too much about it. My blog is random nonsense and really just there for me, as a means of filtering from my own brain whatever...thing...that serves no other daily or practical function.

    The idea is to eventually purge myself of all idiocy, thereby attaining a level of 'total logic' V'Ger.

    1. Cannon: I like that you have an approach that works for you. A blog needn't serve a practical function, I don't think. It can just be a place to play with ideas, and to attain total logic, like V'Ger (but please don't run the risk of becoming "empty" and "cold" like V'Ger!)

  3. That's some great advice John, and I agree with it. Setting up a bit of structure is a big help. I also agree with mixing topics and length of posts. That's been a huge help to me. I feel I can easily switch between things I enjoy writing about without getting bored with a topic. As I've added posts about film music, anime and MST3K I found myself enjoying my blog more and more, and feeling confined to just writing straight movie reviews. And yes, your blog really pointed me in that direction. So thanks!

    The other key is not to be too hard on yourself. If you miss a planned post, or if you find yourself burned out for the day, then let it go. Don't beat yourself up or get discouraged. Everyone is allowed to have a bad day, or week, or even month. But the key is to come back and post something, even if it's only a link to a favorite film trailer or MST3K song. :)

    1. Roman: your outstanding blog is a perfect example of the approach I'm talking about it. You've got to keep juggling topic, article length, and interest, or your risk losing focus. I also agree with your advice: don't be too hard on yourself. At some point, things just don't come together (which is why an archive post really helps....)

  4. That is a fascinating little post and window into your approach.

    Great advice.

    I definitely don't operate the same way, but as you said, you find out what works best for you.

    I'm also not quite as regular as a result. Btw, do I see Asteroids on that laptop. : )

    Anyway, nice question and great window into your approach.


    1. Hi SFF:

      To each his own, my friend. Writers are all different. This is just how I do it, and another approach may be preferable for different personalities, definitely. You clearly have a system that works because you have a brilliant blog, and one that is brimming with new and passionate posts. That's the sweet spot!

  5. Great advice! Thanks John!

  6. Btw, thank you John. Get well.


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