Saturday, December 30, 2023


Greetings from your friendly internet writer.

Yes, writer.

A few years back, I wouldn’t have believed this possible.

A few years back it wouldn’t have been possible.

But despite the sneering complaints of certain vocal critics, it is possible for a writer to make a modest living this way.

It used to be “writer” was defined as somebody who assembled words and ideas into books, short stories, articles, and perhaps screenplays, fact or fiction, and submitted those efforts via various means to editors at publishing houses or various presses or various media outlets, and then lived on cheese sandwiches hoping a check of some small amount would come back. Traditionally the profession of “writer” meant you repeated this cycle without healthcare or adequate hygiene or presentable clothes until you died, or gave it up for a real job.

That model, that definition of writer, still very much exists.

And a lot of writers make varying degrees of living from it.

And I do that. I write various stories for various publishers and they give money. Not much, but enough to call myself a professional and enough to get invited to various writing conventions to talk about it. If you were at WorldCon in Chicago this year, or MisCon in Missoula where I was a guest of honor, it was great to see you there, thanks for coming and saying hi. 

Which is, you know, pretty cool -- at least to me. 

See, I wanted to be a writer since I was kid. 

Other kids wanted to be fire fighters or astronauts or dentists. Not me. I wanted to be writer. 

It’s a sickness, writing. A weird mental disorder that makes you sit in front of a keyboard for hours, daydreaming and playing with ideas and wondering why anyone would read the blather on the screen. No matter how upbeat and confident you are, and I am often very upbeat and probably too confident in myself for my own good, writing is fraught with self doubt and black depression mixed with mania. In that way, it's sort of like my previous military profession which is best described as "long periods of tedious boredom punctuated with moments of furious insanity."

I know exactly when I caught it, this sickness. 

As a kid of maybe nine or so, my grandmother gave me a Hardy Boys book (#8; The Mystery of Cabin Island) for Christmas one year. I’d been an indifferent reader up to that point, but that book captivated me and my lifelong obsession with words began right there. It was long before I discovered the local library, and then Robert Anson Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke. Somewhere shortly thereafter, in a staggering moment of epiphany, I realized there were actually people out there who got paid to sit in front of a keyboard and daydream and those people didn’t have to put on pants every day. Hell they might not even own actual pants – unless you consider pajamas legitimate work apparel.

I knew then that’s what I wanted to do.

I’d always intended to go the traditional route, cheese sandwiches and all.

I’d never intended to write about politics. But evidence would suggest that’s where my talent lies – if you’re charitable and agree that it is indeed an actual talent and not just something you could train a chimpanzee to do (they taught monkeys to fly spaceships, so I imagine political pundit wouldn’t be that difficult).

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, by the time I was free to write what I wanted (upon my retirement from the military) and I started writing in earnest with the idea that someday somebody somewhere would give me actual money for it, the world had changed. How we connect to it had changed and continues to evolve at a rapid pace and a new type of “writer” became possible – well maybe not new new, but perhaps a more modern version of the political broadsides and pamphlets penned by the likes of Thomas Paine.

Ten years ago, I would never have guessed that social media would become my primary platform for day to day short form.  

Social media is horrible. 

Absolutely horrible. 

Social media is horrible in all the ways it's possible for human interaction to be horrible. No matter the platform, or the owner, social media is howling a bastard cross between an opinion column and a public forum and doesn’t do either very well. It’s subject to arbitrary and random censorship. There’s no protection for intellectual property at all. It lacks the most basic of editing tools and formatting functions, its search capability is ridiculous and all but useless. As a general rule, and again no matter the particular platform, the interface, timeline management, and display are one of the single most infuriatingly horrible experiences in an age of limitless customization. Universally, social media is subject to every kind of cyber-abuse from bullying to trolling to sexual assault. 

And if there's one thing that is the terrible same across every single social media platform, it is this: You will never get any kind of help from the operators and AI is only going to make that worse by orders of magnitude. You can't argue with a machine, and you'll never get any human sympathy from software. Ever. 

If Facebook is your dysfunctional community, then Twitter is Monkey Island in that community’s monstrous zoo, a screeching riot of flying shit and bared fangs. Twitter is a chemical plant for distilling out the absolute worst elements of human existence, like some sort of highway where every driver is armed and in the throes of seething road rage and they don’t care if they die so long as they can take everybody else with them. I left Twitter a few months back due to the owner's increasing bigotry and unhinged madness, and moved my microblogging to Threads, which is basically just more Facebook but with the single redeeming quality of not be subject to the random capricious machinations of Elon Musk. I'm active on a dozen other platforms, including my own here, with varying degrees of enthusiasm. 

As a platform for writing, social media, whatever the flavor, stinks. 

And yet – and yet – these platforms do one thing very, very well.

They do the one thing that traditional publishing venues cannot do.

Social media connects creators to people in an organic, viral, geometrically expanding manner that is completely impossible anywhere else.

Now, interacting with readers on a real time basis for hours upon hours every single goddamned day isn’t for every writer. It takes a certain degree of masochism to do it, see my previous comments about road rage and flying monkey shit. In point of fact, a lot of writers become writers because they are anti-social curmudgeons who enjoy living on moldy fake-cheese sandwiches and sitting around all day in dirty pajamas and who tend to break out in a cold sweat when they actually have to put on pants and go outside where all the other people are.

So real time interaction with their audience isn’t something they consider a feature.

And that’s okay. 

“Writer” is a loose enough definition that it accommodates the gregarious right alongside the hermit.

But, if you write well, if you write the things people are interested in, and if you’re willing to interact with your audience directly and in real time, then social media makes it possible for your work to spread far beyond the size of audiences normally available to traditional writers. 

Social media, for all its ills, has created new opportunity, an alternative to traditional writing models. Not a replacement, a supplement.

And that’s where I ended up.

I admit that in my case there is some degree of luck. I happened to be in the right place just as opportunity opened with the right experience and skillset and enough free time to take advantage of it.  It suits me. It’s not easy. Really it’s not. It sometimes (often) takes 14 to 18 hour days, research, writing, swearing at the screen, it can be incredibly frustrating at times for reasons you never imagine or anticipate. It requires constant attention, a constant presence, and everything becomes grist for the mill, making much of your life public – something that is often less than thrilling to your spouse.

It’s work.

And it is … writing.

I’ve had a number of critics sneer at me, you’re not a real writer! Well, okay. Fair enough. I’m not particularly put out by that and I’m willing to go with whatever description you want to call it.  Sincerely.

But what do you call it?

I sometimes crank out a quarter million words in a month for a dedicated audience larger than that of many highly successful novelists. Hell, news sites steal my work on nearly a daily basis, and publish my stuff as their own for profit – that’s got to mean something, right? Now, I’m willing to accept any label you want to slap on that, but before you do, I’d like to suggest you try it. Start a substack, social media sites, assemble words every day, build an audience without gimmicks or tricks solely on the basis of what you write, and then tell me what you call that effort.

As a cautionary note: no matter what you call yourself, no matter how much adoring admiration you manage to inspire in your audience, no matter how many people send you fan mail and messages of respect, no matter how successful you eventually manage to be and how full of yourself you become as a result, your family and friends still think you’re a putz and remind you of it as often as possible.  Ideally this keeps you grounded and from turning into a complete ass. Ideally.

And every day, every single day, no matter how well you’ve done, everyday, you’re sure that’ll be the day it all falls apart and you’ll have to go get a real job again.

And every day, every single damn day, you'll get hate mail and death threats and DMs filled with gibbering insanity that you can't decipher (even if, like me, you were once trained as a code breaker). That can be pretty depressing unless you have a very, very thick skin. 

I’ve been invited to a number of writer’s conventions to talk about this with other writers and those who are interested in such things. That’s something I’m happy to do. I’ve been pretty lucky and I’m glad to pay that forward. The world is a big place, there’s plenty of room for many, many more writers – or whatever you call ‘em – in this new arena.

But, here’s the downside – or at least the part I like least.

Every once in a while I need to ask for money.

I don’t like this. 

No, I really don’t like this. I don’t like asking for money. I feel bad about it. It gives me endless anxiety. I’m getting more used it, especially since it doesn’t seem to bother readers at all – well except for that one guy who shows up periodically to call me names and generally make an ass of himself. But ideally, I write something and if you like it enough, you’ll kick in, or you buy my artwork which I very much appreciate it. And thankfully, you do so often enough that I can mostly survive on that part.

But I still feel guilty about it.

So, when I began this I found a way to assuage my conscience.

Thus: Any subscriber who donates any amount via the donation button or as a new Patreon for the next 30 days, will be put in the running for a giveaway. 

Every few days over the next month, I’ll give away loot. It's the end of the year and I’ve got at least a hundred of my handmade ink pens, engraved with Stonekettle Station. I’ve signed copies of books that my work appears in. I’ve got signed copies of my photography – and given that I generally don’t sign those prints, these will be unique. And since I've recently started making calendars with my photography, I'll print and sign a selection of each version and give those away too. 

Winners will be announced here every few days until I run out things to give away.

To donate, click on the “Donation” button on the upper right side of this screen and follow the directions or click on the Patreon link for additional options.

PayPal is here 

If you want to become a monthly supporter My Patreon is here

You may enter more than once. Each donation will be counted as a unique subscription. 

If you’ve already donated to Stonekettle Station this month, you’re already on the subscription list.

Those of you who already donate via an automatic monthly payment, you’ll be entered automatically in the giveaway.

Note: I’ve discovered that winners sometimes, often it seems, do not want their names made public. I’d like to tell readers who got the various art pieces, but if you want your name kept private I will certainly do so. Last time I did this, the first person I selected to receive a prize refused because they lived on a boat and had no room for addition items. The alternate also refused for personal reasons and requested that the artwork go instead to a charity for auction to raise money for a cause important to them. They wanted it kept anonymous. So, that I did. 

I will honor any reasonable request when it comes to such things.

Legal Disclaimer: To be clear, this is not a lottery or a raffle.  Donations are voluntary subscription fees specifically in support of this blog and the associated social media feeds and conducted in accordance with state and federal requirements.

That is:  you’re paying for content not a chance to win something.

I am not claiming any tax-exempt status or charity. Donations are considered business income and I pay all applicable state and federal taxes on that income and I have the records to prove it.

The items I give away are my artwork, created and paid for by me.  As such I chose to randomly give them away to supporters, just as I gave away my custom made pens to my fellow writers -- and if you come find me at a convention, I'll give one to you, whatever your profession.  The giveaway list is generated from voluntary subscriptions, since I have no other way to determine who readers are.  You are not donating for a chance to win a prize, you’re paying for the content I create and I’m using this opportunity to give something back other than just my usual blog essays and social media posts.

As always, thank you for your support // Jim 


  1. Great writing, Jim. I became a Language Arts teacher and national debater due to learning a love of words (starting in my grandparents basement with Mika Waltari) Heinlein, Asimov, Kesey, Heller, Adams, Sandburg...
    Still working on the book I started 23 years ago.

  2. Jim, the donation button was there, and then it wasn’t 🥴.

  3. you are a good guy.

  4. You might want to go into more detail about how a kid excited to recognize a writer could just sit around daydreaming and not having to wear pants would wind up in the Navy as career military. Those two don't seem to go together.

  5. Wonderful, as usual.
    My sister taught me to touch type when I was 9. Still have the '40 Royal portable I learned on. I could not write legibly by hand (you're not trying hard enough! BS!! Ok - I didn't say that but thought it). Anyway, opened a new world for me. Never tried to make a living at it - but the press passes etc. were worth more than the occasional monetary compensation.

    Yes - Heinlein, of course. And I love telling people I met Asimov. Greatly appreciate your work and would love to up your patreon allotment but coping with being 80 is making me financially cautious.


    1. Both my ex and our kid have what we call dysgraphia. It's definitely a thing, even though it's not as well known as dyslexia.

    2. My eldest was diagnosed as having dysgraphia at a young age. I recognize it in others as someone having "an unusual pen and pencil grip"!

  6. Can't find an actual "Donation" button on the page, but the PayPal and Patreon links work. And Done!! Keep up the great research and commentary.

  7. Your writing and photos are more than enough to warrant membership. Happy to provide my tiny bit of help.

  8. I have the same sickness, but w/o the thickness of skin needed to do it on social media. 🤷🏼‍♀️😢 I support those who do -- especially the excellent ones, like you.

  9. I started following you years ago because you speak the truth. And offer some hard insights I might not have recognized on my own. I love your snarky sense of humor too!
    I traveled to MisCon just to meet you (and David Gerrold from whom I actually got a high five!) It was everything I wanted from a Con: interesting people, interesting content, and meeting some people who I admire greatly. And I got to sit nearby several times when you were "holding court". It was nearly magical! Thanks again for all that.
    In the spirit of the holidays, I will again offer my small donation (in addition to my monthly Patreon subscription) because you deserve the financial recognition and you make my life better.

  10. Dang it! I sent you a letter and forgot to change the name from anonymous to my own. I'm sure there's nothing you can do about it, but I just wanted you to know it was me, since our paths have crossed a few times.

  11. Laughing at myself, here! I am clearly PayPal-challenged. Enjoy a double contribution. I’ll try patreon again, but it wasn’t loading the membership options.

  12. I’ve been here since the second or third day I believe and then jumped right up along with everyone else to stalk you on Facebook. Stonekettle Station has been adjacent to my whole internet experience from day one. We love you Jim Wright❤️ and all you share. I never had a bunch of money, but I did send you a few blocks of burly mahogany wood way back and you recinded in kind with a pen set. Little corny now …….. you’ve been a hero to my wife and I, for as many years as we’ve been on the internets. 😉

    1. It's great to hear from someone following Jim as long as I have. I was one of the first of his followers that he brought into this group when he first created it. He is always relevant and helpful. Happy New Year to you and your wife.

  13. Excellent value for money! [I still treasure highly the two refillable coffee mugs, and the vase; the pens are cool but the coffee is special :)]

  14. Done. It's not much but I've been missing you on the former bird place and considering this for a while.

  15. Done. Thanks for your work.

  16. Done and thank you.

  17. One of the many things I value about your writing is that you interact with your followers. For so many of us, admiring writers is accomplished from afar. We admired the hell of out of Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, Silverberg, Budris, Van Vogt, Simak...I could go on. But we never got to meet or hear from them except in magazine columns or at conventions: intermittent, distant, and expensive. Infrequent, they were sometimes the experiential goal and highlight of years of savings.

    By using social media, in its many forms, we get to interact with the people we admire. You (singular and plural) make us laugh, fume, weep, and feel things connected to ideas we might never have discovered on our own.

    The bonus is the interaction. Occasionally you respond to one or several of us. Personal anecdotes offer a glimpse into your existence. (We don't want to land on your doorstep or be your new best friend, we just want an idea about you, whose writing we admire. Do you really sit around in pajamas at the keyboard all day?) You become a person, someone with likes we share, and you inspire some of us to believe we can put in the effort that writing seems to require. (I'll never be a pro, but I still enjoy it.)

    I could pick up a book or two with my donation. I get the books anyway. You bring something more immediate to the table, on both the micro and macro scale, and it's worth it.

    So thank you for that. For your time, the occasional photos of your dogs or your birdfeeders, the glimpse of life in a small town. The commonalities that make us human.

    And for the insights you share from your experience, your research, for all you bring to our education and insight.

  18. Love your words Jim ( the Writer). Thank You!

  19. Writer is right. I read constantly and I will say unequivocally that your "Knock knock motherf*cker is the funniest and best thing I have ever read.

    1. That’s actually from the Bloggess, but he uses it very well. :-)

  20. Sent a donation your way. I am grateful for the writing and the quality of writing you put out for us to read. I've been happy to share your work with my late husband, and several long term friends and it seems they've become regular readers of yours as well. Wishing you & yours a peaceful end to 2023 and a sane 2024.

  21. I am glad you ask for money in a straight up and honest way. I can't say the same for some of the other writers I follow.

  22. You're now in line for a monthly sawbuck from me. You've earned it.

  23. We just sent our donation. Thank you Jim, for being an actual voice of reason in this crazy world. Kevin and Monica K. Kent, MI

  24. I haven't been in a position to donate before, but I got a nice increase in my Social Security and I seriously feel I owe you. I've followed you on social media for several years and signed up for BlueSky and Threads when you said you were leaving Twitter. You've inspired me. I was very active during the civil rights, Vietnam War, women's rights era back in the 60s and 70s. Now here I am on the back side of life realizing that I didn't keep up that activism in the intervening years and here we are. If I've learned anything from you, it's there are no breaks if you value democracy. So I'm back. Thank you!

  25. I try to remember to donate from time to time. As another 'writer', writing mainly blog posts for a very niche audience, I totally understand the feeling of not being a 'real' writer. But with 3 self-published actual books, one more steeping, perhaps to come out in the new year, perhaps to be ditched, multiple magazine articles, etc., I finally realized that I really was a 'real' writer, too. I'm just not a novelist. :)

  26. Long time reader (FB), first opportunity commenter. Appreciate what you do and how you do it. Cheers!

  27. Dammit, Jim. You made me rejoin your Patreon. 😁 I have always loved your writing since you first wrote from Alaska. Susan from Santa Fe.

  28. It's worth a few bucks just hear the airlock cycling in the Stonekettle Facebook group.

  29. I appreciate you. Thanks for all your effort you put in daily. I'm not much of a commenter but I read all your posts. I am a former U.S. Army MSG myself and I wish to support you monthly because not only are you are a fellow veteran, but because you are a fantastic writer and communicator. Top job Chief!

  30. Just wanted to say thanks from across the Pond for the insights, humour (and brilliant photos). Some of the references I occasionally need to double check as we don’t get all the US news over here, but it’s always informative and worth the effort. Here’s to 2024 !

  31. I'd love to see you and Heather Cox Richardson on a stage together some day. Two of my favorites!

  32. Done and dusted--hoping for another year of your great writing (and your dragonfly photographs!!)

  33. Thank you for being an amazing voice of reason and sanity in this cacophony of news and world events. Your writing bid a stress relief in many wars. This teacher and me m of three young adult men 😊 thanks You! I sent you some “coin”!

  34. As someone who's a few days away from finishing her forty-second book, I can say you're an excellent political writer. How on earth you keep from constant swear words when describing the last eight years is beyond me. Your writing is clear, direct, and 99.99% of the time correct. Being human sucks when you've made a mistake and people dogpile on it. I've been writing for twenty years, publishing for ten, and pajamas are one of the best perks of this job. The very best are the readers. I have a couple who read every genre I write and they've become my good friends. I know you can say the same. I'll donate this year as usual. Not for the prizes but because I gleefully consume your content and you deserve the income.
    PS You're right about the family. I know when I say, "Forty-two is done," and leap around the living room like it's a big deal, everyone else will keep doing what they're doing. I'll get a, "Yay," because I've made this finishing books a habit.

  35. You've given me my first reason ever to create a Patreon account. Keep up the excellent work.

  36. I just followed the link to say thanks. I hope to keep reading for years to come so it’s worth the investment. With a little luck, I hope to increase my Patreon some time this year. Love your photography, too!

  37. Just keep writing and we'll keep reading. :)

  38. Donated. I greatly appreciate you.

  39. Thanks for the Cheese Sandwich reference. A favorite author whom I discovered in high school, and who fed my taste for bad puns for many years.

    Keep up the good work, I'm looking forward to your next fiction outing, as well as your frequent political contributions.

  40. Thanks for all the hard work you do, especially dealing with the continual usage of the airlock. I grew up reading SF as my father had an Analog subscription. I was lucky enough to see Harlan Ellison when he read a story for the Read SF fundraiser held by Mike Hodel (who was the main host for the Hour 25 radio show on KPFK radio). Mr. Ellison was late as usual. :-)

  41. Jim, I've been reading and sharing for a while, but am only a follower at FB and I didn't try to Friend you because well, since I haven't met you at a convention yet, it felt awkward to me. You are someone I think I'd like in person. Your being a fiction writer/artist/political writer just made me uncertain how to handle that. So I can't say this at FB, the logical place.

    This suggestion for folks is crossing the streams between Jim's work as an artist creator and a writer---it will not, if my tired eyes read correctly, enter you in this contest.

    But Jim has beautiful photos of birds, insects, flora, etc. at his Etsy shop. He makes pens and other wonderful hand tools, although I've never caught a sale suddenly opening up. He's even done bowls, though not recently. Calendars, Stonekettle Nation shirts--you can find them here. And get the product this month, and Jim gets the money this month.


    I bought four prints as gifts for the holidays, and they are beautiful, delivered promptly and safely, and I'll bet there's a shot over there you'd love to own. Just remember you have to figure out your own matting. :)

  42. Great post with things that NEED - and continuously NEED - to be said. As a fellow creative - though in the arena of music, and as a graphic designer / art director - I know all too well the battle between artistic integrity and the drive to create and be supported by people... and the opportunity to request donations and seek financial support to continue to fund your creative endeavors that - obviously - so many people do enjoy and repost... to the point of plagiarism and theft. Regardless, before I go off too long winded here, I read your columns here and on FB - and re-post (with citations and sourcing of course!) on enough of a regular basis that I make a financial donation just on that alone. Whether I agree with everything you post or write is besides the point - I agree enough and I've learned ENOUGH - that your support has more than been earned. Financially and otherwise. Thanks for this post and thank you for what you do offer us. It doesn't fall upon deaf ears or blind eyes. :)

  43. Thanks for the writing you do. You say things really well so I just sent you a small token of appreciation. Please keep up the great work!


Comments on this blog are moderated. Each will be reviewed before being allowed to post. This may take a while. I don't allow personal attacks, trolling, or obnoxious stupidity. If you post anonymously and hide behind an IP blocker, I'm a lot more likely to consider you a troll. Be sure to read the commenting rules before you start typing. Really.