Thursday, June 26, 2014

106 weeks later

The journey is the destination

I’ve pictured for a long time writing this article. I’ve imagined what it would be about, visualized how it would look on paper, daydreamed about the feel of each keystroke. For two years this one here has been the goal to keep striving towards. And yet, now that I’m here, it’s not quite what I’d envisioned.

"The truth of the matter is that a good portion of my
week-to-week life revolves around Woodsman."
For the past two years I have tried to be the wizard (albeit a shabby one) behind the curtain of this column. That means each and every week, since June 14 of 2012, I’ve done my best to put myself in the mindset of a woodsman in training, just for the sake of writing a little bit about what that means - to redefine, perhaps, what that means.

When I began I had this notion that I would simply write about all my adventures outdoors. I had a lot of backlogged stories to share to fill the gaps between telling new tales, and that strategy worked… for awhile.

Then came times when I wanted to tackle broader topics. Some weeks I would struggle for hours to tie in all sorts of theoretical strings to everyday life and subject matter related to nature. I think this worked for a while, I had a good formula.

Eventually, though, my life grew and changed, and my intent, focus, and involvement with my career also developed. The types of things I wanted to talk about were soon much larger than a piece on canoeing the Flambeau in June or shoveling snow in January. Maybe I just grew up.

“You must write, whatever else comes,” has continued to be my motto. For the journey thus far I’ve put my faith in the relentless pursuit of content generation. I figure if I keep digging, someday, eventually, I’ll find something.

I go back and forth as to how insane that sounds...

Truth be told, I find myself at a bit of a crossroads. Woodsman has always been intended as a devise with which I would reach for the next thing. It is my own, beloved, step stone for something bigger - charged with challenging me to try new things and get better at old things.

When Woodsman started, I maintained it would inform itself as to what shape to take and where to go. Over the past two years, however, I’ve identified a few central pillars at the core of its focus.

The first is to challenge myself as a writer. This is where the “you must write” mantra comes into play. Regardless of focus, length, or sometimes even voice, the words have to be put down. This approach is challenging from both a production and quality standpoint, which leads into the next goal: quality.

Woodsman as a quality product has been something that is hard to nail down. I’d like to say that’s because I let it flow and dip and turn roundabout more like a sculpture than a painting, but I have higher expectations than that. By allowing for an artistic license to go wherever the journey takes me, I think I’ve often hurt the laser precision quality writing I want to achieve. The jury is still out on this one.

The third pillar of the Woodsman project is to inspire. This goes back to a Venn diagram I drew several months before starting the column. At that time I was really trying to map out what I wanted my life to be, and how I wanted a career to look. In one circle I wrote “fulfillment," in the other I wrote "income." Where the two circles intersected I wrote "life's work: inspire.”

That leaves one more pillar, which is to make a living. Unlike the others, this one is flat, practical, and simply put, not pretty. Somewhat surprisingly, I do have a certain amount of practicality about me that will simply not let me become a barefoot hippy. Especially now that I am getting married and starting a family, strict considerations have to be given to the financial viability of my work on this project.

Over the last two years I’ve published approximately 70,000 words in this column. The number I’ve truly written is probably much closer to the 100k mark, but oh well. To establish a record of the shapes Woodsman has taken, I’ve posted articles on my blog for nearly a year. That should eclipse 10,000 page views in July.

Additionally I archive every story in five different locations. Photos are edited in two separate formats and also stored in multiple locations with cross-references on multiple platforms. All of that is not to mention the extra time and resources I put into taking photos or digging through my old photo library for interesting graphics. More on that in the future.

The truth of the matter is that a good portion of my week-to-week life revolves around Woodsman. It may have been more intense during the first months, where I was grasping at straws for a column idea at every turn in the road, but the fact I’ve constructed and formatted an entire brain wavelength for the sake of this single writing flow really signals to me how rooted I’ve become in this project. Now it’s literally part of who I am.

My question to you, reader, is now what? Do any of those facts force me to change course? Have I been careful enough laying a foundation? Have I been too aggressive or not enough? Have I pushed all the right buttons, checked all the right instruments, cleared the runway for takeoff? How do you fly this thing?!

Truthfully, I don’t have an answer for this one. I’m 27 and the world is still a big mass of unanswered questions and iffy answers. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that construction is much more difficult than destruction thanks to one factor - time. Aka, Rome wasn’t built in a day, aka a man who is a master of patience is a master of everything.

So be it.

The 106th Woodsman article may not be what I originally envisioned, but it is much more than I imagined. Thank you, dearest reader, for sticking with me.

See you out there,
A woodsman in training.


  1. Seth, you have a terrific voice that has translated into an excellent column. You have created something with purpose and soul, and you even have an audience! My advice is to continue and redouble your freelance efforts. The dream of living up in the woods and being a decently paid, constantly employed writer is within your reach.

    1. Tom, your kind words of encouragement have me nodding with resolve. I hope you know I appreciate your skill and industry knowledge and always look forward to our talks.