Diversion: this thing is back. Here’s why.

Hello Earthlings with the internet,

It’s been a minute. I’ve spent less time than I would like writing lately, which might be the universal complaint of the non-disciplined writer that isn’t constantly employed at a keyboard. This post is an exploration of why.

My gigantic, whiny list of excuses that nobody wants to read (which is not available, even by request) dissolves into three major problems that bear mentioning: the removed ability to think through outdoor situations by writing about them, and the side effects from monetizing and job-itizing the writing I’ve been doing, and the people who have read my work, appreciated it, and want more.

Blogging was and remains my first outlet. Free from the benefits of an editor or the need to create content for sponsors, I just wanted a container to put my thoughts and adventures into. Those pure iterations developed into style of writing-as-thinking about the trip I was blogging, and thus did I better understand what had happened, what was cool about it, and how I could improve later on. Readers benefited from getting into that perspective as well. In not blogging as much, I’ve lost that retrospective rumination. Reason number one to kick this thing back on: I miss chewing on these experiences post-facto.

The strange aspect of all that processing was that it was valuable. I want to thank the folks that see monetary value in what I write—it’s super cool to be paid for one of the things I love to do. I’ve been given the key to audiences and containers that I would have never cracked on my own, and I continue to enjoy the support of editors who better my writing and push me to hone my craft, to develop my inklings into legible pieces.

But, making money off of something that’s a part of your heart requires care—and I didn’t manage that care very well. My relationship to writing changed: it became paid or rewarded content. It became a necessary part of my job, a line on my to-do list. I still wrote what I cared about, but it got squeezed into something I did when I was getting monetarily rewarded to do it. Other writing still appeared that felt good, but it wasn’t related.

Then my life moved on from a full-time focus on creating things that had marketing value. I’ve happy about that: it’s good to show up for work as a guide or salesperson or freelance writer and then leave the tools, the stress, and the to do list finished at the end of the day, to be picked up later. My thoughts went like this: “writing all the time for my blog or anyone else was a thing I did when I had the time—now, I needed to go to bed to get up to guide.”  Or, alternately: “I just want to go play, and get out of my head.”

Writing should be done because it’s what I want to do. Writers, first and foremost, should have something to say. The best part of this post is that it is procrastination: some writer’s block has slowed me down on a paid piece I care about, and here I am venting with words that flow easily, freely. Sorry Matt; I’ll get it done. Thus, reason two to return to the blog: writing is something I love. Some part of that love needs to be completely separate from work and money. I owe that part of me a chance that’s all its own.

If I were a storyteller in some village a hundred years ago, these kinds of thoughts might have been spooled out by the well, or maybe in a dingy tavern over the soft clinking of tankards at the bar. I’d look people in the eye as I said things, feel their reactions, appreciation, boredom. Instead, convenience makes this available nearly anywhere on a screen. You can read this at your leisure. I’m afforded a spectacularly large audience, many of whom I’m lucky to know, but can’t see their reactions. I write, it goes out, and I hope that it’s worth the time that people spend reading. I sometimes wonder how much time my friends and complete strangers have spent reading this blog. I wonder how many came back to read more. And recently, I’ve heard from a few of those folks saying that they want me to stop sitting on my hands. Thanks for the kick in the ass, you wonderful folks. Reason three: the people who spent their life force reading my ramblings demand yet more. David should not argue with these fine people.

It’s spring. Ski tracks and big, ursine paw prints once again crisscross the blanched dreamscapes of our local hills. Can’t go unprepared into this new season: it’s time for some more skinning with bear spray.

Cheers,

David

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Fickle batteries

On May 8th, Dan Koestler and I skied Mt. Allen. We got up early, and the only photo I got before my phone died was this, of our approach:

Here’s one from the night before. Our line up went up the large snowfield on the right side of the near ridge, then traversing around the knob and up the summit ridge.

Normally, this post would be longer. It’d include a more comprehensive look into where we got to, and the excellent skiing down. But in the process of a dead phone battery (a noob mistake) and not carrying an extra camera (another noob mistake), it made the climb an exercise in enjoying the climb for it’s own sake. This was a good thing. Instead of a tool, the phone was inert weight in my pack–as good as a paperweight for all the good it could do. But it’s my attitude about those dead batteries that is worth some writing.

In this modern world of professional outdoorsfolks on the Internet, content is the main currency that makes us worthwhile for support. All those logos that show on the upper right allow me, in varying capacities, to keep chasing my dreams and playing in the mountains instead of doing something more traditional for work. I’m incredibly grateful to get to do these things as a sort of work. But such an occupation recasts the notion of forgetting to charge the batteries on my phone. Instead of a missed chance to impress friends on Facebook or show my grandmother where I went, it becomes a professional misstep. Something to regret.

Which can seem strange. Our climb went really well. Both Dan and I commented that, in effect, nothing had gone wrong or been super difficult to surmount. The climbing and skiing was straightforward. The summit ridge was gorgeous. Edwards mentions in his guidebook that Mt. Allen is not to be underestimated, and it did feel like we went up, and up, and up. Qualities like these characterize the mountaineering experience, and the trip was certainly a bonafide day in the places that keep me coming back.

Truth, though, requires that I take note of how what I do has become a sort of work. Of the myriad reasons why I love to climb things, to ski down them, the work of capturing and spreading that out to another audience is an occupational one. It can grate against a concept of mountainous purity; the voice that suggests that these places are wild enough to be left off the internet. That only eyes that did the work to get there should see them. That climbing or skiing should be done for the purity of purpose which they possess unadled by the need to make content or support yourself.

However, I don’t see that purity as the end reason for spending time in the mountains. There is an difference between climbing or skiing purely for their own joy and doing so with a camera and a writerly mindset. Just as there’s a difference between climbing, and seeing how fast you can climb. Or going with a group versus solo. All these have their place. I practice them all. I’ll head off on adventures that don’t end up with any documentation or ostensible occupational use. Keeping these notions clear allows me to do both, and I’d wanted to tell the story of our trip on Allen. So when the batteries died, and I felt like I’d failed at something because my attitude was set in that mode.

For me, documenting and telling the stories of the outdoors is about more than pleasing sponsors or earning a living. It’s about spreading the joy that I get out there. It’s about inspiring people to play harder, engage the natural world around them, and put those benefits to work in caring for the places that do so much for them. If you read my work, I’m thankful. If it motivates you to be outside, I’m fulfilled.