Mar 23, 2011


I was lucky enough to grow up in a state that funds its education with a lot of mullah. In high school, we had after school classes that were electives and not extracurriculars. You could get a lot of college prep credits racked up. I took two semesters of a class called Outdoor Education. In autumn, we kayaked, canoed, ran, and biked. In winter, we still ran (with our parkas on), but we also learned winter survival skills and camped overnight when it was ten degrees outside. Spring in Outdoor Education was sublime. We did triathlons, half-marathons, swimming, kayaked, and orienteering - most of which was at the Ludington State Park.

The Ludington State Park (which Midwest Living Magazine considers the #1 park in the Midwest) is an awesome place to orienteer. The top of one of the 250' sand dune is the best places to start, especially if you're looking over a two mile valley of pine groves and sand pits to the Big Sable Point Lighthouse. Once you're in the valley, you cannot see the lighthouse, you must rely on your compass, calculations, and collaboration in order to make it to the lighthouse.

Orienteering is the ultimate activity for me because it is physical, active, and requires teamwork - three of my favorite things. I excel in collaborative activities overall. Even in writing. A few of my friends and I have been (hardly) working on prose and non-fiction collaborative projects. It is totally my fault that we are not progressing more quickly. School is always kicking my butt, and I am pushing myself to get all A's this semester. I am on track in three of my four classes*.

The point about orienteering is that I have been laying lines and looking ahead so that I can successfully complete all homework to the best of my ability. Which is like checkpoints along a course. Now, I need to start calculating how I can get back to writing for myself, and writing with others. I already know taking breaks does not work (although the mini spring break next week should help). Blog hiatuses only mask the real issues. It's clearly all about balance, every writer says the same thing. But it's hard to juggle, when you don't even know what you're supposed to catch. Everything falls in the end. I am sick of bending over and retrieving the activities I am passionate about. I need a writing treadmill, like Paul. Or a scribe.

Congrats if you really find a point in any of this. And if you do, let me know, so I can convince myself one was there all along.

*I had a minor victory yesterday in the fourth class, I finally broke the B barrier. The class is Intro to Education, and my prof is the cream of the crop. He really is an exceptional teacher, but he's a hard grader. And, honestly, I know he simply expects his students to do better. We have a paper about every three weeks and the first one I got an 85 and I received an 87.5 on the second. For the third, I really buckled down and spent time working my way through the paper to get out exactly what I meant. I am not going to say that totally paid off, but I finally moved beyond the B and got a 90. It's an A, albeit a low A, but it's still an A.


  1. I love this post. It seems like a mini-essay (all that school work bleeding into blogging). An orienteering post that expresses the point of orienteering at the same time that it demonstrates it. Perhaps all you need is a good metaphor, and orienteering it is! Keep plugging away! That's all there is.

  2. Congrats on that A! Hard graders can be a pain, but nothing will inspire better work like high expectations. :)

  3. GO YOU! With all the As this semester. That's awesome, Jon. I suppose I might be lame if I admit I had to google what orienteering was. But omg, I SUCK at all things maps and navigation. You're EVEN cooler now than I already thought you were :)

  4. Wow, good for you for grabbing that A!
    That is cool that part of Michigan education is outdoorsy.
    I've been slow going on our project too. But I have done a lot this week as I know next week I will have zero writing time. We've been doing great brainstorming and character building though!

  5. Congrats on the A! Huzzah!

    And I totally got the point in the whole orienteering analogy. I thought it was awesome!

  6. Congrats on snagging that A, Jon!

    I think this post was great! Writers need to orient themselves with writing too, and mapping out a course is a sure way to start. constantly have to stop and reorient ourselves along the way, too.

  7. I think that balance is a sly word. Because I think that balance in writing is having everything else in your life at an okay place so that when you want to write for hours on end, you can. Balance doesn't mean everything even or equal. It means that everything is moving forward, but not necessarily at the same pace. I think people kill themselves to try to even their life out. Instead of finding a balance.