Vince Imbat

The fieldwork routine of Thoreau

Nov 12, 2021

Henry David Thoreau’s fieldwork routine invovled Walking in the afternoon, writing notes while walking, and processing those notes into long journal entries in the following morninng. Sometimes, he modified this routine, but he always tried to spend equal times between writing and walking. He wanted to write based on experience and not based on books alone (Words written outdoors vs indoors).

He wrote about what he saw and collected them, treating them as his harvest, as if they were real quantifiable treasures.

I tried experimenting with his routine but realized it wasn’t for me.

# References

Gros, F. (2014). A Philosophy of Walking. Verso.

What he saw, Thoreau wrote, he made his own: he meant that one stores when walking vivid feelings and sunny memories, for the winter evenings. Our treasure, our real property, is the quantity of representations that we have taken in and conserved.

Thoreau, Emerson recalls, had made it a principle to give no more time to writing than he had to walking. To avoid the pitfalls of culture and libraries; for otherwise, what one writes is filled with the writing of others.

Writing ought to be this: testimony to a wordless, living experience. Not the commentary on another book, not the exegesis of another text.

Thus does the book, born out of experience, refer to that experience. Books are not to teach us how to live (that is the sad task of lesson-givers), but to make us want to live, to live differently: to find in ourselves the possibility of life, its principle.

write only what has been lived, intensely. Make experience your only solid foundation.

write only what has been lived, intensely. Make experience your only solid foundation.

Walls, L. D. (2017). Henry David Thoreau: A Life (First edition). University of Chicago Press.