I spend five hours per day commuting for work. Yeah, you read that right. Most of those hours are dead time spent sitting on trains; I can’t do any actual woodworking, but it leaves me an enormous amount of time to read, listen to podcasts, and watch video. Some day, when I write my epic autobiography (There and Back Again… A Commuter’s Tale), I’ll tell you all about the trials and tribulations of being a public transportation monkey, but today I’m more concerned with the woodworking content that I consume during those hours, or rather, the way my attitude toward it has changed.
Years ago, when I received a new issue of a woodworking magazine in the mail, I would sit down as soon as possible and read it cover-to-cover. I would then carefully file it away for a while before pulling it out to read the whole thing again, and again, and again. I might have every magazine issue from the early-to-mid-2000s memorized. I subscribed to quite a few magazines back then, but whenever I passed a news stand, I couldn’t resist scanning through to see if anything new had popped up. These days, however, my list of subscriptions is much smaller and when a new issue arrives, it can sometimes sit for days before I even pick it up. Instead of reading it cover-to-cover, I’ll skim through the issue looking for any articles that might hold my attention. When I put it down, I rarely look at it again unless I’m searching for something specific in my woodworking archive. The same is true for books, podcasts, video, and internet content. I’m choosy about the books I buy these days, I listen to a handful of woodworking podcasts, my video viewing is limited to a select group of content producers, and I can’t remember the last time I visited a woodworking internet forum. So, now that I have a seemingly endless amount of time to consume content, I’ve lost interest. What happened? Who or what will save me from the snooze-fest of Serial season 2?
I’ve seen this topic discussed before, and the conclusion is almost always, “your skills have outgrown the content.” I suppose that’s somewhat true, but not universally; there’s plenty of woodworking topics out there that I know little or nothing about. I think my interests have just become more focused. When I was brand new to woodworking, my brain was a sponge. I indiscriminately absorbed as much information as possible. As time went by, however, some topics started to lose relevance. I obsessed over cabinet saws until I bought one, and then I started skipping all those articles. Workbench design was the most important thing in the world to me until I built one and then I lost interest. The latest “Router Shootout!” means nothing to me because I already have all the routers I need.
Thirteen years have passed, and I still find interesting articles in the popular magazines. There’s a lot of repetition, though, so they don’t always hold my attention. I’ve settled in with my preferences in podcasts and video content. Sometimes something new catches my eye (or ear, depending) but my interests have narrowed enough over time that I’m no longer a “consume all available woodworking content” kind-of-guy, even though I have my commuting dead time to fill. To be honest, I miss the old days when everything was new and exciting. I have to work a bit harder to find content that matches my interests, but it’s out there, and the hunt is always fun.