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Q&A: Nicole Maple Coenen on Chopping Wood and Being Yourself

Nicole Maple Coenen took the internet by storm when she split a log online. Her log-splitting videos caught on—people loved them, and her Instagram following exploded. Nicole Coenen is not your average voice online. She’s full of humor and positive messaging, and she’s a proud member of the queer community. 

She lives in a remote area and makes her videos, mostly alone. With an audience of now more than two million people, Nicole continues to bring a fresh perspective to the outdoors community on social media—one that’s all about being true to yourself. 

Q&A with Nicole Maple Coenen

Outdoors.com: Tell me about your outlook on life. 

Nicole Maple Coenen: I like to get curious about life. There is so much to know and so much to explore. Having a curious mind has also helped me seek more understanding of people and the planet. 

Outdoors.com: You’ve mentioned you’re an introvert. Tell me about having the bravery you found to have over a million followers while being an introvert.

Coenen: I honestly don’t think my brain truly comprehends the numbers, which is a blessing. But after I hit 1 million I was in Vancouver visiting friends and I got recognized for the first time. It finally clicked that there were real people watching my stuff – aside from my friends and my mom. As an introvert, I also find it helpful that when I’m creating, it’s just me, myself, usually my dog and nature, so I don’t ever feel overwhelmed. I also have worked to develop a good boundary with social media. It helps to live in a small town that is so connected to nature, so when I do feel shucked into the social media spiral, I just go sit by the ocean or take my dog for a little hike and feel grounded again in the world outside the apps.

Outdoors.com: Why do you love wood chopping?

Coenen: I’ve always loved doing physical activities, but I wasn’t really into anything that was competitive or based in a gym. I also love being outside and feeling engaged with nature. Woodchopping is kind of the best of both. You’re outside, being active, and the results of your hard work means that you or someone in your community can stay warm through the winter. 

I also love how much I’ve learned through woodchopping. I’m part of a community wood-chopping group, and everyone in the group is so willing to share their knowledge about sustainably sourced wood, the different ways to chop, how to identify wood, and the list goes on. It’s also wonderful for community building. 

Outdoors.com: What are three things about you that would surprise us?

Coenen: I grew up in the suburbs and have lived most of my life in a city of over 400,000 people. Even though I grew up in a city, I’d always run away to the forest. I picked up an axe for the first time in the summer of 2021 when I was working on a farm in the mountains after moving there the previous summer. I still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing, but hopefully, I’ll figure it out. 

Outdoors.com: What is your most memorable video you made and why?

Coenen: This isn’t about one video in particular but a few of the earlier ones. For a few months after my woodchopping videos were taking off, I didn’t have a steady place to live, but I wanted to keep making woodchopping videos. So I’d go buy some rounds, pack them in my rusty SUV, find a space to chop them up, and then pack up the wood and drop it off at a friend’s place. I was determined to keep up with posting consistently, and I was also having a lot of fun with it. You never really know what happens behind the scenes. 

Outdoors.com: What is your greatest fear?

Coenen: Letting my own fears and insecurities hold me back from living a truly fulfilling life. 

Image provided by Nicole Maple Coenen

Outdoors.com: What would you say to people trying to be outdoors more? 

Coenen: Just go! You don’t need a plan, you don’t need skills, you don’t need anything. Just go! Go walk barefoot in the grass, go climb a tree, go take a deep breath outside. The more you’re out there, the more you’ll find ways to connect with the outdoors.

Outdoors.com: What video do you think finally pushed your account to stardome? Was there a specific turning point? 

Coenen: I can’t pinpoint a turning point, but I think when I started to show a bit more personality, people seemed to connect with the content more. One of the nicest comments I got was when someone said that my videos make them feel like they’re hanging out with a good friend, and it always makes them smile when I show up on their feed. I love the idea of creating a safe space for people, especially on the internet.   

Outdoors.com: Tell me how your film background shows up in your Instagram feed.

Coenen: I’ve always loved filmmaking. I find it’s one of the most captivating ways to evoke a feeling or tell a story. I guess you could say I’m kind of a failed filmmaker. I spent a lot of years trying to get by with filmmaking and would spend days, weeks, months, and even years on creating short documentaries and experimental films. Ironically, when I would put those films out, I’d be lucky to get 200 views. I’m grateful that I can still utilize my camera work and storytelling with my YouTube content and appreciate when people point out the cinematography. 

Outdoors.com: What is the worst thing anyone’s said to you? (And what did you say to them?) 

Coenen: I’m really lucky because I get a lot of positive and encouraging comments and messages on my accounts, far more than negative ones. But of course, the internet does have people that aren’t always very kind. I do get “mansplained” a lot and sexist comments. Multiple times, I got the classic “go make me a sandwich” comment. One of the ways I’ve responded to that was to do as I was told and I made a very special sandwich, which I’ve made a video about. 

Outdoors.com: Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

Coenen: Jane Goodall, Mae Martin, Hozier, Jameela Jamil, Yuval Harari . . . this is going to be a weird dinner party. 

Outdoors.com: Who inspires you and why?

Coenen: Everyday heroes. The people who are fighting the forest fires, the nurses who are working overtime to help people who are sick, the teachers who truly care about inspiring young minds, and community leaders who fight for environmental and social justice. People that are protecting people and the planet every day. 

Outdoors.com: What is your craziest memory?

Coenen: I don’t think I can share those details on the internet. Can we leave that one a mystery? 

Outdoors.com: How long do you think it took until you felt you were truly yourself in the world, presenting more masculine, empowered, and queer?

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Image by Nicole Maple Coenen, via Instagram

Coenen: I think I’m still on that journey, and I’m sure I’ll be on that journey for the rest of my life. I think something that helped me was finding a place where I felt safe to explore my own identity and authenticity, and for me, that place is in nature. 

In natural space, I can be whomever, I can explore any thoughts I have and nature will never judge, although I do get some judgemental looks from occasional squirrels. The relationship with yourself is a lifelong journey, full of constant discovery. Finding a safe place, good people and developing a good relationship with yourself really helps with that journey. 

Outdoors.com: What advice would you give someone trying to be more of themselves?

Coenen: I would say, ask yourself more questions to get more clarity on who you are, such as: Who inspires you? What about that person inspires you? What kind of impact do you want to make in this world? What kind of things are you doing to make that impact? What are you drawn to? Why are you drawn to those things?

Outdoors.com: What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

Coenen: Be kind. Be kind to others, to the planet, and to yourself.

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