Well here we are five days into the new year, do you have any unopened gifts still lingering about?


Seems a strange question to ask doesn’t it? Who wouldn’t open a gift? Sadly, lots of people because an unopened gift is exactly what you have when you have the potential to do something but won’t because you fear the effort involved or the risk of failing. Can you imagine an enticing box, beautifully wrapped with your name on it, yet you won’t open it because taking the wrapping and ribbon off is too hard? In these terms, it’s a ludicrous excuse, but it’s the default choice on the whine list made by many in their hobby. And no, that wasn’t a typo.

If you follow Simon Dunkley’s or Trevor Marshall’s blogs you know what I’m talking about. Over the weekend, both posted on the topic of people who won’t try to learn a skill because they believe they haven’t been anointed from on high with the ability to do said task, which in this case was handlaying track.

It’s a truly sad commentary on the attitudes that infect many aspects of our craft and society at large. In many ways our craft has sent the message that effort is no longer required what with all the manufactured manna from heaven that’s now just a swipe of a credit card and click of a computer mouse away. And of course, we’re always reminded that this is nothing more than playing with big boy toys, however sophisticated they may be. (I wonder if those who’ve invested the hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars required to manufacture our big boy toys see it that way?) And if it be nothing more than mindless casual play, what possible incentive is there to learn or improve?

Increasingly, I wonder if we aren’t exactly where we’ve consciously or unconsciously chosen to be.

Trying something new is an act of faith. There are no guarantees of success, but failure is guaranteed if you won’t even try. For decades I avoided anything to do with working in metal. Last year I took the plunge with my first attempts in making something from brass. The results are crude, even ugly. Failing over and over was a downer but I kept pushing and asking what went wrong this time? Just to add to the fun, I blogged multiple times about the whole episode, complete with close-up photos of all the ugliness coming off my bench. Rather than telling me what a doofus I am for all those failed attempts, people were encouraging and helpful by offering numerous tips on how to improve. It was never about me. It was about getting better at something through a process that anyone could follow. The ability to work with brass is a gift to my modeling (and to me!), one I finally decided to open.

Of course no one can force you to open your gifts.

Whether you do or don’t, that’s your decision, however, you’ll never experience the joy of using them if you don’t. Your call really but, why wouldn’t you?