To finish my 13th and North E Street cameo, I’ve been putting in regular work sessions to complete the Hoosier Drill Company building. After dinner each night for the past several weeks, I’ve gone down for at least an hour or more and worked on the model. These sessions have been satisfying and productive in spite of the soap opera that has developed around the project (see the previous posts).

As an artist, I’m familiar with regular practice: setting aside time to develop my skills. Problem is that like many, I know the benefits but have a hard time keeping up the routine. Maybe I’m just getting older and appreciate the value of time on a deeper level but my work on this model is paying rewards in both obvious and non-obvious ways.

One obvious benefit is, of course, the solid progress on the model. It’s getting there and my skills have taken a step forward as a result. I’m beginning to see new habits of thinking and working taking shape. I’m able to think more objectively about the work and shift course or even start over when things don’t match my personal standards. I’m learning to slow down and approach the work more thoughtfully. I’m learning to appreciate the process for what it is.

Another thing I stumbled on to was creating a sense of anticipation for the next work session. On several nights, instead of pushing on, I left things prepped for the next step and I looked forward to the next session thanks to this sense of positive anticipation. As a result, there is less mental clutter to sift through the following night.

The thing I’m actually learning is what it takes to model to a higher standard. You not only develop a more discerning eye for the work, you also come face-to-face with your own shortcomings. I quickly found mine and discovered how easily I give in to them. Moving past them involves letting go of my cherished ideas and self-imposed limitations about the type of work I’m capable of. It involves being uncomfortable and accepting the idea of failure, often repeated failure, as the last few posts have shown. There’s really nothing that precious about any of this, it’s simply a willingness to park my butt in the chair, try new things and be persistent in doing the work.

At the end of each day, I feel satisfied for having spent time with an activity that I consider personally meaningful and fulfilling. It’s not about the quantity of modeling I get done, it’s about consistently following through and doing something that I enjoy. I don’t feel deprived from another day of making excuses and ignoring something that I consider important to my wellbeing.

I freely admit there are nights I didn’t feel like putting on an extra layer of clothing and going down to the cold basement. It takes my space heater a while to warm things up and that’s an easy excuse for staying away. I just went down and started work anyway and always felt glad that I did. The basement is chilly in the winter but not intolerable and once engaged in the work I forgot about the chill. So many of our excuses exist only in our head, at least most of mine do. With a little reflection, our perceptions about them can be changed.

Life Happens
We all like the idea of a regular modeling time but life does intrude in many ways. Everyone has important responsibilities and obligations to fulfill and for some of you, having any time to spend on a hobby is just a fantasy for now. I realize how fortunate I am to have the time and space to do this work. I looked at my situation and made specific choices to eliminate some unimportant stuff that I was doing out of habit and this freed up time to spend at the bench. I realized that even a little modeling time on a regular basis is better than a haphazard amount with nothing in between. I’m flexible with the length of these sessions but more focused about spending some time each day. That said, if circumstances dictate otherwise, then no harm, no foul, I simply get back to the routine the next day or as soon as I can.

I also know that a post like this can sound preachy or prescriptive: “Hey gang, just follow my magic formula and you too can get amazing results like these with no effort at all. Operators are standing by.” There’s no end to such BS both in and out of our craft and I’m sick of the experts-with-all-the-answers mentality. I don’t have any answers for your situation and this is nothing more than sharing my observations about something different that I’m trying. What I’m doing works for me but might be totally impractical for anyone else. This is a choice you have to make for yourself.

Someone is bound to protest that it sounds like I’m turning my hobby into a job. I don’t see it that way. If we say that something is truly important to us then giving dedicated time to that activity should be a no brainer decision. Truthfully, I have no idea about what others face or have to deal with and, in the end, it’s up to each of us to decide what this work means in our lives.

The idea of a hobby can take many forms and I’m freely choosing the form that mine is taking. You get to do the same.



  1. Craig Townsend

    I once made myself a goal of working on hobby related stuff for 15 minutes a day for entire month as an experiment to see how I felt about the hobby, what I could get done, etc. As you said, wow it made a difference. Fifteen minutes a day doesn’t seem like much, but that was all I could ‘afford’, but it got me directly engaged in the hobby again. I learned from that experience that even a few minutes of hobby activities a day is enough to keep me happy and focused. With digital modeling design, I can sometimes turn my thirty minutes of lunchtime into 15 minutes of hobby time by working on CAD designs. It doesn’t seem like much time, but everything counts.

    Craig Townsend
    PS I have a cold workshop too, a garage! Takes a while to heat up, and your right the first thoughts of going into the cold space make it less appealing, but the cold is soon forgotten.

  2. Simon


    I am immediately reminded of three things.

    There is the old adage that “practice makes perfect”.
    Then (scarily from 2013!) Chris Mears’ wonderful idea of 5-20-5:
    Finally, a late friend who when he acquired a new tool or read of a new technique, would put in repeated small bursts of activity until he became familiar with it.

    I suppose that third is a conflation of the first two, serving to illustrate the point.

  3. mike

    Hi Craig,

    A small amount of focused time can work wonders. Too bad we don’t embrace that idea more than we do.


  4. mike

    It’s a variant of the idea that if you want to get better at your art (whatever that entails) then make more of it. I like your friend’s practice of repeated time learning a new tool.


  5. Jeff

    Modeling can be enjoyed like many things in life – in small batches versus overindulgence. A little work to clear the mind and salve the soul works wonders…and you’ll probably find the quality of your efforts to be higher than if you’d undertaken a marathon session.

  6. Steve Hurt

    I always enjoy these Mike.
    A guy I worked for years ago, that influenced me a great deal used to say two things.

    “Make every move count”, don’t waste time re making things, start with a plan and hopefully do it right the first time. Which we all know doesn’t happen BUT myself at least I try to be productive even if its for a few minutes on a model. Being methodical and thinking about progress on the entire project. Not just making random pieces and hope they make a finished product.
    “Right or wrong we’ve gotta make a move” ……….we cant just stare at a project and wish it together. Funny his two sayings almost contradict each other but one or the other is always the answer it seems.
    Modeling at least should always be relaxing and fun. If not you are right it has become work for sure!

    Steve Hurt

  7. mike

    Hey Steve,

    I’m still working on the don’t waste time remaking stuff idea. I always think I know what a piece needs then see what I should have done afterwards. I totally agree with the second sentiment.