You ever hear of the word telic?
I hadn’t until listening to Jay Acunzo’s Unthinkable podcast recently.
According to Jay, it comes from the video gaming community and refers to a task you have to do in order to do something else, like having to repeat a game level just to get back to the place you got stuck.
Let’s Go To The Layout.
One of the dirty little secrets about model railroading is that it’s not all fun. Not everyone likes to lay track for example. In fact, there are parts of the process I don’t care for that much, like distressing ties. I do it because I like the end results.
There are folks who dislike building anything. They’d rather take stuff out of the box, throw on some Pan Pastels, or whatever, and be done. It doesn’t matter if it’s bench work, rolling stock, structures or scenery. Building is a telic activity for them. Any shortcut to make the task go away is welcomed like warm sunshine in springtime.
It’s just my opinion but it seems like the hobby itself is increasingly treated like a telic activity, what with the relentless pursuit of shortcuts, tricks to make it easier, not to mention endless ways to dumb it down. To what end I wonder? How much effort can you remove from the work and still call it model building?
In contrast to those who treat the work as a means to an end, there are those who love the process for its own sake. They’re what Jay calls craft driven. I like that term.
Although I don’t particularly enjoy distressing ties, I’ll happily do it on a low grade siding because I’m craft driven about track. Four spikes in every tie, individual tieplates and joint bars every thirty-nine feet is no problem because I find satisfaction in the work itself. It is a means to an end for me but in a far different context.
As a part of the scene, I want my track to tell a story about a time and place. My craft driven approach to the track produces the qualities needed to tell that story clearly. Seen this way, the means supports the end, rather than being an arduous task that has to be endured before the “real fun” can begin.
When you find such joy in doing something, you want to share it with others and hope they find it as exciting as you do. A temptation I’ve fallen for is thinking that all I have to do is show examples of such work and the rest will take care of itself. That’s only partially true however. As enthusiastic as I am toward hand laid track, those who see any kind of track only as a means to a different end, like operations, are unlikely to share that enthusiasm. Frankly speaking, there’s little I can do or say to change their minds. It’s best to accept we have different motivations and move on.
Where sharing examples of the work may yield fruit is with people who are ready for a challenge or change. They’re drawn to the work and will ask questions and demonstrate their interest because the work is speaking to them. My enthusiasm might be more effective with these folks because they can see themselves following a similar path.
This craft has many aspects and draws people with all kinds of motivations and interests. I’m not attracted to the simplify everything to the lowest denominator and make it cheap as possible approach but, I don’t have to be. I’m free to do my thing and make a case for it to those who are interested in listening. That’s what this blog and the books are about.