Craig asked about my modeling and writing routine.

My modeling happens in fits and spurts. I don’t have a set time or routine for the work. That said, when I am involved with a project, I prefer to work at the same time of day when possible and like to have some music in the background. Bach and Beethovan, along with some bluegrass and Celtic comprise my go-to choices. For creative work like this I prefer solitude.

The boxcar project consumed a lot of time and mental energy and I haven’t done much modeling since applying the primer coat. I thought I would dive into painting and weathering the car but I needed a break from it. In addition to what I’ve shared on the blog, I documented the build for TMC Vol. 12. The coverage there goes into far greater detail than the blog posts and there are many more photos. In truth, I wouldn’t do that again, at least not under the deadline pressure I imposed on myself just to keep the project moving and finish the damn thing. I did that because I’m terrific at starting a project but absolutely horrid at following through. That’s why there are so few pieces of completed rolling stock on the layout. My guiding principle for modeling is to strive for excellence and to learn. I’ve hammered on these themes often because they inspire me more than anything else I could name.

I like to be organized at the modeling bench. Physical clutter is a mental distraction for me and I can’t stand to work in a cluttered environment. I’ve formed the habit of ending a work session by putting the tools away and doing a quick cleanup of any dust, bits of scrap material and so on. This sets the mood for the next session and really helps me when I return to the work. If I haven’t been active for a long period, the first thing I’ll do is clean and organize the bench. When I start a new project, I literally prefer to start with a clean, empty work area and only pull out the tools and supplies needed for the task at hand. If I’m in the middle of a procedure and have to quit for the day, I often write myself a reminder note of what the next step will be for the next session. Believe me, this has saved my bacon more than once.

I know, I know, people think such attention to a clean work environment and documentation sounds obsessive and crazy. It works for me and thanks for sharing.

Writing the blog
The blog is now in its fourth year. I don’t recall when I settled into the once a week schedule but it has worked out well. I waited a long time before committing to a blog because my biggest fear was running out of subject matter after three weeks or so. I used to panic if I didn’t have an idea for the next post by the end of the week. If Monday morning dawned and I still didn’t have one, I had images of the sky falling. Silly as that seems now, a lot of people struggle with this and I’m still one of them.

My only advice is just keep writing. Like painting, photography, woodworking, or other skill based endeavor, you’ll produce a lot of crap before doing anything of quality. There are no shortcuts or secrets. You just have to put in the time and do the work. As you’ve seen, I can go pretty far off in the weeds when I want to. I know those more abstract posts don’t connect with people but I get things out of my system and once in a while something does strike a resonant chord that other bloggers pick up on. That’s very satisfying when it happens.

Like my work at the bench, I prefer solitude and for writing the first draft, I need it quiet. No music, no talking, nothing. Most posts are written over the weekend or on Monday or Tuesday morning. I wrote the rough draft for this one on Sunday evening and have revised it right up to Tuesday evening. I no longer panic if an idea is slow in coming, because I have enough experience to know one will get here when it’s ready. Right now for example, I have no clue what the topic of my next post will be.

When I’m really clear about what I want to say, I can knock a post out quickly and leave it alone. After a day or two, I’ll go over it for grammatical errors, then schedule it, do the tags and all that fun stuff. This post took two to three hours to compose and refine.

On longer posts, especially if I’m developing the idea as I go, I’ll revise the text without mercy until I’m satisfied I’ve expressed myself in a coherent manner. I sweat buckets over these and of course, they usually get little more than a yawn from readers.

The posts that give me fits are where I only have the kernel of an idea and don’t know where it’s going. The recent Autumn Memories post fits that category. There’s a seed of an idea there and even though I posted it, the idea needs more work. I’ve learned I just have to let these take their own course before anyone else ever reads them and, the delete key can be your best friend in cases like this.

I made a commitment to myself with this work, both in the craft and the writing, because I know what both bring to my life. There’s no magic involved here, just practice and persistence. Like anything, it’s hard until it’s easy. Craig, I hope this is helpful.



  1. Ctown

    Thanks for sharing. Your modeling routine sounds very familiar. As a school teacher it seems that I tend to model a bunch during the summer and school breaks, but during the school year, the time is short and hard to come by. I tried to focus on spending one evening a week on projects, but even that schedule felt like a chore instead of a hobby so I stopped. My wife teases me that we both have to hobbies that are solitude hobbies (she’s a quilter), and so often an evening is spent recharging our mental batteries my spending time alone and working on our hobby.

    A few years back I started to write a blog, but quickly forgot about it, remembered it and then pushed it aside because I didn’t have a real purpose. Was I writing for myself to track my own abilities, or was I looking for this mysterious following that I needed to gain approval for my modeling? I couldn’t really honestly answer that question, so I stopped writing.

    Your post was a fun read, and it was helpful to hear how you approach writing and modeling. Thanks for sharing and hope that this was a fun post to write and reflect on.

  2. mike

    Hi Craig,

    Yes it was a fun post and I hope others found it useful. As you discovered, blogging is not as easy as it looks.


  3. Chris Mears

    Thank you for this post, Mike.

    I’ve often remarked how much I’ve enjoyed your writing style and the way it invites us to follow along as if we were sitting with you at the workbench.

    A post like this one really brings home how that would feel.



  4. mike

    Hi Chris,

    I wish we could sit down at the bench or take a walk down Mill Street toward the tracks. I’m sure your questions and insights would be good food for thought.