I’m participating in an online workshop for creative people such as artists, writers, musicians and so on. One of the exercises we’re asked to do is produce a piece of creative work every day for the 100 days of the workshop. I started a journal titled Owning My Voice that I’ve added to every day for the sixty-seven days and counting of the workshop so far.

I naturally fell into writing about my interests in trains and model making to an audience of people who have little to no interest in or knowledge of our craft. I’ve shared my experiences and philosophy along with a few examples of the modeling. I’ve been surprised many times at the responses offered and by who has followed along.

Like the majority of the public, my fellow students only know model trains as children’s toys or items in a Christmas display. They are unaware that there is an adult hobby built around scale model trains and the amount of serious craft the work can involve. The workshop offers a discussion prompt three times a week that are designed to help us examine our thinking and assumptions about the work we’re doing or hope to do one day. I’ve used some of these prompts to place the modeling in a context the others can understand and relate to.

I’m not out to convert anyone in the workshop into a modeler. I simply share what trains, railroading and modeling mean to me. I’ve shared my love of the subject and my love of recreating it in miniature form. I stay away from our jargon and overly technical descriptions of the working processes. When I do use a technical term, I include a simple explanation and move on. If someone asks for more, I explain further and move on again. I let the questions dictate how much I say.

This has been an interesting experience. I worried that I would be the odd duck in the pond but I’ve found a generous degree of acceptance among the other students. I’m surprised and humbled by their interest in this work. I’ll miss the fellowship when the workshop over.

In looking at our craft through the eyes of non-modelers, I’m learning to see it more clearly. I’ve confirmed that we can share this craft in intelligent, thoughtful ways that others can relate to and understand. The goofy images and hype of the hobby media don’t have to be the only choices we have.

A key theme of this experience is that a creative career is what you make of it. The era of waiting for a gatekeeper to give you permission to do your art is over. With the tools and opportunities today, the responsibility and choices are in your hands more than ever before. The same thing applies to modeling as well. Today, we can choose the experience we want in this craft, whether we understand the implications of that or not.

There is room in this craft for many approaches. There is room for static models as well as operations. There is room for artistry and the generic. There is more to the craft of model trains than ever before. What you do and how you do it is your choice to make.