- When did we adopt the idea that reward comes without effort?
- When did commitment to a process become a bad thing?
- When did excellence and craft become dirty words?
A hobby without these qualities doesn’t sound like fun to me.
These are the major themes of this blog and my writing about the craft. I thought about them after reading a short thread initiated by an HO modeler, on the MRH forum, who had questions about the gauge discrepancy between the legacy five-foot standard and the correct P48 track gauge in two-rail O scale. I almost commented but after reading the ones already posted, I decided not to enter the fray.*
O scale is a mess. Three radically different sets of standards are all competing for a limited number of people. If you’re used to the excesses of HO or N scales or if you expect to pursue quarter-inch scale with an out-of-the-box, ready-to-run mentality, you’re going to be disappointed and shocked at what you find when you start looking at it seriously. To thrive as a scale modeler on the two-rail side, you need to make a commitment to building much of what you’ll need, or be willing to compromise like hell. P48 requires an even more serious commitment to building and managing your expectations.
The responses to the guy’s questions were respectful but several revolved around thoughts of here’s this refined set of standards, “which I really admire” yada-yada-yada, but you don’t have to do it that way. Here’s some simplistic ways to take the all artistry out of it, make it effortless and be just like everyone else. I could launch a supreme rant here but I see where the mass-market mentality is taking things and I simply find it hard to care that much anymore. Keep turning your hobby into a cheap commodity if that’s what you want. I no longer worry about it because I’m learning to follow my own muse and make my own way. Serious modelers have done this from day one and those of us who are inspired by and build on their work carry their legacy forward.
Which brings me back to the opening questions.
In every endeavor there are those who think the only path forward is to make everything average. Dumb it down, strip away the artistry and reduce it to the lowest common denominator so anybody can do it. But for those willing to stretch themselves and learn the skills, this craft is wide open. The technology is here that will let us model whatever we want. The reason I encourage you to do your best is because I’ve discovered the joy that comes from taking full ownership for the outcomes of my work. If something isn’t right, then I wasn’t paying close attention. If the workmanship is subpar, then I settled for a subpar effort. It’s not the manufacturer’s fault. It’s not that some product isn’t produced in my scale, it’s me. I’m the one responsible for the work because I’m the one doing it. This is what an engaging hobby is about and I want you to experience that satisfaction too.
A handful of you understand this and I’m grateful for your kind words to that effect, but taking ownership for your enjoyment of the craft has never been a popular message. The readership of this blog and The Missing Conversation is microscopic. Would I like more growth in the readership? Of course, but chasing numbers isn’t what drives my work with TMC. Maybe it should be but it isn’t. If I truly wanted to chase big circulation numbers, I’d have to follow the herd like everyone else and many, if not most of you, would leave. That would trouble me because you’re not just anonymous readers. Many of you are also close friends and respected peers. I’d rather continue this conversation with you than become another me-too voice in the cacophony of the mob.
I look with envy at the respect for skill and the pursuit of excellence in other model building disciplines and wonder why we’re so content with mediocrity? I don’t have an answer to that question and I’m not that interested in finding one anymore. I’d rather focus on the work I want to do because that’s the only thing about this craft I can actually change.
Regards and a tip of the hat to Mr. SB. You’re not the only one by a long shot.
*I finally did post a comment on that thread, if only to stand up for the values I expressed in this post.
On Friday morning, whilst driving to work, I heard Niles Rogers and Mark Knopfler talking on the radio. The show host asked them if they practiced, and both were surprised at the idea that they might not. I thought Niles put it very well:
“If I don’t practice for a day, I notice.
“If I don’t practice for two days, you notice.”
The is also a memorable clip of Roger Daltry (a railway modeller) talking about Eric Clapton’s (another modeller) reaction to seeing Jimi Hendrix for the first time, “I need to go home and practice.”
Roger laughed and said, “I’d hate to be a guitarist.”
The point is, without the determination to succeed, there is nor drive to keep pushing on. There is no shortcut to excellence in one’s own workmanship.
Perhaps another reason our splinter of our hobby is so messed up is due to all the big (3 rail focused) manufactures who push the buy one of each of everything collector rhetoric so much. I seriously doubt (well maybe ‘kinda doubt’) there are many Plastic Modeler’s Association members whose main focus is collecting vs actual modeling. Not counting those filling their closets with ‘future projects’.
As to any worry about preaching to the choir as it were, vs. evangelizing the craftsman joys of the hobby. Encouraging the choir is an important job too. If our joy of building gets noticed by others, they will ask, get interested and dip a toe in. Shouting doesn’t win souls and it won’t win new craftsmen. Keep up the good work and the blogging! Thanks.