The Confidence Trick

Even professionals can suffer from periods of self-doubt, it’s how you handle those periods that matter and not letting each one combine, to cause real harm…

“I had let my own foolish determination to push the limits of my skills, get in the way of what I really wanted to do: build models. I was no longer building for me, I was building for others – and no-one was paying me for the privilege”

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When enthusiasm is in short supply…

If you’re finding it hard to start that next big project, you are not alone!

“As I’ve gotten older I’ve found that if I have any kind of break from building models or writing articles, I have to restart my brain to get back into the rhythm of the job”

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I remember reading somewhere that Keith Moon, erstwhile drummer with rock band The Who, had to be retaught how to play the band’s songs each and every time that they reconvened for a tour. I remember thinking that that was an odd thing for a professional to do and though I factored into the equation some of the extracurricular activities that Mr Moon no doubt indulged in as contributory factors, I couldn’t quite understand how this forgetfulness could occur with such regularity.

Recently, I’ve started to understand.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve found that if I have any kind of break from building models or writing articles, I have to restart my brain to get back into the rhythm of the job. As I type this, it has been well over two weeks since anything meaningful has been penned by my hand and though I wanted to completed some new Blog entries last week, that became more and more difficult as I pushed to find something interesting to write. Even as I’m typing this I’m not sure if this is interesting, but I’ll persevere and hopefully that will break the cycle of self-doubt and the word block that I’m suffering from at the moment.

But it’s not just the written part of my job that becomes difficult following an enforced break from work; building models can be equally demanding of my attention and jobs that would normally be easy to complete, projects simple to start and enthusiasm high enough to get the juices flowing, are anything but. Sometimes, building a model is the last thing I want to do and I have to really push myself to even open a box, let alone begin construction. Not good when your job is building  models and writing about them!

I have no idea why this is, though I suspect that it is the result of the sheer volume of models that I have built and the words that I have written during the 40 years that I have been involved in model making, both as a hobby and profession. When I metaphorically signed on the dotted line in 1996 to begin my path as a full-time professional, I remember guys from the industry telling me that I would be losing my hobby and that every model that I would build from now on, whether I liked it or not, would be work. Of course I didn’t believe them, but they were right. Over the last twenty years the number of models I have built for myself can be counted in single figures; those that haven’t been seen Online or in public: zero. So when I get the chance to have a break, I take it and don’t really think too much about work or model making. I spend time with my wife, we watch football, I play darts, listen to music, spend time on my Playstation. I do anything but build models. But following time way, it really is like everyone else that returns to work: a real slog, where enthusiasm has to be regained and the energy levels upped to a point where I can complete my work to a standard that I am happy with. Often, that means finding a project that is perhaps more interesting than normal to kickstart that part of my brain and then coming up with a first line of a new Blog or article to remove the writer’s block that almost always walks alongside the inertia that faces me inside the workshop.

I know that I’m not unusual in suffering from this breakdown in enthusiasm, so I have often spoken to friends in the hobby and those peers in the industry that I know will help break the cycle and often the answers are the same: read a modelling magazine, or build something that you might not normally do. Both of these are great ideas, but when you have had a break and the deadlines are looming, you often find that time to do anything that’s not beneficial to the magazine is both a waste of time and effort and so I tend to be forced to chose models that can be used within the pages of MAI, rather than egg-planes, motorcycles, or cool spaceships.

Though this state of apathy can be debilitating, it doesn’t actually last that long, despite feeling like it does. More often than not a project presents itself that is both interesting and exciting and once that barrier has been breached, I tend to be up and running. It can take a few false starts to do that mind you as I find myself starting a couple of kits before the right one presents itself. Much like a movie that doesn’t grab you within the first five minutes, or a book within the first page, a kit can sometimes take a while to offer up potential and be worthy of my time. If that doesn’t happen, I simply pass it by and chances are I will not build that kit at all, never returning to the subject or the kit in question. That’s how fickle my enthusiasm can be and no amount of exposure to shiny new boxes or brilliantly built models, will change my mind; if I’m not totally into a real-life machine, it won’t be built in miniature by me.

Writing this has certainly made me feel like I can pen a few words once more and with luck I’ll be able to create something a little more interesting tomorrow. Suggestions have already been made regarding the content of my next entry, so words should not be hard to come by. I just hope that after a night’s sleep I can remember what those ideas are and as a result, be able to come up with a suitable first line…

See you tomorrow.