Happy New Year! It has been my practice for the past few years to write something on the topic of hobby resolutions at this time of year. Even in ordinary times I like to keep that encouraging and realistic. I don’t think over-ambitious resolutions help most people in the long run.
Although we have turned the page to a new year, these are still not ordinary times. The challenges of 2020 follow us into 2021. Many of us are struggling with issues of money, space, time, and/or energy that are affecting our ability to take part in or enjoy our hobby in the same way we have in the past.
Flat painted by Jack Muldoon from photo taken at the AMFS Show in 2018.
If you are struggling with your hobby enjoyment, I would like to make this suggestion for a New Year’s Hobby Resolution:
Be kind to yourself. Do what you need to do right now, and don’t beat yourself up about what you’re not doing.
(If you are someone who is coping with the challenges of these times by throwing yourself into your hobbies and would like ideas for more active hobby resolutions, you might enjoy my past New Year’s articles. One discusses the importance of setting goals based on behaviour rather than result, one talks about ways to deal with obstacles like space and time, and last year’s discusses why you should make friends with failure.)
If you aren’t able to paint miniatures because you don’t have the time, the space, the money, and/or the energy, try to make peace with that. It does not help to beat yourself up for not being able to do something you don’t have the ability to do right now.
Yes, sometimes we all need to give ourselves a little kick in the rear for motivation. But if you’ve been facing extra challenges for months, and expect those to continue for months more to come, you need to look at your life circumstances both on a personal level and on an overall level to see whether it’s reasonable to ask more of yourself right now. It might be the case that what you really need to give yourself is one less to-do item, one less pressure weighing you down. If you’re barely coping with some of the basic tasks of your life, it’s pretty reasonable to put a hobby on the back burner, however beloved it is.
It is also perfectly reasonable to feel sorrowful, or angry, or annoyed about not being able to do something you love. But you need to try to make a distinction between how you feel about not being able to do the activity versus how you feel about yourself for not doing the activity. Feeling guilty or getting mad at yourself isn’t going to help. (And while I do think it helps to express sadness and frustration about unhappy circumstances, constantly dwelling on things is also probably not helpful to either your peace of mind nor your ability to try to change the circumstances.)
If you are in this position, you are not alone! You may feel alone. I know that I often do. Sometimes it seems like everyone I know is furiously painting, or baking, or decluttering their house, or doing a hundred other productive things with all the ‘extra’ time we have from not being able to spend much time with friends and family. I need to remind myself that what I see of people’s lives on social media is not the whole picture. I try to take note of the fact that some people aren’t sharing much at all of what’s going on with them, so I’m not really seeing what ‘everyone’ is doing these days. After all, I’m not exactly rushing to Facebook to share photos of the piles of laundry I haven’t folded in literal months! Many of the people you don’t hear much from may be struggling a lot more than you might think.
My dining room is full of unfolded laundry and unplayed board games. And a random pencil sharpener.
Just a note about me commenting on struggles in the painting hobby when I have been painting throughout the year and posting pics and write-ups on what I paint. I still call it ‘the hobby’, but painting miniatures isn’t really my hobby at this point, it’s my job. It’s definitely been a struggle, too. I just don’t have the focus and energy to do some kinds of painting. The figure I’m painting right now is the exact opposite of what I feel currently feel capable of or interested in doing. Pushing myself to sit down and work on it feels like a Herculean struggle. It sometimes takes me literal hours to get my butt in the chair and start working. And then it’s another kind of struggle to stay there and keep working. I’ve had days where it’s been really tough just to get out of bed because I know that is what I have to work on that day, and I just don’t want to do it at all.
But I also understand the struggle of not mustering the energy to do a hobby that you love. One of my hobbies is playing board games. My husband and I own hundreds of them. In the times BC (Before COVID-19), we attended board gaming conventions and weekly game nights. We’ve been play-testers on games in development, and written articles published in national magazines. It’s a long established hobby. I’ve played a dozen game sessions since March. We’ve had more Kickstarter games delivered in the past few months than we’ve had evenings actually playing games. And I feel guilty about that all the time. How is it that I live with a fellow fan, own lots of games, and have all this ‘extra’ time, and yet I am not actually playing any games!? So if those are the sorts of feelings you have about not painting (enough) miniatures this past year, trust me, I do understand!
If you think doing some miniature painting would bring you joy, and you have the time and space for it to be feasible, try this instead of pummelling yourself with guilty feelings. Schedule it. Schedule a session of painting for an hour or two next week. Put it in your calendar or whatever you do to keep track of meetings and appointments. Do your best to fulfill that commitment to yourself. Think of that appointment with yourself as just as important as a doctor’s appointment or meeting scheduled with your boss. You and your goals are worth keeping an appointment with!
I am suggesting that you literally schedule it in your datebook or phone. (Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash.)
When you sit down to paint, what should you work on? I suggest you pick a simple, low stress project, or something you’re super excited to get to, whichever approach you’d find most motivating and least intimidating. If it would help motivate you to keep the appointment or make it more fun, find out if a hobby friend will partner up with you and hang out on FaceTime/Skype/Discord/whatever. If you sit down to paint and you just can’t focus, try working on assembling figures, or priming, or another related activity. (I’m working on an article with suggestions for useful non-painting hobby activities that I’ll post within the next few days.) And if you still can’t focus and don’t want to be there, stop and go do something else. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Ask yourself to try, and as long as you try, you’ve fulfilled the commitment. Whether you end up working for five minutes or five hours, when you’re done make another appointment with yourself for your next session.
I hope that we’ll be back to normal soon. Back to normal life, and back to our normal geeky pursuits of gathering to play games and attend conventions. But in the meantime, please try to be kind to yourself.
(Photo by Priscilla du Preez from Unsplash.)
I also want to take this opportunity to say thank to all of you reading for your support. It’s been a tough year for me, and when I’m having trouble summoning the enthusiasm to write or do all the work of creating and editing images, it is motivating to know that there are people who find what I have to say interesting and helpful.
And an extra special thanks to the members of my Patreon! I appreciate the support more than I can say. I also appreciate that feeling accountable to all of you is a good kick in the rear if I’m really having trouble summoning motivation!