Most wargamers hit a rough spot once in a while. I make this generalization based on regularly encountering articles like my own (including an excellent piece in the recent WSS 87), most of which list a similar set of problems: lack of interest, lack of time, time spent reading and thinking instead of doing, and lack of partners. Last month, I could have checked nearly every box on that list. In the past week, however, my enthusiasm for this toy soldier hobby of ours returned full force!
The motivational drags had been many, I think. Work and family demands cut into my hobby time, so I made very little progress on projects. I found myself thinking about and planning new projects despite having very little hope of ever bringing them to fruition. On the gaming partner front, I’ve met several others since moving this summer, but none of their interests match up well with my own, so joint projects are unlikely. Nobody else seems interested in planning activities either, which puts all of the administrative burdens and disappointments in my hands. After several recent last-minute game cancellations, I even found myself flirting with returning to GW’s warm embrace. Though 40k didn’t seize my interest, it at least seemed to offer easy access to gaming.
The demotivation trend reversed this past week, though. I think the explanation is multi-causal. For one, the semester ended, and with it grading and lesson planning requirements, and my family went to visit the grandparents–meaning my available hobby time exploded. Instead of five-minute snippets spent blog trolling and day dreaming, I suddenly had hours for painting. Also, I met a few new gamers in the area whose interests more closely align with mine…and all it took was a TMP post. The meeting led to a game of Saga. I built a warband for Saga a while back, though I have not located the Saga gaming community I anticipated finding in my new area. The Saga game was good fun and the others expressed interest in playing again. Miraculously, Gripping Beast announced their new Aetius & Arthur expansion a week later, which activated a long-repressed hobby impulse. Finally, the last bit of motivation I need to get that Romano-British collection moving!
While important, these external changes were not the most critical. Instead, I credit an internal mindset adjustment. A short meditation based on a passage in Thich Nhat Hanh’s How to Walk book triggered this adjustment. In the passage that struck me, Hanh observed that many of us spend our days running toward things in the future, but that we would be happier if we just walked through the present. I realized that I needed to change how I approached the hobby. In constantly dreaming up intense new projects, I was just creating task lists that felt like work, and I never realized any of those projects. I was also so obsessed with planning future projects that I stopped taking little steps toward achieving them, preferring instead to perfect a master plan before going forward. Take my 15mm WWII Ardennes project for instance. That one has been on the agenda for about three years now, but I haven’t got beyond buying a few figures because I haven’t settled on the ur-ruleset, universal basing system, and the perfect complement of table terrain.
My big mindset adjustment has been to slow down and enjoy what I am doing right now in the hobby. I don’t need the perfect plan. I just need to focus on one or two things and gradually feel my way through them. First step? Order a pack of Battlefront’s rural roads so that I can experiment with making them appropriately snowy. One step at a time!
My key lesson coming out of this experience is that I need to enjoy the process, and not just the end product. If I totaled up all my time spent on the wargaming hobby, actual gaming would make up only a small fraction of it. So instead of plotting that incredible mega-game that I’ll never quite finish (and much less play, given the constant need to introduce curious conscripts to my preferred systems), instead I can follow my whimsy and build/paint what catches my interest for as long as it catches my interest. I have enough work to do at the office. Who wants to come home to checklists and impossible deadlines in an activity that is supposed to be fun? Not me! Thus this year’s top goal is to keep things simple and follow my energy, wherever it goes.
Now it is your turn, dear readers. Have you experienced a downturn in hobby mojo? Did you recover? If so, how? What tips can you share? How do you think we can best approach our hobby to maximize our joy?