Going Backward to Move Forward
I have a short tale of woe and misery, but this story does have a happy ending. I think some of you may identify with this tale.
I started plastic modelling when I was a kid in the 1950’s. I remember buying the box-scale Revell B-47 in the Post Exchange (my Dad was in the Army) for about 90 cents and painting it with my Mom’s finger nail polish. I was hooked. I built a lot of those early kits. My building slowed when I got to college, since paying my tuition, books, apartment, food, and car by working 50 hours-a-week for a construction company. Things didn’t get better when I graduated and entered Air Force flight training, eventually becoming a pilot flying the C-141 Starlifter. During the next 20 years, I travelled to Europe, Japan, and Korea, often buying a number of kits each trip. I still didn’t have time to build them, but we all know the truth about kits: if you don’t buy them when you first see them, they will either be unavailable or more expensive when you go back to buy them. Another benefit from not having time to build kits: Unbuilt kits in boxes don’t take up much space and they are much easier to move. I moved 9 times in my 20-year career. As I neared the end of my 20 years in the military, I looked forward to a slower-paced second career that included a lot of model-building time. After my retirement from the military, I began a second career (& simultaneously a third) as a high school government and history teacher, as well as an adjunct instructor of government and history at a nearby junior college. For the next 20 years, I would spend 10 hours each day at school, followed by hours of lesson planning and grading papers. I taught my college classes at night. My model-building time never materialized.
During my summer breaks from school, I would dive back into building some models. By this time, I wasn’t satisfied tossing kits together and using fingernail polish as paint. I had started building for our annual IPMS shows. Before I started a model, I made sure I had all the cool photoetch and resin enhancements. Of course, I also needed the pre-cut masks for the canopy, as well as a spiffy set of decals. During the summer I would be lucky to finish one kit. It wasn’t long before I noticed that building kits was no longer relaxing and, in fact, made me extremely tense as I was building. In short, it was no longer fun.
By the time I finished 20 years as a teacher, I had accumulated an embarrassing number of unbuilt kits (several thousand), as well as a severe lack of motivation toward building them. I dreaded going up to my work table to build a kit. I seriously considered selling all of my models. Basically, I had contracted that dreaded affliction: modeler’s burnout. It was a tough time. Just as I was trying to figure out what this retirement stuff was all about, I no longer enjoyed one of the things I had planned to do with my newly-found leisure time.
After not touching a model for several months, I decided to troll through my garage and see if any of the models stored there spoke to me. As I walked through the shelves, the kit that called out to me was an old Revell/Monogram 1/48th scale F-102 Delta Dagger. I pulled it off the shelf and didn’t buy anything additional for the build. I didn’t try to do anything special to it, and I didn’t add anything to the basic kit. I just concentrated on building a decent kit with a good paint job. And guess what, I really enjoyed the build. This led to a 1/48th scale Revell P-51. Then to a Revell H-19 helicopter. And then a Revell B-24 Liberator in naval markings. Then came a totally fictitious Cessna maritime surveillance aircraft in Brazilian colors, complete with ejection seats. I was starting to see a trend.
Modeling is fun again. I don’t sweat the small stuff. I don’t build for contests. I don’t count rivets anymore. I sometimes put a paint scheme on a plane that it never actually carried, for no other reason than I like the plane and I like the paint scheme. The end result: I have built more kits in the last two years than I had in the previous 20 years, and I enjoyed every one of them. I again look forward to building. I still occasionally buy the new, technologically superior kit that has every rivet and seam, but I never seem to build them. I continue to return to the old kits that are simpler and more fun to build. Revell and Monogram, as well as early Tamiya and Hasegawa, are my meat and potatoes now. These kits are fun and uncomplicated to build, create a credible model, aren’t overly complex, and have more than a little nostalgia wrapped up in them. I am almost 68 years old now, and I am lucky to still have the physical ability to build models. At some point in the future my hands may shake, or I might forget where my models are stored, but for now, I plan to build every single one of those thousands of kits.
So, the moral of this story is that I learned to enjoy the hobby again by focusing on what drew me to the hobby in the first place: having fun building a decent kit without getting hung up in the details. I moved backward so I could move forward. I admire those of you who still enjoy the challenge of building a complex kit that is an exact reproduction of a plane that sat on a ramp at a specific airfield in June of 1956 at 4:01 in the afternoon, but it just isn’t for me. I’m having fun and that is good enough for me.
So, if you sometimes feel like modeling isn’t as much fun as it used to be, then try something less complex. Don’t sweat the scale dimensions, or the number of rivets on the left nacelle, or whether your kit should have a specific version of seat belts or not. Just try for a decent build with a good paint job. Recall those first kits you built when you were a kid and how much fun they were. You don’t need to give up your new, shiny kits, if you don’t want to. Sometimes it’s enough to just take a break to renew your modeling energy. Remember, we model because it’s fun, right? I still admire the craftmanship and drive that it takes to create the masterpieces that I see in the articles I read on iModeler. You have my admiration and respect. But for me, I find my enjoyment in the kits from a simpler, less complicated time.