I saw it written in a rather poignant article some time ago that hobbies are essential for our well-being. That we should relish in our mediocrity of the pursuit, and never sweat mastering the craft. This is our hobby — a leisure activity. To reach for perfection is to make it more than that. I wholeheartedly agree with, and live by, this sentiment.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to win your games, or earn a placement in a painting competition. It means you should give it your best effort and be satisfied with the result. Perhaps you can push yourself to improve, but only against the standard of your previous self. Are you enjoying the pursuit of these things? If you are, mission accomplished!
Just today, I saw a rather prominent hobbyist on social media proclaim they were “burned out” chasing the likes, comments, and general “have-to-constantly-improve” mentality; they declared their resignation from social media as a result. I absolutely respect the decision. Being able to walk away at a time you feel is best is an admirable trait, and I will never question their motive; I applaud it. Despite this, however, there was a sort of personal hollowness underpinning the declaration in my own mind as I read it. Who was setting these standards to hold yourself against? What would my followers say if I posted a “sub-par” miniature? Surely being self-aware that it’s become a chore is evidence that we possess the power to calm it down, perhaps take a break. If you know you’re posting for the sole purpose of getting likes and social media traction, and not to further your capital-H Hobby experience, can’t that be easily remedied? Is ghosting the scene / community / your followers the best move?
If it is, go for it! You know better than anyone else. And I mean that.
But I would just implore those that are feeling this burnout to pump the brakes. Contrary to the apparently popular opinion, this isn’t a job. Very few of us make money by playing with our toy soldiers. Even those exceedingly rare few that might turn a profit likely only make supplemental income and not a living wage in their efforts. I’d even consider that still just a “hobbyist;” only dabbling in monetizing what we already love. We have no boss beyond ourselves.
I suppose I was just struck by the self-awareness of the event. As if it couldn’t be stopped, even after the realization.
My summer project of speed painting an entire Biel-Tan army using mostly Contrast paints is 100% not my best work. At the end of a session I’m sometimes even discouraged at the results; certainly not up to my usual standards! But that’s okay, I’m having a good time challenging myself with my self-imposed restrictions. And you know what? If I break some of the rules – nothing happens! We set the rules, we set the expectations, we hobby exactly how we want to hobby.
Look at the Ironsleet guys. Expertly curated vignettes of the genre, carefully crafted narrative epics that put all of us to shame. I’ll never have the time to accomplish a thing like that, the Herculean effort of creating a complex narrative with a team of other likeminded hobbyists, to travel to another country and play one almighty game, the likes of which will never be seen again upon its conclusion. It’s an ephemeral wish, a phantom aspiration we all have within our little hobby hearts — and I’m perfectly content just viewing from the sidelines. My worth isn’t measured against them, but rather alongside them. We are all hobbyists, and we can all be proud of their work.
So, if you’re feeling burned out, that you’re just in a rut of who-knows-what, or that you just are absolute garbage compared to these paragons of hobbying, ask yourself why you feel that way. Can you refocus? Are you pursuing some lofty goal that a hobby shouldn’t ever necessitate? Search for that spark of excitement you had when you got your very first miniature, and work from there.
If you’re not having a good time, it isn’t a hobby.