As they usually do, this moment of clarity happened immediately after getting knocked back into reality. Not in a figurative sense either; I was hit by a grocery cart for the second time that morning. It was the eve of Christmas Eve. Or is that Christmas Eve Eve? This past year I put off the grocery run to the tenth hour so as to avoid the stupidity of the holiday rush.
Spoiler alert: One day makes no difference.
My list made it easier to ‘mission shop’. But it was no defense to the wild-eyed and panicked as they bolted through the aisles. There were some near misses and halted carts with the requisite head shakes and loud sighs. I almost made it unscathed except I got plunked by a cart in the produce section.
I did not even get an inauthentic ‘Sorry’ – Geez, ‘Merry Christmas’ to you too.
Anyway, my high school ball coach would have been proud; I just walked it off and didn’t rub it once. I quickly put it out of my mind. After all, there is no way to immediately steal second and get my revenge in a grocery store.
I pulled out my phone for the wait at the overburdened checkout line. There was a fresh Spencer Pollard post. It was an involved piece about how competition in scale modeling is a negative pursuit and there are many who post model pictures on social media in order to get the attention that will always elude them.
A second cart strike knocked me out of my scale model thoughts. And wouldn’t you know it, it was the same BMW leasee. What are the odds of that? Anyway, as Bumpy McRudeface screamed obscenities behind me, I slowly and meticulously placed each one of my many small items in it’s own individual cozy spot on the checkout treadmill with my one free hand.
Because the other kept scrolling through Ol’ Spencer’s article.
I particularly enjoyed this little gem:
I’m going to stop competing both with myself and others. Fact of the matter is that there are 1000s of modellers out there that are head and shoulders better than me and that’s fine – it’s a big wide world. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t do my best, perhaps inspire others and enjoy the ride. But this need for affirmation and the pats on the back that follow a build has to become something that’s simply part of the journey rather than the destination.Spencer Pollard – Model making and writing guru; Hinting that validation in moderation is fine. I picture him sitting on some mountain, staring off into the distance. Deep in beard stroking thought….
Cart filled and point made, I sauntered through the buzzing parking lot while thinking about journeys and destinations. Spencer was onto something and I wasn’t the only one thinking this. A short time later, Steve, chief pastry chef over on ‘Sprue Pie with Frets’, picked up where Spencer left off. He wrote that competition was seeping into all other aspects of scale modeling and no longer it is limited to final glamor shots posted on Instagram:
Now all aspects of the model making process are part of the new, expanded competition highlighted by Spencer. The implication is that every aspect of modeling is subjected to new measures of modeling seriousness, comparison—and doubt: Am I choosing the right things to build? Have I researched enough? Have I corrected seams, parting lines, and inaccuracies enough? Am I using the right paint? Am I using my paint correctly? Have I weathered enough, and using the most fashionable techniques and products?Steve Lee – Builder, Blogger, Baker, Pontificator scale modeling in general and very tiny tanks in particular.
Validation is actually ok
I have heard from several model friends, all of whom I have considerable respect for, that competition is bad for the hobby. Or, at least the goal of ‘winning’ in scale model competitions is misguided. They would much rather have displays at model shows and feature no competition at all. Spencer and Steve also seem to be down on the idea of competition. What took so long for me to write on this subject is that I don’t think all aspects of competition or social media participation are inherently bad. Like Spencer wrote, it really depends on what we want from such things.
After all, unless we are off grid and building alone in a dank basement then aren’t we all looking for some form of validation while we pursue this hobby?
Now ‘validation’ has taken on a negative tone in many circles. Before you guffaw with the eye darting “Bah! Not Me!” – just hear me out. Because needing validation is not a bad thing. In fact, some think it is normal. Some even consider seeking validation to be perfectly healthy. And why would it not be? Think about it: Why are there model contests? Why are there shows and open houses? Why are there club show and tells? What is the reason for uploading a picture on social media?
I doubt it’s a step towards fame and financial independence.
The validation thing seems to fly in the face of a couple of theories floating about. One being that encouragement should be done away with and only expert critique is helpful. The other being that a hobby “should” be something that is practiced only for the pure enjoyment of the individual. In his opinion supporting the second theory, Tim Wu thinks many people don’t bother with hobbies because they fear they will not be any good at them. He also states disappointment in those who only seem to pursue a hobby when they can publicly claim some degree of excellence at it.
With respect, I don’t think either of these opinions capture the whole picture. Maybe some don’t pursue a hobby because they get no encouragement along the way. Maybe some don’t want to excel to the highest standards in the hobby. Might those people give something a try if there was a way to meet like minded people, talk shop and get some feedback? Frankly, if some cheerleading or an “attaboy” is all it takes to help someone move forward and support their interest in this hobby, then why not?
I’ll admit that I saw a lot of myself in that Tim Wu article. Especially when I started back in this hobby as an adult. I worried that my non-modeling friends would see this pursuit as childish unless I had some form of credibility provided by objective 3rd parties. Which, at that time, was met with placing my models on contest tables and hoping to acquire ribbons, plaques, and medals.
Of course that feeling was and is complete nonsense. Contest ‘wins’ did not make me a better modeler and I would never be discouraged if my model didn’t place. I was always going to keep building no matter how childish some might think. However, I definitely got better from preparing my models to show to others. And I found that I got more out of model shows when I interacted with and got feedback from the other participants.
I am still very much interested in exploring new ways to build models and get better. No one pushed me and I never felt any pressure to move forward. This has been very much on my own.
But I doubt I would have been so interested if I did not get some kind of validation along the way.