Mojo is Dumb

“I’ve lost my mojo…”

How many times have you heard this or one of its near-infinite variations? Probably a lot. It’s an annoyingly common complaint in the modeling community.

And it fundamentally misunderstands motivation and how it works.

On Resistance

For a number of years, writing was my hobby. That ended when my career shifted into full-bore copywriting. Turns out writing for fun loses some of its effectiveness when you’re also writing for work. But when I was writing, no book, no piece of advice or sage wisdom or whatever, had a bigger impact on me than Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art.

See, Pressfield doesn’t talk about mojo. He doesn’t talk about writer’s block. Instead, he talks about Resistance. Yes, with a proper noun, ascribing it a kind of mythical status like we’d ascribe to the Fates of the Furies of the Greek pantheon. Resistance takes many forms. External factors like time or illness or caring for a loved one. Internal factors like laziness, procrastination, and the various mental roadblocks we use to sabotage ourselves.

Resistance – in all its forms – is the friction that keeps us from getting about our creative work. I’m tired. I’m just not feeling it today. I’ve lost my mojo.

Pressfield’s prescription for beating Resistance?

Do the work. Sit your ass down and fucking write. Even if what you write is shit, write. Build the muscle memory and the neural pathways of writing. Tired? Write. Stressed out about something at work? Write. Knee hurts? Write.

A popular term for this approach among writers is “Butt in Chair”.

And it absolutely applies to modeling as well. You can’t get your mojo (as stupid a term as that is) back if you’re not modeling.

Motivation comes after you start

Modelers often speak of mojo like it’s some external thing. Like, I don’t know, the golden snitch from Harry Potter. A thing you have to catch. But here’s the thing — when you externalize it, you take away your own agency.

“I don’t know where my mojo went” is nothing more than an excuse. It’s the comforting little lie your brain gives you to justify not doing shit.

And if you sit around waiting for mojo to come home like some fickle cat, you’re again giving up your agency. And that’s how you get all those eyeroll threads where someone tells you to build something different, like a Star Wars kit or a Warhammer thing or whatever. Like some slightly different-shaped subject will magically attract your mojo from wherever its fucked off to.

Let me put a different thought out there. Mojo is bullshit. Motivation is the thing. And motivation is something internal. And it’s something we can control and even trigger.

Every Tuesday morning (well, since COVID), I go hiking or mountain biking before work. I love both. But I hate mornings. And every Monday evening, my brain starts up the negotiations. It’s going to be so early. And humid. And my knee’s been hurting. And and and.

When I head out to the trails on Tuesday morning, it’s always grudgingly. I’d rather be asleep. I’m stiff. Something invariably hurts. But then I hit the trail and I start moving. And something happens. I find myself enjoying it. I find myself pushing to see if I can beat my personal best times. Or pushing to cover a bit more ground, so long as I can get back in time for various meetings.

My motivation comes out after I start.

And the exact same thing is true of modeling.

You are your mojo

So here’s my…I don’t know…plea? Sincere hope?

Stop using misplaced mojo as an excuse. Stop thinking of it as some magic amulet you need in order to start.

Instead, do what Steven Pressfield suggests. Take all that shit keeping you away from the bench, and think of it as Resistance.

Instead of waiting until the conditions are just right, accept that they are almost never just right. And tell them to fuck off and start anyway.

Put your butt in the chair, do the work, and create an opening for real motivation — not the false idol of mojo — to spring forth.

28 Comments Add yours

  1. Ian says:

    Reading this has given me a Eurika moment! You’re totally correct and mirrored what I was already thinking. I have not undertaken any modelling in weeks and now I realise why! Thanks

  2. Torbjörn Hanö says:

    Spot on! And when you sit down and just get on with it, if it isn’t your best work … so what, not everything you do can be perfect.

    1. Doogs says:

      Absolutely. Especially if you think of perfectionist tendencies as another form of Resistance.

  3. Martin Mickleburgh says:

    Matt, among a welter of great insight you’ve given us, that is one the best, clearest, most useful things you have written. I know it to be painfully true. Every day since lockdown began I’ve forced my self to pick my button accordion and just do some practice. Force is the operative word. And once I start the time flies and I’m really enjoying it. It’s cumulative in my case – I can actually play the thing a bit now!

  4. Jam Harry Svendsen says:

    Thank you. This is true for more than modelling, a lot more. Best read in a long time. And you write damn good as well.

  5. chibipaul says:

    Well good for you!
    Just because you find a way to push through times when motivation is difficult, it doesn’t automatically mean everyone else is going to be able to.
    Sorry I’m lacking the mojo to even read your article right now.
    I’m not being facetious. It’s simply a matter of being totally bloody knackered.

    Every person has their own reasons for not participating in their hobby. Remember it is a hobby and not a matter of life or death.
    Every person has their own means of coping.
    I’m really not sure what the big deal is.

    It smacks of a sense of superiority. if I’m being honest.
    Has that “pick yourself up by the bootstraps” vibe.

    1. Doogs says:

      I’m going to address this from the bottom up.

      First – no bootstrappiness intended. It’s more about reframing how you think about it. Mojo gets set up, again, as some kind of magical external thing that we have to wait for. It’s like writers complaining about their muse. Recognizing that motivation comes from being present and from doing has absolutely helped me and I figured maybe it could help others as well. Call me crazy.

      Yes, it is a hobby. But it can also be a matter of life and death. Study after study has indicated that having a hobby can stave off depression and cognitive decline in old age and even extend life expectancy. Personally, my mantra is “give a fuck and don’t give a fuck at the same time”. Go deep, geek out, but also remember that ultimately it’s a pretty frivolous pursuit.

      If you’re totally knackered, that’s just one more aspect of Resistance. And sometimes, Resistance wins. Pressfield goes on at length about that in The War of Art. Every day is another fight against it. If you’re too tired to hit the bench, why? Are there steps you can take elsewhere in your life to outflank that? Get more sleep or better sleep? Try to find a different time to get some modeling in? Is it something temporary that you can ride out, like a busy period at work? Or something chronic, like my situation of having three kids?

      1. chibipaul says:

        With respect, I’m not that bothered by what Pressfield (Who he?) says.
        I’m knackered because I have ME/CFS
        I don’t need you or Pressfield to tell me how therapeutic modelling can be.
        It’s why I make models.

        But it is NOT a matter of life or death whether I force myself to get to the table and do something I’m not up for, or not, based on some motivational guru/influencer/grifter’s pseudo psychological guff.

        It’s condescending to tell others, whose situations you know nothing about, that they are dumb because they don’t feel like sticking bits of plastic together atm.

        I’ll damned well build models as and when I choose thank you kindly

      2. Doogs says:

        With respect, you’re missing the point entirely and looking for ways to be upset.

  6. chibipaul says:

    Could have sworn I just posted a comment
    Does it require approval before being accepted?

    1. isteve66 says:

      You seemed to have missed the point entirely, so it really doesn’t matter whether your comment shows up or not. He’s not talking about a physical impairment or neurological disorder, but rather the simple drive to sit down and model. He’s also not suggesting you are any less of a person if you do otherwise.

      I await your snide and angry retort with bated breath, since you take everything personally and are easily offended.

    2. chibipaul says:

      So now you pull the polite version of calling me a snowflake?
      That doesn’t address my point of view, and suggests you dislike criticism.
      But then your entire article was a cheap attack on a large swathe of the modelling community for using the word “mojo” and not being arsed to power through problems, like you do.

      If you want to abuse members of the modelling community to self aggrandise and not expect some push back, you are even more self conceited than I gave you credit for.

      If you wanted to suggest a way to address a lack of motivation for engaging with the hobby, without coming across as arrogant, you could have framed your article in a far more constructive manner.
      Instead you chose a clickbait title and came out swinging.

      What does your mate Peterfield say about self reflection?

      1. Doogs says:

        Your first reply was dickish and your subsequents have only doubled down. The point appears to be to you what video is to my dogs. We can hold their faces, but they just don’t see it.

        Oh and you keep responding (dickishly) to commenters who you somehow mistake for me.

        Trying to think of a reason I shouldn’t just boot you.

  7. JCB says:

    Mojo is just a word, a vague one at that, a vessel in which we put slightly or vastly different concepts. And, for some non-English speaking people, it’s a fun and convenient word that has no obvious equivalent in our own languages. This poor word probably did not deserve such brutal beating…. 😂

    Nice pep talk, though. When we go to the bottom of things, I’d summerize the action plan using the words of a famous corporate philosopher:

    “Just do it”.

    If we don’t hide from ourselves, we know what that means for each of us. Same with “Mojo”….

    1. chibipaul says:

      ps “Trying to think of a reason I shouldn’t just boot you.”
      Thinking and reasoning don’t appear to be your strong points.
      Maybe it’s all that macho motivation thing you got going.
      Stay off the supplements man
      They ain’t good for you.

      1. Doogs says:

        Yeah, out you go. Have fun getting all offended and missing points somewhere else.

  8. Rafael Mozeto says:

    A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.

  9. kumashock says:

    Hmmm So, if a modeler says “I’ve hit a difficult bit in this “shitty” kit and I’ve lost my mojo for finishing it and have no more f___ks to give” then essentially they need to sit down and get back at that kits and dare I say it – apply their modeling skills to the problem and finish the kit?

    1. Doogs says:

      Maybe?

      I tend to conceive of “lost mojo” in the broader sense of modeling, rather than focused on a specific kit. There are certainly times where buckling down and pushing through is the way to go, and I think there are also times where it makes sense to cut bait and take on another project.

      That said, ditching a build, all the reasons we use to justify it are basically faces of Resistance. I joke about having an “Academy Curse”, and for whatever reason I have a hard time connecting with their kits. I also tend to be susceptible to death-by-a-thousand-cuts annoyances. And that’s definitely a thing I could fight against — if I wanted to. But since it is a hobby, and hobbies are supposed to be enjoyable, I don’t get hung up when I walk away from a ki. For me it’s kinda like not finishing a book or a TV series I’m not connecting with.

  10. crimsyn1919 says:

    Interesting. I do think there are a lot of times when you can get your motivation back just by forcing yourself to sit down and get to it. Often once you get a half an hour into a project you’re back in the zone and enjoying it again.

    But is this as applicable to a hobby as it is more serious pursuits? ​At work, you gotta do what you gotta do to get paid. For exercise, you gotta get out there if you want to stay in shape. For your hobbies that we do strictly for our own pleasure, and where we don’t have a boss breathing down our neck because he’s concerned about the end goal, is there not a point at which if you’re not feeling like sticking plastic together today, there’s nothing wrong with sitting down and doing a crossword puzzle instead?

    1. Doogs says:

      I think it depends how you treat your hobbies. Personally I view them as just as vital to health as exercise. If you truly find yourself not connecting with modeling for an extended period of time, if benchtime doesn’t kickstart your motivation, it may be time to move on.

  11. Baz Barry says:

    You are of course absolutely
    …….,RIGHT
    i’m going to take all this on board and see if I can adapt my own lazy asked Brain to do something useful
    I just bought a bike a bright orange fluorescent to try and get me out
    And I’m going to sodding finish that album even if it’s a painful process …..for my neighbours 😂
    Nice one
    many thanks
    Have a great day

  12. Ken says:

    This really hit the mark with me! I’m so glad I had this pop up on my facebook feed. Thanks for sharing this, Matt.

  13. Rene de Koning says:

    I loved your rant, so much so that I even showed it to my wife who read it as well. Both of us love our hobbies – mine modelling, her patchwork – and sometimes we seem to get bogged down on the smallest of things and then spend days procrastinating instead of getting on with it. However, we’ve both had times where we’ve tried to push through but in the end, have just walked away from it until the time is right to tackle the problem, only to find that it wasn’t as difficult as we thought it was. I’ve often wondered where the word ‘mojo’ came from and why we use it so blatantly as it really doesn’t explain what the issue is. You’ve definitely made us rethink the way we need to tackle things.

  14. Now I’m not sure about this, but didn’t Mike Myers popularize mojo in an Austin Powers movie? It may not be intended to be taken seriously. Couldn’t agree more with your thoughts on it – if you do the work you will get better at it and like it better. I used to work at a company headed by a guy named George Grazadio, and he coined our motto – Today not Tomorrow. Seems he understood resistance. I try to remember that chestnut when I am flinching away from a bit of modeling (or work) and it works more often than not.

  15. José Pires says:

    Wow! Thumbs up for what is one of the most inspiring posts I’ve read for a while. I highly relate to what you describe. I know my internal blockades and the external causes I often resouce to.
    And that affects both my hobbies… Modeling and saxophone playing. The thing is that we have a rule with playing an instrument. Consistency in practicing is paramount. Even if it’s only 15 minutes. You have to try to play everyday. At least those 15 minutes.
    I use the same process to fight lasyness of the bench.
    Thanks for the acute description of the process.
    Cheers!
    José Pedro Pires

  16. “Success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration” according to Edison. I find this accurate, and sometimes it’s 100 percent transpiration. This goes for when I write and record music as well as for modelling and painting. There are always things you can do that don’t require “mojo” och inspiration. Cleaning your work area, rearranging your paints, nipping off some parts from a sprue. Then, all of a sudden, you’ve sat for an hour or more doings things you like, maybe even get some flow. Like the Nike commercial: Just do it!

  17. Torbjörn Hanö says:

    AND … I just read that when you start doing something your brain produces dopamine, wich get’s you more motivated by making you feel happy and enthusiastic. Well, waddaya know!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.