Every year around this time, I do an end of year wrap up. It’s become something ceremonial for me, kinda like boxing up and tossing all the detritus of a build after it’s completed, or tagging, sorting, and organizing photos after a trip. It’s a way to wash my hands, clear the decks, or whatever metaphor you want to go with before moving onto the next thing.
My heart isn’t fully in it this year. Yeah, I completed more builds in 2021 than I have in any single year since I came back to the hobby. And yeah, I managed to hit almost all of my goals for the year.
We’ll get to the builds and the goals and shit in a minute.
First, I want to touch on something that’s been swimming around the edges of my consciousness for awhile now, and that Spencer Pollard’s recent post, “Stop Competing with Yourself…”, managed to bring into focus.
Giving a fuck and not giving a fuck at the same time
One of the worst traps a modeler (and hobbyists of any stripe, really) can fall into is tying too much of their personal worth or personal identity to the hobby. It’s a subtle, pernicious trap. It gets its hooks into you so slowly that you may not even recognize it, until one day you find yourself picking your next build based on what will draw the most attention on YouTube or Instagram. Or until you grind your progress and enjoyment to a halt because if you don’t get this thing just right, it’ll mean you’re a failure.
As a creative professional, I learned a long time ago how critical it is to separate yourself from your work. By all means, pour your passion into your work, but remember at the same time that that work is NOT you. Because when it becomes precious like that, it makes you defensive. It makes you take things personally. Failures and slights bleed over into your life.
Ultimately, that creates fear. Fear of being called out over a slightly misaligned wheel, or incorrect markings, or whatever it might be. Fear that keeps you from trying or that turns a build into a Sisyphean task. Fear that stifles your creativity.
My favorite hedge against this is a line I read once as a cheeky description of taoism: learning to give a fuck and not give a fuck at the same time.
By all means, nerd out. Pour your passion and attention and curiosity into this hobby. Just, at the same time, remember that that’s what it is for 99.9% of us. A hobby. A diversion from all the shit of life. Have a sense of humor about it.
The internet is what you make of it
Another thing I want to touch on briefly from Spencer’s excellent post. He describes the current state of online modeling in rather Hobbesian terms. A competitive tangle chasing ever-fleeting attention. And yeah, it can be that. If you let it.
But to me, it kinda reminds me of people bemoaning Facebook as just racist screeds from old high school acquaintances. Or TV these days as garbage. There’s so much content out there these days that, if that’s what you’re experiencing, it’s because that’s what you’ve filled your feed with, or what you’ve chosen to watch.
And just as there are some amazing shows out there to watch, there’s a lot of good to be had on social media, too. What Spencer sees as competitive, I would suggest could instead be seen as knowledge sharing at a scale we’ve never witnessed before. And yeah, it’s messy. Old dogmas are slamming up against new practices, Dunning-Kruger is running rampant, but through all that noise, more people are sharing more cool shit than we could have imagined when I was growing up. And that’s fucking inspiring.
So with that…let me take a quick look at what exactly I got done this year.
2021 in review
Overall, 2021 has proven to be shockingly productive. Not just in terms of total output, but also in terms of hitting the goals I laid out this time a year ago. I’ve made a few attempts to do this by goals and then builds, or builds and then goals, and they’ve all been tedious. So instead, I’m going to blend the two together somewhat, and just go chronologically.
My intentions to start the year out on the Trumpeter P-40F got disrupted when the opportunity to tackle a quick-turn build came at me – the Das Werk 1/72 U9. While boats aren’t really my thing, it was a nice diversion from the usual, and I managed to get it done in about 18 days, all told.
Finish the P-40. The Trumpeter P-40F was sitting pretty at the end of 2020, and I brought it over the line in February, just before Texas got smacked down for a week of Snowpocalypse.
3D Printing. This year I wanted to get into 3D printing. And I kinda did! I printed and built a 1/48 TIE Interceptor, including redoing the windscreen (spacescreen?) frame in Fusion 360 like a big boy.
Lightning time. It didn’t happen in 2020, so I was determined that I’d get around to Tamiya’s P-38 in 2021. And man, what a kit. This thing was an absolute pleasure to work with.
Armor experiments. Arguably my main goal for 2021 was to get better at armor by breaking out of comfort zones and forcing myself to do things differently. That resulted in Tank the Rainbow…
Over the course of the year, I built up seven tanks, and actually managed to drag six of them across the line, starting with this red Tamiya R35.
While work moved along on the Tamiya F-4B Phantom, I was also advancing on the Tank the Rainbow fleet. In September I finished off the orange Takom PL-01.
October brought a one-two punch of the yellow AFV Club FV4005 in GI Joe Tiger Force livery, and a green Tamiya M3 Stuart suffering through a central Texas oak pollen dump.
November carried action to the back half of the rainbow, with a blue Amusing Hobby Pz.38D (done up as a prototype Cobra HISS tank) and an indigo RFM T-34/122.
Despite being on the road for a good chunk of December, I managed to get a shitload done. The first domino to fall was the I Heart Kit M3A1 Lee I built for the Plastic Posse Podcast M3/M4 Group Build, followed by a very opportunistic shelf of doom finish of the ICM Panhard 178, and a super slammer build in the ICM Model T Armored Car, which went from opening the box to done in a whopping 9 days.
What didn’t get done?
As productive as 2021 turned out to be, I didn’t get to everything I’d hoped. Figures continue to be the thing I want to learn and that I keep procrastinating on. Maybe 2024 will finally be my year.
I’m also coming out of the year with the Tamiya F-4B almost-not-quite to paint. And it will be my main focus for the first part of 2022, before other squirrels can show up.
So, what do I want to do in 2022?
Finish the F-4. Self-explanatory. It’s been coming along and I slowed it’s roll to avoid rushing things. But now I think it’s time to get back to it.
Finish the rest of the PPP M3/M4 builds. After the M3A1, I still have at least an M4A1 and a T10 Mine Exploder to knock out before Nats. If things go well, I may even have another one up my sleeve. We’ll see.
Do a big, cool prop job. I’ve got something in mind. Again, we’ll see.
Start dabbling in 4K video. Maybe?
Figures. Why the fuck not?
Attend Nats in Omaha. I’ve got flights. I’ve got a room. I’ve got a car. Let’s make this happen.