The Trouble with Charts

(Or How Not to Keep on Top of Your Hobby List...!)

So, for those of you who know me, the last two and a half years haven't been easy.  I don't like putting lots of personal stuff out there, so please let it suffice to say that we have been caring for my mother-in-law as age, frailty and Alzheimer's takes its hold of her.  She's not the person she once was, and is now incapable of looking after herself, which is a real strain on my wife.  As a result her ME CFS has come back out of remission with a vengeance whilst we've been caring for her Mum.

In this time, alongside being self-employed and working all hours to make ends meet like most of us have to these days, my hobby has become increasingly limited.  And whilst I'm delighted to be able to play some wargames, and be invited to return to my beloved Old World as a player in a WFRP campaign, there has been little to no time available to make models, let a lone paint them.  And whilst this has begun to improve in the last six months or so as we have been able to get some help (but not enough) from professional carers for my mother-in-law, the chance of making any deadlines is pretty much still impossible.  

Fortunately I game with a wonderful group of friends, good folks who 'get' the situation and who have each been an incredible source of support and understanding.  But it means that for the better part of two years, I was unable to make stuff, and paint even less.  (Took me over a year to get eight Warlord Games 1/700 Napoleonic ships ready for our games of KMH, rigging and all.  They're hard, but they're not that hard!) 

So when this year began, and my hobby morale was at the lowest point I think it had ever been, I decided to Do Something  About It.  I decided to set up a spreadsheet.  This, I decided, would be a source of encouragement to me.  It would be something I could go to and encourage myself that I was being able to do something little though it may be. 

And for a time it actually worked.  

I had been fortunate to get a copy of the starter box for Grey for Now's incredibly brilliant game '02 Hundred Hours' last October.  By Christmas I had failed to even get ten models assembled.  I thought that if I created a sheet to record when I did something, that would show me how much I can realistically get done in a situation like this.  And that would allow me to find some encouragement.  Now let's be clear, I wasn't going to put down how much time I had in each session, because that, frankly, would not be encouraging, as  I'm lucky to get 45 minutes.  But if I could see that I could find time for stuff, then it would show me that things weren't hopeless.  And I really needed a way to see that things weren't impossible at that point.

I also decided to record the games I played. That way, if the painting and making was so little, this might act as some encouragement. After all, there are many different aspects to our hobby.  And although I would consider myself a painter who plays, rather than a player who paints, I wanted to get a realistic assessment of what was going on. All too often I get upset I've had no time for hobby, and forget I've played a game in the last week. 

And yes, putting together a list proved to be really helpful for me.  I was able to see the painting sessions begin to rack up. Of course, when I say rack up, it's in the loosest possible meaning of the word.  Let me show you what I mean...

So, for me that's a rather incredible achievement. For many it's probably anything but.  There are weeks that go by without anything happening.  So as well as showing me that I can get stuff done at times, the chances of actually getting something consistent, which would allow me to make a realistic deadline, was clearly remaining nothing more than pie in the sky. 

Having said that, I am delighted to say that by the end of April I was able to complete my 02 Hundred Hours starter box, and I have been delighted to to host a few virtual games of it since.  

Now I know for many of you, getting 36 models painted won't seem like a particularly big achievement, but for me, this is massive. I only managed to complete 10 models in the whole of 2022, so you know, such things are relative.  

But somewhere along the way, I completely forgot about the spreadsheet. 

I had decided that if options to paint were diminishing, mainly because I was working very late most nights, and I didn't trust myself with a brush after 9pm, then perhaps I could make some models.  So that's what I did. And I got so caught up with it that I forgot to add the details to my spreadsheet.  And I mean completely forgot.

This has left me with a dilemma.  Do I pick up from this point, or just admit defeat and give up.

So I went with the second of those two options. I gave up.  

There's an argument that I did so because I don't like the idea of having a gap in the information.  This, you may appreciate, will give me a false reading for the year.  But there's a bigger reality for me.  And that's the fact that, to my mind at least, the chart has served its purpose.

Don't get me wrong, having everything written down in detail, checked and double checked is a very valid way of approaching a hobby where so many of these little miniatures have to be affixed to that base in a specific way.  I see the benefits.  But if time is at such a premium, I'd rather get on and do the stuff that's in front of me.

So, what changed in the first quarter of this year, compared to what has happened in previous years?

Well, I think part of it is down to organisation. Add in making a solid decision, sticking to my guns and making things manageable and I think we have an answer.  Let's have a look at each one in turn.

First, organisation.  Well, it's kind of obvious that you can't be organised if you don't plan.  And although I have for many years made a list of what I need for each project, and put together a checklist to make sure that I do everything as I should.  What's been different this year?  Well, I think it's making sure that things are actually to hand. I'll blog in another post soon about how my painting station has evolved over the years.  But suffice it to say here that I don't have a dedicated hobby desk.  I'm either working on a dining table that gets used for dining, or needing to fit what I'm doing on a lap tray in the living room.  Having models looked out, rather than hiding away in the loft, easily accessible when able to be used is a great thing, something that has brought the 'Dedicated Hobby Station' ideal as close to reality for someone like myself. 

Second, a solid decision.  Sticking to one project, refusing to be side-tracked by my gaming buddies into another rabbit hole, has been instrumental in achieving the results we've seen here.  It's not easy to do this, especially when you discover new stuff all the time.  And it's even worse when your friends don't have the kind of restraints on time and limited cash that I do.  As I've already said, what is achievable for myself and most other people couldn't be further apart.  So I've had to Teflon-coat my wishes and stick to one project at a time.  Not always easy, but absolutely necessary.  

And my third point is making things manageable.

This has proven to be really relevant.  I'm delighted to have a number of different people I can game with.  Some of that gaming is in person, others are virtual.  Now, you can eb as organised and committed to sticking to a decision all you want.  But f you have different groups, each with their own hopes, it becomes almost impossible to meet any of their hopes at all.  

Sure, one of your options is to keep your games to a skirmish level, no more then a dozen or so models a side.  That would be far easier to churn out than a game of Black Powder for example. And I've done that for a long time.  But I'm not going to let that stop me from my dreams of large Napoleonic armies, as well as large forces for other periods.  (And, while we're at it, add in all my Gdubs armies, because I clearly have no ability to stop when I get to 3k points...!!!) 

So I'm applying the Skirmish Principle.  You see, for many years, my wishes to get large armies painted have always failed and floundered.  This is mainly because they have felt too large a mountain to climb.  But now, I'm working on a manageable approach.  So in between painting a warband for Frostgrave, I'm working on a unit for this period or army.  That way, rather than get overwhelmed by taking so long to get so little done, every commitment is to between a half dozen and 24 models at a time.  And that's less than 02HH. 

Will this plan work?  I blooming well hope so!  Would I like to have a chart to prove it all?  Possibly.  But I'd rather have time painting and making models, and seeing them in my Really Useful Boxes all ready to go, than sit for hours trying to figure out what I did on what date to fill in my chart, because I was too busy making stuff to stop and make a note of it. 

So, I'll try and update what I'm working on when I can on this blog.  After all, this was my original way of seeing what I've been able to achieve.  And who knows, my ramblings around the photos may prove a useful way of checking my developing thoughts on all aspects of this awesome hobby we share.  And if those ramblings are of help to anyone else going through similar circumstances, then I consider all this to be worthwhile.  

So if you'll excuse me, I want to go and get some stuff looked out and ready to go for some hobby this evening.  Fingers crossed....!!!!!!!

And as always, thanks for stopping by!