Editorial Comment Thought for the day...


If you're finding it hard to start that next big project, you are not alone!

“As I’ve gotten older I’ve found that if I have any kind of break from building models or writing articles, I have to restart my brain to get back into the rhythm of the job”

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I remember reading somewhere that Keith Moon, erstwhile drummer with rock band The Who, had to be retaught how to play the band’s songs each and every time that they reconvened for a tour. I remember thinking that that was an odd thing for a professional to do and though I factored into the equation some of the extracurricular activities that Mr Moon no doubt indulged in as contributory factors, I couldn’t quite understand how this forgetfulness could occur with such regularity.

Recently, I’ve started to understand.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve found that if I have any kind of break from building models or writing articles, I have to restart my brain to get back into the rhythm of the job. As I type this, it has been well over two weeks since anything meaningful has been penned by my hand and though I wanted to complete some new Blog entries last week, that became more and more difficult as I pushed to find something interesting to write. Even as I’m typing this I’m not sure if this is interesting, but I’ll persevere and hopefully that will break the cycle of self-doubt and the word block that I’m suffering from at the moment.

But it’s not just the written part of my job that becomes difficult following an enforced break from work: building models can be equally demanding of my attention and jobs that would normally be easy to complete, projects simple to start and enthusiasm high enough to get the juices flowing, are anything but. Sometimes, building a model is the last thing I want to do and I have to really push myself to even open a box, let alone begin construction. Not good when your job is building models and writing about them!

I have no idea why this is, though I suspect that it is the result of the sheer volume of models that I have built and the words that I have written during the 40 years that I have been involved in model making, both as a hobby and profession. When I metaphorically signed on the dotted line in 1996 to begin my path as a full-time professional, I remember guys from the industry telling me that I would be losing my hobby and that every model that I would build from then on, whether I liked it or not, would be work. Of course I didn’t believe them, but they were right. Over the last twenty years the number of models I have built for myself can be counted in single figures; those that haven’t been seen Online or in public: zero. So when I get the chance to have a break, I take it and don’t really think too much about work or modelmaking. I spend time with my wife, we watch football, I play darts, listen to music, spend time on my Playstation. I do anything but build models. But following time way, it really is like everyone else that returns to work: a real slog, where enthusiasm has to be regained and the energy levels upped to a point where I can complete my work to a standard that I am happy with. Often, that means finding a project that is perhaps more interesting than normal to kickstart that part of my brain and then coming up with a first line of a new Blog or article, to remove the writer’s block that almost always walks alongside the inertia that faces me inside the workshop.

I know that I’m not unusual in suffering from this breakdown in enthusiasm. I have often spoken to friends in the hobby and those peers in the industry that I know will help break the cycle and often the answers are the same: read a modelling magazine, or build something that you might not normally do. Both of these are great ideas, but when you have had a break and the deadlines are looming, you often find that time to do anything that’s not beneficial to the magazine, is both a waste of time and effort. This being so, I am forced to chose models that can be used within the pages of MAI, rather than egg-planes, motorcycles, or cool spaceships.

Though this state of apathy can be debilitating, it doesn’t actually last that long, despite feeling like it does. More often than not a project presents itself that is both interesting and exciting and once that barrier has been breached, I tend to be up and running. It can take a few false starts to do that mind you as I find myself starting a couple of kits before the right one presents itself. Much like a movie that doesn’t grab you within the first five minutes, or a book within the first page, a kit can sometimes take a while to offer up potential and be worthy of my time. If that doesn’t happen, I simply pass it by and chances are I will not build that kit at all, never returning to the subject, or the kit in question. That’s how fickle my enthusiasm can be and no amount of exposure to shiny new boxes or brilliantly built models, will change my mind. If I’m not totally into a real-life machine, it won’t be built in miniature – it really is as simple as that!

Writing this has certainly made me feel like I can pen a few words once more and with luck I’ll be able to create something a little more interesting tomorrow. Suggestions have already been made regarding the content of my next entry, so words should not be hard to come by. I just hope that after a night’s sleep I can remember what those ideas are and as a result, be able to come up with a suitable first line…

I'm formerly the editor in charge of Military In Scale magazine and latterly, Model Airplane International. Editing duties to one side, I'm now a full-time modelmaker with Doolittle Media, working to supply modelling articles and material for a number of their group titles, including MAI and Tamiya Model Magazine International. I'm also an avid fan of Assassin's creed, Coventry City FC and when the mood takes me, a drummer of only passing skill. Here though, you'll find what I do best: build models and occassionally, write about them!


  1. Tim Maunder

    I can well understand the dilemma you find yourself in. The idea that a lovely shiny new box full of lovely plastic parts is one continuous heaven it isn’t it just the same as everything else. I love to Illustrate, but, deadlines can often take away the pleasure & skill I’m lucky enough to have. A step back stop, rewind. Carry on.


  2. Mediocre Model Builder

    It certainly was an interesting post – and as a budding blogger I know what you mean about the difficulties in getting those first words out – and nothing I write is as interesting as yours.

    I also agree with what you say about trying to build kits/subjects you’re not fully into. Like you they get sidelined very quickly, and never picked up again.

    Keep up the good work!


  3. Juan Francisco Mollinedo

    I know the feeling…I’m in the chocolate making business and sometimes I get sick to even drink some hot cocoa !! I can’t imagine feeling the same with models !!

    I would like to make a suggestion, what about that beautiful Mustang from Monogram and the inspiration from the Verlinden book. I think that would make an amazing article….IMHO.

    I enjoy your articles and videos and I was starting to wonder what has happened lately…Hehe…

    My best wishes for you

    Juan Francisco Mollinedo


  4. B. Kirwan

    Hi Spencer
    Yea I know that feeling very well. Unlike you though modelling is a hobby to me not a job and it helps to keep me sane. I am in IT project management and notice when the projects been going on too long I need to build more models. Its the physical validation and confirmation that you actually produce something that you can hold in your hand- unlike all that IT nonsense.

    I have been modelling as an adult for nigh on 20 years and have had quiet periods or periods of nothing at all but I hit a wall about two years ago and couldn’t look at the stuff at all.

    I got out of it slowly by dumping all the usual stuff I did like planes and Luftwaffe stuff in particular. I moved into others areas of interest like AFV’s but also historical periods other than WWII. I also set my self the challenge of being far more adventurous with projects by doing scratch building, casting my own parts and making my own decals. Its still all basically the same as before but I am enjoying it again and there are some cool results coming out of it as well.

    So through the combination of changing the inspiration and setting new challenges I have moved up a notch away from kit-assembler to actual modeller.

    Keep up the good work I enjoy reading your stuff particularly the left of center pieces.


  5. Alpaslan Ertüngealp

    Dear Spence, this was not intended as a long response, I hope you will have the time to read it in full.

    This is the first post I read from you since you retired from THE magazine, which I loved very much and still have all issues, including the last few digital ones.

    This is an interesting read. When hobby becomes occupation/job/obligation, it is easy to lose the passion and enthusiasm. I am a professional musician. Many non-musician friends and people from the audience, who come to congratulate me after concerts, speak about how wonderful it must be to do music, how amazing it must be to do my hobby as profession. Well… yes and no…

    It is work and hard work and not wonderful at all. The stage part is “wonderful” indeed, the experience can be magical, thrilling, fulfilling, satisfying, it can lift you to higher spheres and dimensions. Those ca. 90 minutes are like this. Which is less than 10% of a conductor’s work.

    The preparation, the studying, the rehearsals, the administrative and organizational chores and problems in the background..don’t make one happy. Countless of them are mostly discouraging.

    Think of going to rehearsals every morning and not achieving the results you expect, due to others’ limitations. Limitations of musicians in the orchestra, who in general are not the best musicians. They end up in orchestras because they do not have the musical talent and/or technical abilities (another talent) to become a soloist.

    I conduct big orchestras, 70-90 people on stage, I have audiences up to 2500-3000 people depending on the hall. Happy minutes (comparable to he finished model, when you look at it with satisfaction and take photos and people look at them in awe). Nobody sees, nor knows the process of the building, with mistakes, with swearing, moments when you wish you’d dump the whole thing in the garbage, deadlines, eyes drying, fumes irritating…

    You are lucky that the limitations you face are yours only. Your mistakes belong to you. Full responsibility of your own work. I would love to continue Modelling as I did in the 90’s, my eyes are not the same, my neck and back not the same. I have zillions of them. Garage full of cardboard boxes, over 300 of them, details sets, rare stuff. I started collecting when I realized I do not have the time to make them. Now my soul is saturated. And my garage as well. 😊

    What do I do to keep myself fresh? I never start a second project (concert program) immediately after I finish concerts with the previous program. I never repeat the works I conduct. I try to do something new, whenever the promoters make it possible. This makes sure that I study and learn something new (which at my stage of knowledge and experience is luckily a few days, not weeks) and stay fresh. If I can, I try to repeat works from my repertoire only after 1-2 years. I try to change the style of my programs, classical era (Mozart Haydn, Beethoven) to 20. century, back to early romantics, etc. I also try to stick to works “I” love most. You can find parallels in modeling. While you can work on several projects in tandem, which I sometimes have to do, it is good to rest your back for a few days.
    Topics? Late 20. century jet, followed by a interwar biplane, a Russian seaplane followed by an oddball from Hungarian AF or even the Turkish AF Fw190?

    Happy modelling…


  6. Bruce Grayson

    Hang in there. You know the inspiration will come. Having to do something doesn’t inspire, though. It might motivate, but it doesn’t inspire. Good luck!


  7. I wonder if my previous comment/response went through.


  8. I have the “enthusiasm blues” sometime into the build, especially if things aren’t going as planned. I too find that it takes some commitment to restart my brain into the necessary state to complete from where I left off.

    Very interesting article!


  9. Hi Spencer,

    I’m reading your blog from some time now, and starting to comment just today. It is very good by the way. Actually this post gave me the “courage” to leave a comment because last week I was talking with my wife: “what a wonderful work we would have if we worked with something we do love, like a hobby for example!”. Your post just put me in back in the real world, and of course I will discuss it again with my wife as she is starting to change her career.
    If sometimes we get upset and find hard to start new projects when we do it just for fun, I can imagine if you have to do it for living.
    Thanks for the article!


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