Regaining Miniature Inspiration and Overcoming Lack of Enthusiasm

One of the hardest things to deal with in miniature, tabletop and wargaming is losing inspiration or motivation to paint and game.  All of us who do this hobby have experienced it on more than one occasion and the first thing we ask is how do you overcome it.

During the time that I have been gaming I have had periods where I was “super successful” in painting and gaming like the year I got my unpainted collection down to “56 miniaturesby painting 100 miniatures at a time over and over again for a year (as documented during ‘the pledge’ on theminiaturespage.com).  

However most recently I went easily one or two years without doing anything miniature related – especially painting.  Ironically enough however that is what gave rise to this Tumblr blog.  

I went through a particularly painful divorce and gaming was no where near my priority even with that though I continued to attend conventions and collect stuff as a way of “being good to myself”.  

When the divorce ended I realized that my miniature gaming had actually sustained me in its own way during that period.  In fact I realized that I had been gaming when I met my wife and even after 24 years of marriage when she was gone – gaming was still there.  So in a true sense it had been more faithful to me than a spouse and probably will be in the years to come.  

Still the motivation to actually paint or game just could not be sustained. Oh I could do one or two items in a month or two but invariably I just started stuff and left it undone.  Then about two years ago I attended GenCon and decided to get into Bolt Action WW2 Gaming.  Something I had always found interesting but not enough to buy into like fantasy and historical which remain my favorite.  That being said after buying some boxed infantry units I had a desire to field some armor to support them. Well not only was there little in the scale I needed (1/56) for Bolt Action but I did not like the resin two or three piece vehicles Warlord Games was doing at the time (they now do slightly more detailed plastics).  As a result I decided to try regular plastic model kits like Tamiya, Revell, Italeri and Dragon.  I also decided to go with 1/48 scale as I believed it was a truer representation of vehicle size to 28mm miniatures than the largely undersized 1/56.

My first model – as documented here – was a Tamiya M8 Light Armored Car (Greyhound).  Followed soon after by a Sherman Firefly and Tiger I Initial Production.  I had never assembled “any” plastic model kits to completion and had no ideal how I was I going to “paint” them.  But an interesting thing happened when I completed that first Greyhound.  I got a sense of accomplishment and real pride in what I had built that I was anxious to push myself even further.  So almost a year later and some two dozen tanks, planes and vehicles later I assemble “and paint’ 1/48 models regularly.

This however not only reignited my creative side in general but it pole vaulted me back into my gaming as I started assembling and painting those infantry units I had bought a year earlier!

That being said the general take away from this post is that this hobby includes a lot of things but all of them work together to inspire you to the next so if you  can’t find inspiration to paint jump into some of the things listed below and let the inspiration find you again.  One of the saddest things I have thought of lately dawned on me as I was looking at an estate sale.  I have noticed at many of these sales large collections of dolls, trains or even games being sold that were never ever opened by the prior owners who I assume are either dead or in a nursing home now. Many of the items look like they literally arrived in the mail, were placed on the mantel or shelf and "never opened” or even touched – ever!

This really shook me up as I have “a lot” of miniatures and board games that I have acquired over the years that I have simply never opened or even perused the contents.  I have vowed to change that which is why I have started posting pictures of “open blisters” and “assembled miniatures”.  I don’t want to leave the things that I bought to experience and enjoy unopened and unused for strangers to haggle over after I am gone or can no longer use them.  Even if I can’t play with or paint all of them I can hold them, feel them, assemble them, sort them out, make plans for them or even trade or resell them and you should do as much with your stuff.  Unlike those sales I attend where it is obvious the owner never even held the actual item (as opposed to the box) in his or her large collection that make me sad, when I come to those rare homes where it is evident the owner had a layout and cool storage and personal notes and handmade accessories for all the stuff he played with and enjoyed I feel “honored” to be “inheriting” his or her stuff and continuing the love and joy they gave him or her in my life.  The same should be true of your stuff when that time comes.  So if you are in a slump, look at this list, resolve to try one or two and get going again…I need more Tumblr accounts to follow!!

  1. Start a new period or genre.  Go from fantasy to historical or from WW2 to space!
  2. Build Terrain.  Look at your collection and figure out what terrain you would really like to have to game on when your inspiration returns.
  3. Build a model.  While close to tabletop gaming “modeling” is actually quite distinct and separate and offers a much more readily obtainable sense of fulfillment than painting up an army.  Plus there are literally models for all types of genres from Star Wars and Battlestar Galatica to WW2 and the west.
  4. Blog, Podcast or Posts on Forums.  Talking about your hobby is one of the best ways to maintain your inspiration and get ideas and feedback from fellow gamers.  Use your blog or podcast to set deadlines or start projects for yourself.  Follow other blogs and imitate what they are working on even if you have to buy it from scratch!
  5. Attend Conventions.  A convention is not only a good way to meet other gamers but to actually play games you own or use models that you own that someone else has painted.  I like to attend conventions and keep the programs with the game descriptions as ideas for my own scenarios or set ups.
  6. Sell Stuff!  If you have stuff you honestly know you won’t use but refuse to start on something else until you do something with it then just sell it and use the money to start another period or genre or to build onto what you have.  For example, if you have a great AT-43 collection but know you will never play it again.  Sell the stuff and use the money to buy into a cool Kickstarter you have been looking at for new miniatures or terrain.
  7. Do Partial Painting!  One thing that keeps us from starting painting in particular is dreading the detailing  or touch ups you inevitably get to.  Well don’t get hung up on that.  Pull out some stuff paint up as much as you want before you get to the small stuff then pull out something else and do the same thing.  Eventually you will have a substantial stack of stuff “darn near finish” that will inspire you to do the detailing.
  8. Get into some New Research!  We all do some research for this hobby but if you need a boost look into something in more depth, like WW2 elite units like the Brandenburgers an elite unit of “french” soldiers who defended Hitler to the death!
  9. Make it up!  Have Fun!  Finally when all else fails just have fun. Make up your own stuff and your own reasons to buy and use it.  I bought several Dust Tactics vehicles simply because they looked cool and while I had no intention of buying into Dust Tactics I intend to “borrow” stats from Bolt Action to deploy the vehicles as part of the real life late war technology race the Allies and Axis were engaged in (i.e. V2 Rocket, Jet Planes, Radar, Super Tanks, and nuclear bombs of course).

Good luck and God Bless.

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