I’m alive I guess

datetime April 18, 2021 7:00 AM

So hey, it’s been a year since I posted. Neat.

Before I started this blog, I spent a few years writing a hobby article on another site that was just, “what I’ve been working on this week”. Each article typically featured 3-5 different projects, and individual projects would be spread out over many different installments. I found this frustrating, because when I wanted to show someone the process I’d followed to build something, I had to provide them multiple links, and the person needed to do a lot of scrolling within each one to find the relevant snippet. Not a great reading experience.

When I moved to my own site, I decided that I wanted the format to be different. I wanted each article to encapsulate one entire project from start to finish, or in rare cases, one major chunk of a big project with multiple phases. This mirrored the types of blogs I preferred to read– go to a person’s site, scan through everything they’ve ever done, and deep-dive through the specific projects that catch my eye.

And for eight years, that worked. “Hobby time” is the major measuring unit by which I divide my life. I am always working on multiple projects, which gives my ADD-mired brain different tracks to jump between. When I need to schedule things, I close my eyes and visualize my year in terms of the projects on my docket and how long each one is expected to take up in my schedule. I don’t schedule things for “November”, I schedule them for “after the terrain project but before I airbrush the new army”. And while any given project might get procrastinated out across several months, I’ve usually been able to find something to finish and talk about on my blog around once per month.

Productivity is my default mode. It’s the core of my identity. I waste a lot of time on video games and other useless activities, but those are always temporary diversions between blocks of industrious creation. I feel uncomfortable sitting for long periods without doing things; I only watch TV and movies as background noise while I’m working, and I don’t enjoy traveling because my brain just sees that as time that I can’t spend making things.

Always making things is my function as a living being.

And then 2020 happened.

And I don’t make things anymore.

Leading up to the pandemic, I spent three solid months working on an ambitious sculpting project that I was inordinately proud of. I finished it the week after I last saw my playgroup. Over a year later, I’m still the only human being who has seen the models in person. I tend to be a fairly confident person with absurdly high self-esteem, but my confidence is brittle; it’s sustained on a diet of compliments. I do a bunch of work, and then at the end, people tell me I’m pretty. And those compliments fuel the furnace that carries me through the next project.

I got a lot of great responses from digital humans about my chibi models, but it wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted the painting community at my local store to hold the models close to their faces, spin them around, and catch the small details and easter eggs I’d sculpted. And I wanted to take them to Adepticon; the person who taught me to paint chibi models was going to be there, and I wanted to show her the results of her lessons many years later. I wanted to have a silly conversation with the event judges about the legality of models that teeeeeeeeeechnically aren’t valid under the ITS proxy guidelines. I wanted to maybe bamboozle my way into a hobby prize in one of the events.

I had all of these imaginary conversations and scenarios planned out in my head. And then, nothing happened. The giant sucking void of 2020 ate my validation. And without it, the furnace had no fuel.

I’ve tried to do things. My apartment is littered with unfinished artifacts of projects I thought would enthuse me over the last year.

During my province’s first lockdown, I made concepts for a new terrain set. Structurally, it would be a set of modular pieces that could be linked together, with sliding components that collapse down during storage.

It was going to be themed on a Bakunin marketplace.

I drew a lot of shop concepts.

I was excited.

Foamcore was hard to find during lockdown. I found some thin, floppy foamcore at Staples. I made two modular sections. The crappy foamcore made the pieces too weak to slide around without flexing (and potentially getting damaged).

I got discouraged. I lost interest. I haven’t touched this since May.

I picked up some Svaralheima models. I thought it would be fun to convert them into Norse gods.

I made Thor and Odin. Then, I lost interest. I haven’t touched these since June.

On a whim, I dug out a model I started scratch-sculpting four years ago and never finished. I spent a surprisingly productive month cleaning up unfinished areas and adding new clay.

Then in June, I caused a BLEVE with my kettle and scalded the back of my dominant hand. It took two months for the skin to heal. I’m fine now, but during that idle time, the clay I applied dried out and wasn’t workable anymore. If I pick this up again, I’ll have to remove and re-do some of the summer’s work.

I got discouraged. I lost interest. I haven’t touched this since my injury.

Last Fall, a new version of the Infinity rules was released. I had always intended to completely rewrite my Hacking Helper from scratch for the new edition rather than “updating” the old code. In spite of my injured hand, I found that I was still able to code, so I spent most of July and August rewriting the tool. The new version has much cleaner code, multiple language support, and “plugs” for future upgrades that could expand its features.

But by the time N4 was released, I hadn’t played Infinity in five months, with no sign that that would change any time soon. To this day, I’ve played one game of N4, and it was over webcam, and it was… fine. But it didn’t spark a desire to play more in any virtual setting.

Without active gameplay in my life, it was hard to dredge up enthusiasm to add the expanded features I’d planned. A gameplay tool for a game I can’t play is hard to prioritize in my life.

So I lost interest.

I haven’t touched this since September.

A few months after N4 came out, they launched the Sectorial rules update. My first army, Military Orders, got a rules update containing a profile I thought was funny– a Santiago Knight with aerial deployment. The mental image of a Santiago floating to the battlefield on a Mary Poppins umbrella made me giggle, so I converted it.

I actually finished this one. But I don’t have any of the resin bases left that I use for my MO army, so it’s currently still pinned to a cork.

Many months passed. In February, I randomly got tired of not doing anything, so I decided to build something. What I came up with was a concept for a piece of foamcore terrain that collapses down to a fraction of its total volume using sliding components.

I laid out the panels in Illustrator, and divided them across nine pages so they could be printed.

I built it.

It does the thing.

I like it.

I might panel and paint it someday.

We’ll see.

…and that was my first pandemic year. I had a lot of ideas, but inability to actually play Infinity sapped me of the enthusiasm to follow through on much of anything. It’s just really hard to care about a game you haven’t played in a year and might not play again for another year. :/

And my story isn’t unique. We all cancelled our lives last year. In the grand scheme of all the suffering that occurred in 2020, mine was pretty trivial. My job easily moved online. I’m financially secure. I’m healthy. In spite of my tone in this article, I’m mentally healthy– just a bit numb.

I’m fine. I’ll be fine. I’ll play army men again someday. I’ll make things again. I’ll post articles again.

But for now, I do what we’re all doing: I wait.

Oh hey I also spent thousands of dollars on cardboard rectangles last year

HARD TANGENT! 😛

Minis are hard to play online. Less hard to play online: cards.

Someone made this thing. It’s called SpellTable. You point a webcam at your desk, and three other people do the same thing, and you play Magic. It’s really neat.

So that’s what I did instead of minis. Every day. All year.

In March 2020, I owned no physical Magic cards.

In April 2021, I have 25 Commander decks. More mysteriously appear every month. Science can’t explain it.

This has been a plot twist in my life that I could not have predicted. I’ve never found Magic that compelling as a game, but when every other entertainment and social outlet in my life fell through the floor, Magic (and specifically, Commander) unexpectedly popped up as a viable substitute.

Deckbuilding lets me be creative. Chatting on the matchmaking discord gives me human contact. And playing… well, exists, I guess. 😛

The game has also given me occasional motivation to do some art. Behold the sketches for my Variety of Tokens But I Like Drawing Knights So They’re All Knights:

Magic is a hobby I never would have started if the world hadn’t fallen apart. Will I still want to play it when the world works again? I don’t know. But I’m glad it was there to give me literally anything to do when my normal life got sucked away. If any of y’all own cardboard, stop by the PlayEDH discord and say hi. I hang out in the lowest-power tier, called Battlecruiser, where I mostly tell people they’re making their decks wrong. It’s fun.

…yeah, that’s all I’ve got.

I hope that the next article on this blog goes up before April 18th, 2022.

But also like… that might happen. I’ve stopped making predictions for the future. Que sera sera.

I’m fine, I hope y’all are fine too.

Sigh.

What a boring apocalypse we ended up with. :/

-Spud

7 thoughts on “I’m alive I guess

  • Marc

    I know what you mean about feeling the rug yanked out from under your enthusiasm for crafting. My play group moved to a minecraft server for the pandemic; it’s fun enough, but doesn’t make me want to sculpt anything.
    Now that people I actually know are getting vaccines, and there is more than 5 minutes of sunlight in a day, I have pulled out my tools and greenstuff for the first time in months. For me, I can keep the motivation trickling through by imagining having a few new show ponies ready just in time to be able to see people around a table again.

    Tl;dr: I feel you, man.

  • Mary Kelly

    Spud. Well said. 2020 ate me, ripped me, lost me. Your grammar is empicable, of course. Stay well. Stay positive. Vitamin D is critical. I love you. ♥️ Molly is painting again.

  • Plarzoid

    I’m very much in a similar boat – I resonate with this mood very strongly. I haven’t posted a blog article in over a year also, but that’s because I was partially burnt out BEFORE all this happened.

    Thanks for posting, and I’m glad your injury didn’t cause any permanent damage.

    *hugs*

    We’re all waiting. Here’s hoping we don’t have to for too much longer.

  • Jaime Herazo

    Glad to see that you’re well, these times that’s not an automatic given.

    Just hang on, sooner or later this bad time will pass, and we will go back to the boards to battle, and you’ll be able to show off your work as you should 😀

  • Wirelizard

    All of this sounds very, very familiar.

    I’ve also been wandering from project to project; we were able to do some pandemic pod gaming in-person last fall (different rules out here in BC) so that helped but nothing but webcam games since November.

    I’m currently chugging through a scenery project for a contest on the Lead Adventure Forum, which has provided a badly needed bit of focus. Here’s hoping I can sustain that to actually finish the piece…

  • Nokedli

    Good to see the Catain is still fighting the good fight!
    Do whatever makes you feel good. If trying out things without necessary doing a whole project out of them is that, its cool. I for one appreciate posts of half-projects, ideas, techniques that cross your mind as well. If you feel like writing of them, that is. Its about feeling good while doing whatever, after all. Its hobby.

  • Tierlieb

    Considering the awesome shit you have done before, the turnout here is a bit underwhelming, I think.

    So, just to add in another voice: Whatever you do is fine with me. I’d probably even enjoy your observations about card games. But keep in mind: A draft or scribble from you is mighty inspiring to the rest of us.

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