Beating the hobby burnout - what keeps you motivated?

Ahhh the sun has emerged in Blighty and my Smarch hibernation is at an end. Thankfully, April has already been a good month for gaming, last weekend I GM'd a new Old West RPG campaign which saw Scipio play an inebriate. I'm not going to comment on how much of a stretch that might be.

"Lousy Smarch weather..."
That said, following the proper tradition, my New Year's Resolutions have been roundly forgotten, pushed to the back of the drawer like that slightly awkward Christmas jumper with your aunty's face on that she decided would be an appropriate gift. 

This was mostly meant to be an "I'm-still-here-and-I'm-blogging-(honest)" post, and a "sorry-I've-not-been-online-at-all-and-commented-on-your-wonderful-blogs". I've got a lot of catching up to do. 

I've been musing about about this hobby lark lately, and particularly the phenomenon of "burnout" - and consider a few ways to prevent or minimise it.

A bit of burnout

I've managed to have my annual burnout a bit too early and I've not even managed to get much done leading up to it. A six week break from doing pretty much anything wargames related, bar painting the scratchbuilt TARDIS definitely helped.

Obligatory stock image. If only I could juggle.
I had reached what I like to call Critical Project Mass. I theorised that juggling several small projects (see stock image) would keep things fresh. It backfired horrifically. Instead I end up not knowing which project to start with and getting nowhere.

Now, Scipio is a prolific painter and can finish projects in the blink of an eye. And that's only partly because he can often paint at work (git). He's so well organised that he would make the Prussians look like a bloody shambles. Sadly, no matter how hard I try I can't be that organised and I can't keep up, and instead leave swathes of half-finished projects in his wake. Rather than just throwing in the towel, I started thinking what I could do differently. 

Organise your hobby space and get the Right tools

Many of us do not have the room for a dedicated wargaming area, even just for painting or model building etc. The small desk I do have for this purpose is littered with finished models, half-finished models, and models still on sprues. Although I have a reasonably organised bitz box, and my terrain building stuff is vaguely organised my paints are chucked into one box and my paintbrushes old and new are in one pot. This has annoyed me for a while. 

I've always said that taking the time to invest in the right tools, even cheap ones, makes a HUGE difference to he final product. They definitely helped my terrain building. Similarly, just buying a cheap palette is what allowed me to make half-decent progress in improving my painting.

So, with both of these points in mind, I've ordered one of these from HobbyZone... a HobbyZone Professional Paint Station (despite being of firmly amateur status).

The HobbyZone Professional Paint Station, image courtesy of Chest of Colors
At only £25, I don't think you can complain about what you get for your money. I'll do a quick a review when it arrives, but Chest of Colors already has this superb review already. Sounds spot on.

As the photo shows, this allows just the right level of organisation for me, from paints, powders, water pots, brushes and other tools - why didn't I get this before. It also allows a clear hobby space.

Put miniatures away. One project on the table at a time
Perhaps a bigger obstacle is the fact that my desk is filled with miniatures. Not only does this make painting impractical as there is physically little space, but there's also a constant reminder of how much stuff I have to build, convert and paint. It also means the finished work gets lost in the mass and you don't really get the sense of achievement you should. There's still the same amount of miniatures as there were before.

Solution: Bite the bullet and buy carry cases. Sort the unfinished from the finished and have no more than 5 miniatures on the table at once. Nothing else goes on the table till they're finished.

It's not work

This is a hobby. This is a hobby. This is a hobby.  A very useful mantra I find, and one that I'm going to start saying even more. As a hobby it's how we choose to spend much of our (often sparse) free time. It's meant to be fun. If it's not fun, then it's not a hobby. I'm not saying it should be easy, I think almost all of us love the challenges we get from our chosen pastime, but that's the point - it should be enjoyable. If it's starting to feel like a chore, put it down and go back to it later.

Do what you enjoy

Bloody fun to build.. Like hobbies should be.
I loved the terrain building that I did for Necromunda, and was pretty pleased with the results despite the fact it was a rush job. The same with the scratchbuilt TARDIS. I worked on that almost every night for over a week without anyone needing to kick me up the arse. So why I haven't I done more terrain building if I enjoy it so much? Well, I'm going to do more now. 
Although it's a social hobby, most of us still spend more time building, painting etc. than actually gaming. That is as much the hobby as the gaming.

Remember why you do it

There's a reason why all of us got into this and more importantly why we carry on doing it. Personally, I love the creative outlet (I realise I'm bordering on sounding like a self help book). So why do anything that doesn't fit that reason.
Do something new

My "something new" for a rainy day
I realise that this might seem counter-productive, but sometimes doing something completely different can kickstart the old hobby mojo again (I realise that sounds like a bit of a euphemism). If you're really not getting anywhere with a project, do what you can with it and then put it away for later. And then start something completely different, have painting burnout - do some converting. Have 40k burnout, try Infinity perhaps. Tired of painting vikings? Try some 20th century stuff. 

Over to you

So how do you keep motivated? How do you stop the burnout and keep things fresh? Comments on a postcard! (or in the designated comments section below I suppose).

Next time on DYHAF...

Part 2 of Freeway Fighter will be up next Thursday and will continue until the character snuffs it or I actually manage to complete the book. I have a feeling I know which will happen first.


  1. Replies
    1. Honestly, I don't know anyone called Ray, but this still seems like a good technique.

    2. Haha, I think I'd personally consider those more distractions than anything Fran

  2. I've been thinking about this myself really - I may try and find the time for a full blog post on the subject!

    1. Oooh, look forward to reading it when it's up!

    2. I ended up procrastinating on getting painting done over the Easter weekend by scheduling a massive pile of blog posts... This one might be a while! :)

    3. Haha, well I think that's acceptable, it's definitely productive... :)

  3. I have always found my motivation stems from the games I am currently enjoying, so if the gameplay is fun and enjoyable, then I want to be painting figures for that game or making terrain for it. I don't think I suffer from 'Burnout' as such, but if I have a negative gaming experience, that can see me switch tack in what is on my painting table!

    1. Thanks very much for the comment Scott. That sounds spot on, and I'd say I'm pretty similar in those regards. Our gaming group has a bit of an unofficial game of the month (or of the quarter) so this generally impacts what I'm focusing on. It can be detrimental sometimes as the consensus can move on while I was in the middle of one thing and then feel like I have to make a start on the other. I think one thing I'm going to start doing is just finish what I was doing regardless.

  4. Other people's Blogs, their painting, games and ides...

    1. Thanks vey much Al, there's definitely been plenty of times where seeing superb stuff on everyone's blogs has given me a kick up the arse to get on with similar stuff

  5. The biggest thing that keeps me going is everyone else's blogs. I only play a handful of times a year, so it's not the actual gaming. Oh, and I never have more than 2 projects on my table at a time. I may have 4-5 open projects, but I put them away and only work on 2. Helps keeps me focused a bit, without having the feeling that I'm being buried by all the crap on my desk.

    1. Like Argos, I only play very very rarely, so yes: I like to game vicariously through the blogs of others. Living in rural isolation with a young family and a busy job does at least gives me an excuse...

    2. Thanks very much for the comments chaps. I'm lucky in that I get a few games in semi-regularly. I'm liking that approach Argos, a bit of a limit on the open projects and having them put away to only work on 1 or 2. I think I'm starting to see a way forward here, ta very much!

  6. For me it always helps to have variation. So I paint something for WWII, then it is Napoleonics. If I need to keep painting in one era I do at least try to have some variety there. So one unit will be Prussians, the next French. For me this helps! Plus I always find it best to do small batches. That way you see a finished product fast and will have your satisfaction more often.

    1. Thanks very much for the comment.

      That definitely sounds like the way forward. I think I'm going to make a conscious effort to do that, after clearing the desk and only working on a small batch at a time - I'll try and do something different each time. That sounds like it could actually work with my approach - thanks very much!

  7. Al has a good point, other people's blogs are a big inspiration. Personally, although I of course see this as a hobby, setting myself deadlines via the blog helps motivate me.

    Looking forward to the next part of Freeway Fighter - and of course getting drunk to play some RPGs.

    1. Definitely true, my preferred mode of inspiration is "last minute panic." That said the results are usually a little more rushed than I'd like and never quite as good as I feel I could have managed so I'm trying to avoid doing that, whilst still trying to avoid feeling like I'm on a schedule and HAVE to do it.

      That said I'm trying the deadline approach and giving myself slightly broader deadlines to try and balance this out

  8. Looking forward to Part Two.

    I think five things help my to refloat my mojo when it begins to take on water:
    1) The blogs of others;
    2) Not having dedicated hobby space as it all needs to be packed away in our tiny cottage (this does come with the embuggerment that I have to actually drag everything out before sitting down to painting);
    3) Side projects - like many of us, evidently;
    4) Painting stuff for other folks (usually Zzzzzz) - the loose sense of obligation helps, and
    5) Not having a TV. We get DVDs from lovefilm and if it's a boxset that Mrs Drax doesn't fancy (Game of Thrones; Battlestar Gallactica etc.) I watch it on my own in my 'Chris Time'. As 'Chris Time' is usually between midnight and 1am (after work/before bed) that gives me about an hour-ish. That's time enough to unpack hobby stuff, make a brew, watch 50 minutes of Sci-Fi and do some painting. Then I pack up again and go to bed...

    ...unless it's a cliffhanger. Then I'll get more painting done (yay) but crawl up to bed at 2am (boo) and have only four hours' kip.

    Still: I've got some painting done - yay!

    1. Ta muchly for the comment sir, some very good points there.

      Part 5 sounds very much like how most of my painting gets done (and the same DVDs) - although I couldn't paint after 1am, I could just about manage to dunk minis in paint at that time of day. That aside though, my most productive time of day is usually 5am to mid morning, maybe I should start painting more then.

      And side projects seems to be recurring theme, I'm wary of adding on too many now personally, that said it's always going to happen. I think there's something magpie like about most of us wargamers...

      Painting stuff for others (even Zzzzz) seems like a good idea, I've been given asked if I'd do a commission or two recently (one painting, one scratch building) but I think by the time I'd finished those I'd have run out of painting mojo by the time I get round to my stuff...

  9. Honestly, I have no great solutions, Kieran! I think we all get jaded from time to time. For me, the problem usually starts when work/family/home life intervenes and I spend time away from the hobby, paints, figures or the club. It's almost as if its a question of "out of sight, out of mind". Once I spend more time painting, gaming or whatever, the motivation seems to come back.

    I guess if I have one pearl of wisdom its to say that actually finishing PART of a project (which you've thought of as a discrete part of the whole) is a great motivator, even if you can't finish the whole project.

    But, above all, old chap, don't be too hard on yourself. It's a hobby and its fun. Never think anyone's judging you about your project completion rate, figure painting tally or quality or what not. They're not. We're just very happy to have you with us on the hobby bus, wherever we're heading!!!

    1. Except for me... I'm always watching.

      ^ In all seriousness, a very eloquent summing up of what I was trying to say.

    2. Thank you very much for a rather thoughtful comment. I think your first post sums it up perfectly, Real Life as it were has a habit of digging into time. I find I'm the same though, once I get stuck into something the motivation usually rushes back. Well, rushes might be overstating it.

      That's a great bit of advice, ta very much sir. It rings true, I do tend to get projects part done rather than doing nothing at all. But then I get annoyed at myself for not finishing them - but as you say it's just a hobby. Very kind of you

  10. I read an interesting post on this topic a whileback. a suggestion there was to put a shelf above your work space at eye height fit some finished minis. That way every time you look up you get a sense of achievement. You need to swap out your minis as you finish new ones other wise you just create another messy storage issue.

    1. That's a brilliant idea, and that's always been a long term goal I suppose - have somewhere I can display the completed miniatures. That's always a plus on the motivation front.

  11. (I can juggle – just the basics, but enough to wow those uninitiated. [It’s a lot simpler than one would otherwise realize.])

    Hobby burnout is a constant threat in my house. The main reason I’ve decided to not take on any more commissions is because I find little enjoyment in doing this “hobby” for bartered goods or money and so struggle to feel motivated to work on them from the outset.

    I too believe that the best way to keep one motivated is to keep only one project out at a time and a small one, or a small part of a bigger project. Seeing so many unfinished/primed models otherwise is just daunting to the effect of hobby suicide for me.

    I also have a lot of small side-projects that I can just jump on when a current project seems to feel like a chore. That way I can change up colours/medium/topic to keep the urge to work on a higher gear.

    Good to see you post Kieran, I look forward to seeing how our intrepid Road Warrior is faring!

    1. Ta very much Dai, and the Road Warrior shall be back after his MOT shortly.

      Agree with everything you have said 100%. The key here (for me at least) is definitely to have what I'm not working out of sight (and out of mind), and to have those small side projects to keep things fresh,

  12. Organised hobby space ?!?!? One project at a time ?!?!? BWAHAHAHAHA

    {zooms of on hovering chair, avoiding the blue hedgehog....}

    Seriously, I rely on others for mojo. An encouraging message on the blog, a cuppa with Karitas on the way home, finding out that bloggers are accessible IRL and just lately, my master list that I will update and publish quarterly - mostly to keep Scipio from hunting me down.

    1. Hahaha, I know ridiculous suggestions aren' t they...

      Well said sir, all definitely good things that make this blogging lark worthwhile too. Ahhh, the last thing you want is to be hunted by Scipio...


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