Friday, November 09, 2012

Deepthought: Wisdom of the Norns

This is a hobby editorial. I went to school to become and try to make my living as a writer. Though I love the hobby, and I'd like nothing better than to sculpt all day, posting amazing things on here for all to ogle, there are times when the urge to write strikes, and I try to use these interludes to delve deeper into important parts of the hobby. I hope you find the following article interesting, and I promise to get back to posting cool models soon!

Alright. So. I've been kind of out of the world for some time, but every so often, I think about Modern Synthesist and worry that I should be getting back to it. I've been dealing with some change and uncertainty in real life, which has caused me to switch trains, slightly, and put models on the back burner as I looked for work that actually paid.

What's more, as it's a subject that relates to this article (which I wrote MONTHS ago), My Norn Queen of just over two years is no more. Well, she's still around, just not with me. That being said, she is a remarkable person and was the inspiration for this article. In the hope that there are more people out there like her, and in the hope that some people can empathize with the weird, personal stigma I felt about 40K, here is the article. Also, I'm not going to go in and change all the language to the past tense because that seems weird.


This is kind of a weird idea for an Editorial (as most of them seem to be), so please bear with me...

So I've got myself a girlfriend, and I call her my Norn Queen. She does sweet stuff for me, like giving me tickets to GD UK for my birthday last year, and then being so interested in the event that she accompanied me to it. That seems like a perfectly normal act if this were any sane, equal relationship. However, unfortunately, I am a Geek of the 40K variety, so when a girlfriend buys me tickets to Games Day, and then asks to go with me, it is an Event: something to be celebrated and screamed from the rooftops...solely because she showed an interest in my hobby.

And, because you're all like me, you're probably thinking the same thing: wow! Amazing! What a girl! How rare! does that make any sense?

Somewhere along the line, I--like I expect so many of us have--came to the conclusion that this Hobby we're into was certainly dorky and possibly reprehensible. It was something to be discussed with other people who I was sure were into the hobby, and not with anyone else. All through high school it was this way: where my Warhammer 40K hobby was my dorky black spot, and I tried to keep it from my non-hobby friends for as long as I could manage.

In University, I loosened up a little. A friend in my residence was into the GW Hobby as well, and we would, jokingly, tell our friends that we were going to the pornography store, that we were buying pornography when we headed out to the local model shop because this seemed less dorky. Eventually, it became a big joke with our uninitiated friends, and they accepted our hobby...kind of...and we never talked any more to them about it: never attempted to explain the hobby to them or show them what we were making.

I grudgingly told past girlfriends about my hobby, and they demonstrated some superficial interest, but I never really endeavoured to tell them any more about the Hobby, and they never asked much in the way of questions. This, I thought, was normal: that girlfriends and the Hobby didn't mix.

My Norn Queen finds it hilarious when I tell her these stories about being secretive when it came to my Hobby, and she gets downright confused when I tell her how previous girlfriends never showed much interest in it.

Then the other night we had an interesting discussion, wherein she postulated that, even if they weren't actually getting me down, all of these exchanges with my friends and girlfriends about "my dorky hobby" were doing nothing to alleviate my underlying feelings that this was, in some way, a deplorable thing that should be hidden.

She is one to comment. She's about as accepting as a person can get. She asks me about fluff and miniatures and weird terminology I use with other Hobby people. She cracks jokes about all the hilarious phrases we use to talk about this stuff, like Drop Pods and Deepstrike and Powerfist and how, if we took half a second to take ourselves out of the Hobby, these would all be hilariously funny pieces of ammunition for our gutter-based sense of humour. And then when I tell her that I've completed a commission, or that my dorky hobby blog has reached 10,000 hits, she does a really unique thing:

She tells me that she's proud of me. She tells me that she's amazed that I can make these things; amazed that there is this whole fantom community of people out there who know her boyfriend by the name of Mr_Pink.

And when she does things like that, well, as my father would say, it makes me feel about ten feet tall.

And when I do, I wonder if I shouldn't be reclining on a couch somewhere, in a shrink's office, telling him about how I've been repressed my whole life because my mommy and daddy never showed any interest in the monster models I was constantly playing with. I think about the time I put up Hydra's mom and younger brother, and she tried to talk about how it was weird that her son was still playing with toys.

I tried to fight back my anger enough to explain to her calmly that her son was an award-winning artist: that he was an inspiration to other artists, and that through the social power of the Net, more people knew his handle than she realized.

Moloch told me a story once about one of his friends who was a damn good hobby artist in his own right. I'd been following the guy's website for a good long while, and I was impressed by the breadth of miniature ranges he was interested in, as well as by the speed with which he could produce well-painted models. This guy was running his website like a blog long before blogs were a thing.

Anyway, he had a girlfriend who he loved, but she would tease him about his miniature hobby. It wasn't just that she showed no interest: she went out of her way to belittle him. I'm sure it was an action bred of equal parts ignorance and discomfort: out of a belief that this hobby was for children, and it was strange that her boyfriend was into it. However, instead of discussing her reservations with him like level-headed person would do, she put him down for his hobby in what I assume was some twisted attempt to scare him off it.

And what did it net her? He broke up with her because it was too much of a strain on him to have to hide the hobby he enjoyed from the woman he loved.

Now there is, of course, as in anything, a balance to be reached. If the Hobby distracts you from your significant other, and you spend all your time shut up in your workshop while she/he/it sits, bored, outside wishing that they could spend some time with you, there's a problem. If you're having any issues with your Hobby and your Significant Other co-existing, this may be the first thing to check. However, if it's the case that you provide equal time to the Hobby and the People in your life, and the People are teasing or complaining or niggling you about it, then it might be time to have a sit down.

Though my Norn Queen is wonderfully inquisitive and engaged and understanding with my hobby, there was a time when we had to talk about it. I was dedicating the majority of my free time to finishing up some units for my Haemonculus Coven commission, and she was worried that this would be the way of things from here on out: that I would come home from work, lock myself in my workshop, and not come out until it was time for us to go to bed. I had to explain to her that, though I was dedicating a lot of my time to this project now, this was, in no way, a normal workload and I was cramming in all the time I could to get the project done and out the door. Once she'd hear that, her fears were addressed, and all was fine again.

What is key about that example is that it wasn't about My Dorky Hobby. It was a very real concern related to time together that would have been the same were I out training for a triathlon or moonlighting as a vigilante crime fighter. Her concern was about the time spent away from her, and not, in any way, about the models. However, we're I feeling defensive about my self-perceived Dorky Hobby, I could have taken this as a slight, and the whole thing could have spiraled into a dark place, where I thought she was resenting the hobby while she was just wondering when we were going to get some face time.

In the end, perhaps this is what it all comes down to: that, in the case of Moloch's friend and his girlfriend, maybe the girlfriend was just worried that the guy wanted to spend more time with his models than he did with her. Perhaps this is at the root of any partner who teases their other about the Hobby: they just might be concerned that the Hobby is taking presedence over the relationship. It's definitely worth having a sit down to check if you and your Other are not seeing eye-to-eye on your toy monsters.
However, the issues of boyfriends and girlfriends accepting the hobby was only really a sub-topic I wanted to get into. My main focus was meant to be on the stigma/guilt that hobbyist may feel over their hobby. It lead me to keep this Hobby closeted for years, and only recently have I had the courage to bring it out into the light: deciding that I didn't give a damn how dorky my friends found me for doing it.

You know what I discovered? Most of my friends found it to be one of the coolest things running. I was plowing through some of the aforementioned Haemonculus cultists at a cottage, and when my friends got a look at what I was doing, they loved it. They couldn't believe I'd made them, and they thought they were phenomenal.

Least that seem like me tooting my own horn, what I want to take from it is this: I had decided that my hobby was dorky. I had decided it was reprehensible, and I kept it from people because of that. The decision to closet it away was based on very little in the way of actual proof or experience, and it has taken positive experiences like that with my Norn or my friends to set my head right after all these years.

Anyway, I'm kind of blathering now, and I'm not sure if I've brought this to a satisfactory conclusion, but the main thing I wanted to get across is this: if you enjoy your hobby, then own your hobby. So long as it's making you happy, and it's not interfering with you life or your loved ones, then it has value. If people make comments and make you feel uncomfortable about it, then why not try challenging them: try sitting down together, talking it out, and seeing if there is anything underlying their derision.

Who knows; maybe this article is completely out of date, and our post-dork work has moved on from the time when nerdy hobbies needed to be hidden away. I certainly hope so, but in case it hasn't yet, I wanted to post this article. I'll finish it off with a quotation from Simon Pegg, as he captured this far more succinctly in a paragraph than I did in the whole body of my article:

Being a geek is all about being honest about what you enjoy and not being afraid to demonstrate that affection. It means never having to play it cool about how much you like something. It's basically a license to proudly emote on a somewhat childish level rather than behave like a supposed adult. Being a geek is extremely liberating.

I'm interested to hear about other people's experiences as well. Am I the only person who suffered this Hobby Guilt for all these years? Where does our hobby guilt really come from? Do you feel it, too? Or am I the only one? Granted, what we do can be a little weird, but is it any more weird than collecting Beanie Babies or spoons or some other trinket?


  1. I posted your quote near the end there on my FB feed; it's a fantastic way to approach our hobbies. It's garnering a lot of positive support! Thanks for posting this - and don't go back into that shell. My wife of 12 years doesn't exactly "get" my hobbies (Wargaming, Magic, Roleplaying, Larping) she is very supportive and understands it's my way of escaping from the real world for a time. Hang in there buddy!

  2. My wife has had a few jokes at my expense since I fell off the wagon and back into gaming but when I had to give up doing kendo due to injury and joined my local gaming club to fill the void she's been really supportive. In fact she's been more supportive of my gaming than a bonafide martial art that I was actually good at, kept me fit and I was a key member of my local dojo. Since then she's even posted my models on Facebook and been happy with me spending three nights away for a recent Throne of Skulls tournament.

    She's proud of me now and that's allowed me to not hide it on facebook as I used to. It too was a dark secret for me and I'm coming out of that shadow. good luck finding a new Norn Queen and you should be proud of your efforts, your Tyranid Defence Line encouraged me to make my own, with limited sculpting skills, and I've received only admiring comments since then. If you're interested it's on

  3. Dwez, your defence line is brilliant, been watching your blog for a few weeks after finding it through faeit 212 (same way I found this place.)

    Mr pink, that sucks, but at least it sounds like the break up was amicable? You don't sound like you have lost a friend as well as a partner?

    As to the stigma of the hobby, my gf I met through roleplaying at uni anyhow, so she was (and is still) a nerd, she stopped with the gaming and rp to devote more time to her writing career, which is something I have tried to support her with (feeding and providing cups of tea when she is off in her own world.) recently she has been having to support me more due to ill health, but that's what a relationship should be, a partnership with love and passion.

    But you do still encounter prejudice against wargaming, I paint models often at work on my lunch breaks, and my colleagues flat out don't get it, then again if I lived my life by how others thought I should live it, I'd imagine I'd be pretty miserable now....

    Wow, sorry for the wall of text, but just to finish, glad you are back Mr pink!

  4. Kids! You are fantastic! Thank you so much. I'm sorry that I didn't respond to these fantastic replies immediately (as i had withdrawn into the RL shell).

    It is great to hear these positive stories about significant others embracing the hobby. It is one of the best feelings in the world when you've spent years thinking your passion was reprehensible. Aformentioned Norn really was the model of how you'd want an accepting girlfriend to be, so much so that when I said things like "oh, my hobby: it's nothing..." she would take the initiative and big it up to people.

    The break-up was certainly as amicable as such things can be, and it was in no way hobby related.

    Anyway, one of my most entertaining exchanges with a girlfriend about the hobby was the following:

    Pink: "I play warhammer 40k."
    Norn: "Is that the future one?"
    Pink: "Yes."
    Norn: "Well that's lame..."
    Pink: "Errr-um--"
    Norn: "You should be playing the far cooler one with the wizards and elves and bow-and-arrows!"
    Pink: "{gobsmacked} You mean Fantasy Battle?"
    Norn: "YEAH! That one! It's awesome."


  5. Thanks so much for writing this - I've really struggled with the hobby and feelings of guilt surrounding it. I'm kinda petrified my family will find out I've gotten back collecting 'nids again.

    I had worried about how I was ever going to find somebody who'd accept what I do, but you've given me confidence, I've just got to own it :)

  6. Jesse,

    It's tough because it's mostly a question of confidence. There were times in my life when I felt really ashamed of my hobby, but as I got older, I began to care less and less what other people thought, while simultaneously putting more and more value into how I thought and felt about it. I have been very blessed to have since married a woman who is ridiculously supportive of my hobby, and encouraging, and actually goes out of her way to brag about it to her friends.

    I don't think that everyone can be that lucky, but I can say that everyone should have the right to be with someone who accepts all parts of them, whether they fully understand those parts or not.

    Anyway. Thank you for your comment. This is one my favourite pieces I've ever written on this blog, so I'm really glad it spoke to you :)