Sunday, February 21, 2010

Hobbies And Work

GP38-2 #3021 switches a scratchbuilt
wood grain elevator at Turney.

A Canadian model railroad manufacturer is looking for a "full-time train guy" to work in customer service. The job entails dealing with customers, fixing trains and traveling to train shows. For a model railroader, it sounds like a dream job—get paid for doing your hobby!

Or maybe not. At least, that was my experience. Back in the 1990s I scratchbuilt a couple of wooden grain elevators for my layout. Later, I made one for a friend as a gift. Some local model railroaders who saw them asked me to make some for them--for money. So did a local hobby shop. Foolishly, I agreed.

Why was it foolish? Until that point, making grain elevators was fun. It was something I did in my leisure time. It was a way to relax. There were no deadlines; it would be done when it was done.

But now it became a job. And, like any job, it had deadlines. The people who ordered them were not just my friends; they were now my customers. And customers want to know: "When will my elevator be done?" The pressure was on.

I started making grain elevators as a way to escape the pressures of life—not add to them. But now, instead of looking forward to building the structures, I dreaded and resented it: It was one more thing that had to be done this week or that night.

After filling my contracts, I vowed to never again make anything model railroad-related for friends for money. Help someone with their layout? Absolutely. Build a structure as a gift? You bet. But do it for cash? No way.

Some people manage the transition from hobby to work successfully; all the power to them, I say. But, for me, hobbies and work don’t mix, and I intend to keep it that way.

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