Here at CE we’ve looked at hobbies before. Most notably, we often look at book collecting which may be the first modern hobby, though we do it tangentially by mentioning pretty books. We also looked at stamp collecting which, in the 20th century, might have been the most popular hobby of all.
One thing I’ve found many traditional hobbies to have in common is that the age of the people who practice them has been creeping up to the point that one of the biggest challenges the organizing bodies (wherever organizing bodies are found) is to get younger enthusiasts involved or risk disappearing.
Book collections and, to a lesser extent, stamp collections, have academic value and are often absorbed by institutions, but other hobbies are at risk.
A good case in point might be scale modeling. It’s a kid’s pastime, right?
Nope. Not anymore, at least. Most practitioners are adults with a perfectionist streak, a passion for detail work and access to serious tools, all of which become obvious when you pick up any publication dedicated to the activity.
I recently picked up an issue of Scale Auto Modeler (August 2004) and read through it. Though I’m not detail oriented enough to ever consider entering a model in a contest, I enjoy building a scale car every now and then, and I’m good enough at it that my non-modeling acquaintances think they’re store-bought expensive handbuilts (the secret is, of course, shiny paint).
So I loved reading this one, but I see where a novice would be scared away (I always shake my head that, to get decent results at a contest level, you need both proficiency with an airbrush and a reliable source of compressed air, both of which can be daunting for someone who just wants to build a little car). I also notice (see the cover) that the subjects most admired by the target audience (I assume that the editors know what they’re doing and that the magazine is adequately targeted) tend to classic vehicles as opposed to more modern expressions.
There’s a good and a bad side to this aging of the customer base. On one hand, older consumers are wealthier, and the hobby does seem to be in robust good health, with truly expensive kits dominating the landscape. On the other hand, of course, model builders aren’t getting any younger.
I imagine a lot of “crafty” pursuits are in a similar situation as the current generation spends more time immersed in intangible virtual worlds and wonder if they will ever make it out. If you’ve read my novel Outside, then you know one way I think it could end. There are other takes.
Anyway, for a writer, it’s all grist for the mill. There are countless story ideas in these situations. I just need to make time to write them all.
Gustavo Bondoni is a novelist and short story writer. Outside, mentioned above is a novel of both warning and hope. You can check it out here.