Quest for Bricks is now hibernating.
When I started this blog on March 10, 2012 – exactly 1 year and 6 months ago from today, September 10, 2013 – originally by the name of Quest for Castle, my goal was to simply build (to pass onto my son) and report on the building of the 6080 King’s Castle. It quickly became apparent, though, that there would be more to re-learning LEGO than just one castle. In August 2012 I expanded and added another quest, to build the 7740 Inter-City Passenger Train, and opening the blog up for other LEGO topics under the new banner of Quest for Bricks – such as the LEGOLAND Billund reports that have cropped up almost as a “third quest”. Nevertheless, the goal has always been on finishing the quest(s) and after that seeing what comes next.
I am happy to report all my goals have now been reached. It took me at least six to nine months longer than anticipated, but that turned out to be a vital part of the learning process. Now it is a good time to look back and take stock. Indeed, I have learned a lot. I won’t try to go through all the lessons I learned about building LEGO here, although they have been many, for those may I suggest reading the finishing posts of my Quest for Lion Knights’ castle and Quest for Inter-City train: Castle stands (down) and Train rolls (into sunset) respectively. There was also An Unexpected Journey…
I have also written three commentaries that shed some more light on the lessons learned: The best part, so far, Why do adults build LEGO? and One year in. Now, as I stand at the end of the journey that has been my AFOL initiation, I have some further thoughts along those paths.
I think a successful AFOL hobby comes down to three keys:
First key is time. Looking back at the past year and a half, I can see sporadic springs and a fall, with greater blimps of posting activity during the summer and, on smaller scale, around Christmas time. It is obvious that holidays provide most opportunities for not only building, but also acquiring and experiencing LEGO. Indeed, I have found it harder to find time for actual building (and then photographing) LEGO, than writing about it.
It doesn’t take much to sit on the corner of the couch and write some, even research the Internet. But taking that time to sit down, set up, build and then, for the sake of the blog and the family album and what not, take photographs… that requires both time and opportunity not so easily afforded by the everyday life as an adult and a parent. Even if we ignore the photography and blogging part, which isn’t mandatory of course (but does provide additional motivation), it can be hard to find the time. It isn’t surprising that I mostly build with my son, it is simply easier to find the time and the place for that – obviously those are precious moments that one wants to make time for, but they also come most naturally.
Second key is place. During my AFOL initiation I have lacked a proper building place, which has increased the time requirement and added to the procrastination. I didn’t have a building table where I could leave my projects unattended, let alone even dream of a LEGO room with shelves of organized parts. And without a proper place, there was no point in trying to organize the parts either. Reality all through the quests remained assorted plastic bags and cardboard boxes littered around the home, having to setup shop somewhere every time I wanted to build. Same goes for photography, it was necessary to go through all the setup (both scene and camera-wise) again every time.
Considering me building by myself, I think place is even more important than time, because with place, you’ll simply find time easier. But without place, you could have all the time in the world and still not get much done, because it is just too hard to get going. I think for much of the quests I liked the research and the idea of building more than I actually enjoyed the build itself, because due to lack of both time and place, most building has taken place in somewhat inopportune situations – late at night, squeezing onto a table littered with stuff from other family members, half the bricks packed away somewhere hard to reach.
Then there have been many moments when I would have loved to build, but it hasn’t been realistic. Only on a few wonderful occasions has opportunity aligned with my realities and motivations. I think whatever the future may hold for me, LEGO/AFOL wise, I will do myself the favor of not pursuing anything new until I have a better place for it. I think having more time for a hobby is useful too, but most importantly I think I have been missing having a proper setup for the hobby at home. Whatever the hobby, having the setup for easily getting into the hobby in those spare moments, is paramount. If it’s too bothersome, it either doesn’t get done or even worse, isn’t enjoyed.
Third key is seems to be focus. Once you have your time and place sorted out, I have found it important to know what to do and, equally, what not to do. While my AFOL initiation started out with a very narrow focus, it has since – quite understandably, I hope – splintered into all kinds of directions that have tickled my fancy at some point. Every time I learn something new about (in this case) LEGO, it opens up a new avenue towards something potentially interesting and entertaining. Add to this the fact that a major part of my LEGO building is shared with my son and dictated by his interests, no wonder I find it a little hard to find a coherent narrative from the past year and a half of this blog. I have been all over the place and I know it.
This blog, like my AFOL hobby, has been about all sorts of things. Some LEGO history, some AFOL glossary, modern LEGO sets from random themes, visits to token LEGO related locations, plus the two quests trying to keep their heads afloat amidst all the bric-a-brac. As is, it would be very hard to define the purpose of this blog – and that of my hobby – were it not for the convenient fact that it can be explained away as my AFOL rites of passage. Indeed, if there is any overall value in the content of this blog (beyond that of individual articles that may of course offer separate value), it must be the story of finding ones way, practically and mentally, as an AFOL who is also a parent of an avid LEGO builder. It has been a true story.
So, focus, then. I would say it is as important as time and place, if not more so, because focus dictates how much time and place you need for the hobby. If I keep up my unfocused ways, best highlighted by the parts acquisitions in the Taking stock story, I will simply fill up all that time and place – making enjoyment of the hobby harder. In part this is as simple as the realization in the Fortune favors fools post: understanding the need research part acquisitions and being very specific when implementing them, for example.
But focus does go beyond that. Most of the successful AFOL hobbyists and hobbyist resources seem to focus on one task and doing that one task well. Even with all the time and place in the world, I can’t do everything LEGO related, even if I didn’t blog about it at all. With focus comes synergies. Things become easier when your efforts are geared towards improving that one thing, be it through better facilities, skills or simply a growing sense of accomplishment and a sense of purpose.
Sure, I could for example decide to do a generalist LEGO blog and join the LEGO mainstream discussion (and I guess there could be some great fun in that, because I enjoy LEGO and blogging), but even such a hobby would be different compared to what I have now – the quests for example wouldn’t fit in with that concept, nor would the decidedly random looks at other things LEGO I have done so far. A general LEGO blog would actually have to become general. Focus can be wide or it can be narrow, but just like for companies, for serious hobbyists – beyond casual dabblers – focus is absolutely necessary.
There’s more to focus, still, though. With focus comes also a sense of community. I noticed this early on with my Quest for Lion Knights’ castle, I received some great encouragement and advice from Eurobricks.com and Classic-Castle.com LEGO Castle enthusiasts for my project. But as my hobby diversified, it also began to steer away from particular LEGO sub-communities and clearly it became harder to share what I was doing and get some encouraging feedback going.
I know there have been a few people really fond of the whole journey (you know who you are, your support is greatly appreciated!), but there are a lot more people who have found certain parts of it resonating and others not at all. For example, had I picked just Castle or just Trains, it would have been far easier to find a community – and with community comes not just an audience, but all sorts of great advisers, motivators and inspirations.
Time, place, focus.
In my article Why do adults build LEGO?, I listed some potential focuses for AFOLs, and expanded on these in So, what’s after next?. Whatever my AFOL future could be, I don’t know yet. What I can do is name things that have crossed my mind over the past year and a half. One aspect is continuing with the LEGO history. There are mini-quests I have thought of doing, such as some more LEGO Town Plan sets from the 1960s or maybe a FABULAND Hospital (I should have parts for these), including all the research necessary to make the most of such small trips to the past. On the other hand, I do realize I have just completed two large “historical” re-builds, doing more of the same probably wouldn’t have that same depth. These have just been thoughts. Of course, there are a lot more ways to explore LEGO history than just these kinds of quests. (See LEGO Collectors Guide for more on LEGO history.)
Second idea has been MOCcing as an artform – or as miniature model-making. Visit any major LEGO website and you’ll be amazed by all the great MOCs people do, from functional pieces to trains traveling through walls to massive displays of armies to reproductions of famous events. Or go to LEGOLAND’s Miniland and admire the architecture and the art of building to scale there, how cool would it be to build your own house to that scale, for example. Heck, even the store-bought LEGO Architecture series can be inspiring, when you start thinking about all the other things you could replicate with LEGO, like in the book LEGO for grown ups – Brick City. Beyond LEGO Architecture and the like, there is actually a whole world of microscale LEGO that could be intriguing (and most importantly, logistically realistic) to pursue.
I can see how finding your own niche, whatever that might be, and building MOCs to be displayed prominently at home, or at LUG meetings or online could be immensely satisfying. Also related to MOCcing is LEGO technique, e.g. researching new building styles and tricks, how to best dismantle minifigures/keyrings, or maybe how LEGO motors work. Speaking of motors, third angle is the technology of it all. Be it something as simple as Power Functions and thinking about powering the portcullis in 6080 King’s Castle, or trying one’s luck in Great Ball Contraptions, to elaborate artificial intelligence robotics on the up-coming Mindstorms EV3 platform, I have certainly thought of many things. Building things with LEGO Technic, Power Functions and/or Mindstorms that actually do things, does seem inviting too.
Finally, my son is growing up towards his LEGO prime and I expect to be able to spend a lot more time building LEGO over the next few years. I have always loved this aspect of LEGO, ever since he didn’t know anything beyond putting LEGO Baby blocks into his mouth. And it has been great sharing LEGOLAND over the past two summers, for example. Maybe it would be possible to combine my son’s LEGO interests and my own AFOL curiosities and share even more through those interactions. But we shall see how this goes. Who knows, maybe he decides to forget about LEGO next year – and that’s okay too. Before that, though, we still have a 6080 King’s Castle to build together this Christmas… One day, at the very least, I hope to share the story in this blog with him, let him read it if nothing else. This was the main point.
As for me, I’m going to forget about LEGO for a while, at least until next time we build with my son. I have posted all the blog stories I have experienced so far – all 196 of them. There are none more cooking, for now at least. It is time for that hibernation I said I’d embark on after the completion of the quests, at least until if I come across something worthy of reporting again and I am setup to handle the logistical requirements of an on-going AFOL hobby. In the meanwhile, I intend to keep popping in at places like Eurobricks.com and Classic-Castle.com and in the comments here, to see what’s cooking. Don’t be a stranger, I for one don’t intend to be.
Thank you for following and sharing in the journey with me. I hope the story of my AFOL initiation, in its completed form, will continue to interest a few new readers in the future as well – irrespective of whatever new turns my AFOL interest might or might not take later.
Upwards and onwards!