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Written by Paul D. Race for Breakthrough CommunicationsTM

When you begin to learn a craft or hobby, getting accurate information that is written at an appropriate level can be difficult. You may wade through magazines and books, understanding only a tenth of what you read, because the rest assumes that you already know the "basics." Experience dabbling in many hobbies leads me to believe that every field can stand more information that "fills in the gaps" for beginners. This is especially true of internet hobby sites, many of which are either so shallow as to be almost worthless or so project-specific that they don't apply to 95% of beginners anyway.

Every hobbyist unconsciously brings skills and knowledge to each project that someone from a different background may not posess. That's one reason that the web sites that Breakthrough CommunicationsTM supports go into so much hands-on detail in articles covering what some would consider "simple topics." We never know for sure where our readers are coming from, and what prerequisite skills they bring.

As an example, our sites try to show how to do projects with tools that most folks already own and have a fair idea of how to use. But I still catch myself assuming knowledge that might not be there. Recently, I was soldering some light fixtures for an article, and it occurred to me that, many of my readers may never have held a soldering iron. Duh. Typically, when we publish an article on a topic so "simple," a few readers think I'm insulting their intelligence, and a much larger group thanks us for explaining something that no one else has taken time to "walk them through."

You Have Important Skills

No matter how new you are to a craft or hobby, you bring skills you take for granted but not everybody has. And chances are you have already done projects that you think are easy, that seem completely beyond the reach of other folks who came into the field from a different background. If you're inclined to share your ideas and successes, you'll discover that hobbies are most fun when they are community activities, in which we can all grow together.

So what if you're not much of a writer or a photographer? Everyone reading this note today can take useful photographs with a digital camera and keep a list of steps the next time they start a project.

What if half or two thirds of your projects don't work out? That's fine, too: several of our articles describe the disasters as well as the successes, and even the disasters encourage folks to "take a stab at it." They figure that if anyone who makes as many mistakes as we do can complete such a project, they can do it, too, and probably better.

Everybody Benefits

  • Growing your hobby benefits you and your fellow hobbyists, because a growing hobby attracts additional resources that will help you in the long run.

  • If you are a member of a local hobby club, posting quality how-to articles will increase folks' sense of community, and help newcomers realize how helpful your club can be.

  • If you have a commercial web site, the best way to bring "organic" hits and get crosslinked from other sites is by providing free, quality content.

  • In some cases you can earn a few dollars for your work, especially from magazines or subscription-based internet sites related to your hobby.

  • If you sell a service, publishing "how-to" articles related to that service will give you credibility and attract clients. Yes, you may lose a few jobs if your readers use your guidance to do simple tasks themselves. But building a reputation as an expert in your field will increase the likelihood that folks will come to you with the really big jobs.

  • Finally, you become a better communicator. Learning to organize your thoughts on paper helps you whenever you need to write or speak, regardless of the subject. In fact, a few of my contributors who started out sending me lists and photographs paid close attention to what I was doing with their materials, and they're now sending me articles that are 80-90% ready for publication when I get them.

The following articles in this series contain tips for anyone who wants to help others in their hobby by passing on your own successes or near-successes or not-even-close-to-successes . . . .

Note About Writing for the Web

I am a writer, not a marketeer. So I'm used to publishing information that people need, in the most understandable and useful form possible. Unfortunately, the vast majority of books published about "Writing for the Web" are all about how you can make loads of money if you post a lot of "zingy" hype on your site. As far as I can tell, the only guaranteed way to get rich quick this way is to sell a lot of hype-filled books that tell other people how to get rich quick.

The articles listed above, have a few links to books about writing and photography. But I wanted to warn you in advance that even some of the best books about writing for the web have "get rich quick" hype embedded somewhere in the pages. The truth is that editing any truly useful resource (be it web or print) on any hobby is a labor of love. If you love your hobby and you'd like to see it grow, and you know how to do anything worth passing on, this is a good way to give back and to encourage the "next generation" of hobbyists.


Not long ago, I published a "blog-like article" called "Pay No Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain," which describes both the pitfalls and the advantages of sharing creative "secrets" with others. The short version is that, in spite of the pitfalls, your own creativity benefits when you take part in creative activities and communicate what you've learned to others. What can you try? What can you teach? How can you benefit the hobbies and communities that have benefited you in the past? (And keep in mind that you REALLY learn a subject when you try to explain it to the next person).

Looking forward to your suggestions, additions, criticisms, and anything else you care to send me, I remain,

Paul Race

Breakthrough Communications

P.S. Enjoy your hobbies. And be sure to enjoy any time you have with your family in the coming weeks.

Note: Breakthrough CommunicationsTM, Family Garden TrainsTM, Garden Train StoreTM, Big Christmas TrainsTM, BIG Indoor TrainsTM, BIG Train StoreTM, and Trains-N-TownsTM are trademarks of Breakthrough Communications ( All information, data, text, and illustrations on this web site are Copyright (c) 1995, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 by Paul D. Race. Reuse or republication without prior written permission is specifically forbidden.

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