20 July 2021: Work on the Zine Commences

As of today, work on the zine commences. I wanted to start with a foundational issue of Breathing Room, detailing my take on minimalism. What people have been asking for is 7 Years in Finland. Which, again, is about life in Finland but more about shifting perspectives and considering different possibilities. It uses the compare-and-contrast of the US versus Finland as the context to explore ideas.

Work on the Zine Commences

I have a list of topics that I want to discuss. This includes, in no order, food, clothing, shelter, education, junk mail, health care, children, toilets, doorknobs, dishracks, buses, taxis, the letter X, salmiakki, coffee, chocolate, hotels, rental cars, taxes, tipping, shoes, hooks (for bags), grocery bags, pharma ads, lawyer ads, first floor, car horns, homelessness, and portion sizes.

I also have a list of points that I want to make. What I’m doing today is dumping all of these into a new Scrivener file. Then I’m going to map which topics best serve to illustrate a particular point. After that’s all sorted out, I’ll begin outlining. This is to ensure that I’m actually able to make a cogent point with the topic selected. When all that is done, writing will begin. When I’ve got enough content to fill 32 pages, I’ll set it aside for a few days before the editing process starts.

Today, though, is about pounding out the rough shape of the thing. Once I had a clear picture of what’s going to be involved, I can set realistic deadlines. Then I can fit it in with the rest of my work flows, and have a better idea of how long it will take to complete. There are still other issues I need to work out, like whether I want to do this is a Kickstarter, and how I’m going to get this printed and distributed. Creation first, though. Production concerns later.

Remembrance of Zines Past

Having announced a new series of zines, I feel the need to address past zines. As a reader, you likely want some reassurance that I won’t repeat past sins, real or imagined. This remembrance of zines past is me confronting why I wasn’t as successful with my previous endeavors in this medium.

Remembrance of Zines Past

My last zine was an ambitious effort. It ran for 5 consecutive monthly issues before I burned out. There were two key problems. The first was that the page count was too high. Writing and editing a zine that large was doable, but it was a strain. It was cutting into other project that paid the bills.

The new run is capped at 32 pages, with 24 likely to be more typical. That’s fairly typical for modern zines. I’m also setting expectations that I might skip a month now and then, for the sake of both the quality of the zine and my mental health.

That issue was, directly, my mental health. The things I wrote about in that zine were things that enraged me. News stories that I felt didn’t get enough attention. Cultural dysfunction that no one seemed to notice, or care about. Due to the page count, I found myself immersed in sorrow and woe. It was depressing, and put me into a downward spiral. I could not do that any more.

When I said the new zines would focus on minimalism, it’s because I believe it’s a philosophy that can solve a lot of problem. I describe it as a path to inner peace, and I’m certainly not going to get stressed discussing calm, kindness, and beauty. While I do also frame minimalism as a mechanism of defiance, that’s empowering to me; I have a means to exercise control over my life, in a world that constantly works to steal away my agency.

A Matter of Motivation

In short, my previous zine efforts were me screaming at the horrible things in the world. They were expressions of frustration, because things were terrible and nothing was making sense. I know that other people shared my feelings, but I remain surprised that anyone read essays questioning why the human race seemed incapable of doing better.

My new endeavors are about sharing ideas and solutions. Rather than being trapped in negativity, I want to talk about the things that have helped me. I want to put hope out into the world, by codifying some of the practices that have worked for me. It’s not going to be a polemic, but it won’t be a bunch of feel-good “live, laugh, love” crap either.

I think my new approach will not only make this zine sustainable for me as a creator, but enjoyable and worthwhile for you as a read.

7 Years in Finland: Zine-in-Progress

Among the many projects I’m currently working on is a zine titled 7 Years in Finland. While it is nominally about my experiences there, it’s really about perspective. It’s about all of the things that we’re told aren’t possible. The problems we’re told can’t be solved, that other places have. Dire warnings that seemingly good things will inevitably lead to tragically bad ones. It’s not just about how the Nordics manage to provide their citizens with food, clothing, shelter, education, and healthcare without collapsing into a torrid pile of Communism. It’s about stepping outside of the familiar and seeing that it’s possible for things to be different.

I promise that this isn’t going to be a dry, liberal polemic about how everything in Finland is perfect and everything in the United States is terrible. While I’m going to be honest and hopefully informative, I also want this zine to be a fun read. Topics I want to write about include chocolate, doorknobs, and the letter X. Each topic is only going to get a page or two, so that I can cover a broad range. If it does well, I can continue it for a few more issues.

I’m also considering doing this as a Kickstarter campaign. It seems like the perfect small project to cut my teeth on. There won’t be a lot of levels or any rewards. I am, after all, a minimalist. I’ll likely limit it to two tiers, Print & PDF and PDF Only. Again, if this zine does well I can add more bells and whistles to future crowdfunding efforts. It seems best, though, to start small and keep things uncomplicated.

A Zine Per Month

While my original plan has been to do a monthly zine, that might be better phrased as a zine per month. I want to create zines with the theme of minimalism as act of defiance and path to inner peace. There are a lot of things that I want to write about that fit comfortably under that umbrella. 7 Years in Finland is but one of those. Other zines will continue the theme, but won’t be about Finland, or the perspective gained by from stepping out of your familiar cultural bubble.

7 Years in Finland

Thanks for following me this far along my journey. If you want to keep up with me, subscribe to the newsletter. That’s going to be a weekly digest highlighting all of the things I’m currently working on. That includes zines, but also aa new podcast and this daily blog. It’s all about minimalism, defiance, and inner peace.