22 July 2021: A Guide to Breathing Room Media

A lot of things are in the works under the umbrella of “Breathing Room”. It’s all about minimalism as both an act of defiance and a path to inner peace. What I don’t want to do is release the same content in different formats. This blog should feel distinct from the zine, the podcast should offer something not found on the vlog, and so forth. So here’s a brief guide to Breathing Room media, and how I intend to use each format.

The Blog

Going forward, this is going to be my personal journal. I want to talk about my life and my journey. You’ll get to see the ups and downs of living a simple life. There will be some “topical content” that intersects with minimalism-as-act-of-defiance. Hopefully there will be epiphanies regarding inner peace. This will be my ongoing story.

The Newsletter

The point of the newsletter is to provide you with news (go figure) and updates on all Breathing Room projects. It’s where you will be able to find information on the blog, the zine, the podcast, and the vlog all in one place. That doesn’t sound sexy, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s a newsletter.

The Zine

I look at the zine as a place to collect essays. The pieces published there will be well-considered, researched, and edited. The scope will be global, i.e. not just about me. How-to’s, helpful hints, and educational articles are all possible within the format. This is my serious space, where I put on my writer hat and attempt to effectively communicate ideas.

The Podcast

Rants. The podcast is going to be for rants. This is one of the reasons I’m retooling the Patreon to include more than the podcast. Not everyone wants to hear my emotional pleas, snarky hot takes, or angry diatribes against the evils of the world. The good news is that it’s scripted, so I’m essentially going to do dramatic readings.

The Vlog

The YouTube channel is going to be a wild card. I want to keep it unscripted and pretty raw in terms of production. If there’s breaking news that I want to comment on, it will end up in the vlog. When there are moments in my life that I want to share, it will be in the vlog. Big news and updates will end up on the vlog. It’s a catchall.

A Guide to Breathing Room Media

All of this is in progress, but it’s going to happen as it happens. For the first time in years I have the opportunity to produce content mindfully, to do it right rather than having to do it fast. As such, I’m not committing to any release dates yet. Know that once something starts, it will then be released on a consistent schedule.

21 July 2021: Planning to Can

It’s shocking to me how expensive produce is here. In Finland I’d buy a 3-pack of paprika (red bell peppers) for around $3. At the nearest grocery store, Acme, red peppers are $2.98 a piece. Madness! While I can get more reasonably price fruits and vegetables elsewhere, it’s a hump to get to those places. That’s why I’m planning to can.

My original idea was to get some frozen vegetables to supplement things. A handful of mixed veg thrown into some ramen or stir fry. That seems to be a fool’s errand. Foods are branded, in some proprietary microwavable steamer bag (I refuse to own a microwave), or dripping in sauce. I just want some plain frozen peas, damn it!

While it has been pointed out that I can acquire such things at Walmart, I will be damned if I will shop there. It’s bad enough that I’ve had to compromise my ethics and order some things from Amazon, because there were literally no feasible alternatives. Sticking to your principles is hard.

Planning to Can

All of this sidesteps the fact that I do not want to eat prepared food. I know everything in the United States was packed with extra sugar, sodium, and fat. We’re had to resort to some of those items — I’m loathe to even refer to them as food — while I got my kitchen setup.

So I am slowly gathering canning supplies. Ball jars, freezer bags, vinegar and spices. I will make a run to the farmer’s market and load up. Then I’ll cut up vegetables, blanche them, and freeze them. I will pickle things, make jams and salsas, and put them up for use later. I will do my best to preserve as much freshness as I am able. Most importantly, I will know exactly what’s in them.

It seems strange to have to fall back on old-fashioned techniques to combat the horrors of modern “convenience”.


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.

The Simple Joy of a Functional Office

Some people look forward to summer vacation. Others get excited about Christmas. The highpoint of 2021 for me may just be the simple joy of a functional office.

I’m not just talking about post-move. This elation isn’t only because I soon won’t have to sit on the sofa, laptop balanced on my knees, trying to write. It’s not because I’ll be free from the shelf in the kitchen that I intermittently use as a standing desk. For the first time in seven years, I will have a proper dedicated workspace.

The Simple Joy of a Functional Office

This is yet another reason for the move. I am incredibly proud of the fact that I started a business from a kitchen table. That appeals to the minimalist in me. It tickles my punk rock, garage band sensibilities. It’s as close to creating something from nothing as you can get. You begin to run into limitations.

In the early days, I would clear away my things three times a day so we could sit down and eat. As time went on and that became a hassle, we jut ate in the living room. I’ve never been a fan of that; I don’t enjoy balancing a bowl of soup on my lap. Now I have both as desk and a kitchen table, and they’re not in the same room.

Physical separation from Katie’s studio space is also important. Not that we don’t cohabitate well. I’m just happy that she can watch her murder shows without having to wear headphone, during those times where I work better in silence. I can listen to music, or podcasts, or whatever background noise I might need, without bothering her.

It won’t feel weird to read things out loud while I’m editing; I won’t be self-conscious because someone else is in the room, and I don’t have to worry that I’m distracting her. There’s space for me to pace, when I need to move around. There are other places to sit, if I want to stretch out, or journal, or read, or just not be at my desk for a while.

Oh Wait, Two Businesses

I’m not just in the process of reimagining Dancing Lights Press. I’m also getting ready for the soft launch of Breathing Room Media, too. All of this is possible because within a week I will have a functional office!

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.