I started a side project and you can too | Sophie Holmes

achey landscape

Kanye West recently launched his Yeezy Season Two fashion line with a zine and tweeted, "Season 2 Zine pronounced Zeen short for magazine. A lot of people pronounce it wrong." He was right - a LOT of people pronounce it wrong. The word zine is abbreviated from magazine or fanzine - they are self published, DIY versions of magazines and were born from a need to discuss and promote ideas overlooked in the general media. I had long been a fan of zines - I liked the uniqueness of them, the feeling that only a few had been printed and you owned a limited edition of something. I liked that they were so personal, niche and sometimes controversial. I had always wanted to create one of my own but hadn't quite found a topic I felt would be worthy of exploring. Until last year when my long term relationship came to an abrupt end when I was cheated on and left for someone else.

I had never been heartbroken before. In my first real love naivety I didn't see the warning signs. I thought the fact I was madly in love with someone was enough for both of us. I was completely devastated. After the numbness, sadness and anger all subsided and I was fully in the 'Beyonce phase' of the break up - I began to be obsessed with heartbreak. Heartbreak is one of the most difficult emotional and psychological processes we will all inevitably go through at some stage in our lives. I had a new found respect for anyone who had ever been heartbroken. The ability to unstitch someone from your life and find strength enough to continue with daily life is not something to be underestimated. Not only this but I was suddenly very aware of the ways in which society treats single women in comparison to male peers. How as single women we are marketed as desperate, insecure cat-obsessed recluses or party girl alcoholics.

It was then I decided there was a gap in the zine world (and in life in general) for a feminist, heartbreak zine. I realised pretty early on that although each break up is deeply personal to that individual - that the actual experience of heartbreak is more or less the same. There are distinct stages and there is a sort of solace in those stages. I wanted to create a zine that explored those stages - I wanted to make readers cry, laugh and feel inspired that there is a life post breakup. I feel we still live in a society that idealises the state of being in a relationship above being single. Of course getting married and having children is deemed the natural order of life - it's something most people would agree they want to achieve at some stage but I disagree with single shaming. I disagree with back handed comments like 'why are you single?', I disagree with people staying in unhappy relationships because they're scared of 'being alone' and I really disagree with the 'I'm just better in a relationship' ideology.

"I use the word 'fight' for a reason. It is hard being a woman. It is hard trying to love ourselves in an environment that is constantly giving us reasons not to."

To be clear, Achey Breaky Heart is not man-hating propaganda and neither is it anti-relationships. I am still a firm believer in love. My sole purpose in creating ABH is to build women up and to promote self love above all else. I want us to actively fight against the derogatory media we are bombarded with every day. I want to stop women from feeling any less about themselves simply because they are the last of their school friends to get engaged or because they keep having unsuccessful Tinder dates. I use the word 'fight' for a reason. It is hard being a woman. It is hard trying to love ourselves in an environment that is constantly giving us reasons not to. We are worth so much more than the relationships we may or may not have.

I have a full time job that is challenging and I love. I do not make any money from ABH currently, in fact due to the expense of printing - I am actually losing money. If you are looking to create a zine of your own - it can be difficult to make money, if this is a reason you are considering making one in the first place. Printing costs obviously vary depending on; the number of pages, whether you chose to print black & white or in colour and the overall quality of the paper. I worked out how much I could afford to spend on printing, how much I felt I could justify selling ABH for and the shortfall was something I felt was worth investing in. Despite having a full time job - I am a firm believer in the importance of side projects and hobbies. That can be anything from updating a personal blog to baking at the weekend. It's easy to get swept up in the 9-5pm rush and socialising with friends and weeks can go by before you've really done anything just for you that is personal to you. After my break up I had this urge to throw myself into something new. Something I owned and had control over and could share with other people.

I am fortunate that I work in a creative environment that actively encourages side projects but it can be hard to have a busy day at work and then go home to continue on the zine. It has become relatively all consuming, especially as it has taken off at such a pace but it's more than worth it. The beauty of a zine is that it can have as small or large an audience reach as you prefer. If you choose to print 10 copies and distribute for free amongst local coffee shops then that's entirely your choice. There is no expectation on this other than what you choose to set. For myself, I didn't really think about the long game - I felt strongly about what I was creating and decided I would just see how far I could take it.

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I went old school in the creation of Achey Breaky - I literally collated dozens of images, quotes, poems and cut and paste them into a scrapbook. I wrote an editors letter to open and close the zine and a couple of creatively written pieces but that was it. It was a fairly organic process in terms of the layout. I knew I wanted to focus on each of the stages of heartbreak - sadness, anger and the girl power/over it stage. I just selected things that best reflected how I felt in each of these stages. Some people choose to create zines digitally but I neither have the skills nor did this really fit with the personal, 'Dear Diary' vibe I wanted ABH to have. It's entirely up to you. Once made I took to a local printers I had been recommended by a friend. It's good to shop around a bit because prices can differ vastly. It's also cheaper to scan in first and send across a pdf.

If you are wanting to start your own zine as a side project and want it to have as large an outreach as possible - I would recommend creating an Instagram account (@acheybreakyheartzine). Not only is this a great way to build the aesthetic of the zine and create a following but it's an amazing way to meet illustrators, writers and other talented individuals who might be interested in collaborating at some point down the line. Although my first issue was something I completed alone, I decided I wanted to open the next issue up for submissions and I'm so glad I have. I feel it's such exciting issue with some great stories, poems and illustrations that would never have been possible had I not reached out to people through social media. It's been fairly stressful to manage deadlines and edit submissions on top of work but it's important to set yourself challenges outside of work and will be so rewarding once it's completed.

Working hard is a fact of life. We all have to pay the bills but I think it's important to apply this mantra to your personal life as well. Throwing myself into this side project was one of the best things I could have decided to do post break up. It's been so creatively cathartic and i've met so many new people already. I sell the zine online through my big cartel site and at zine fairs - I will be attending one on Sunday 3 April and another on 29th May. I've sold out of Issue One three times now and currently have two confirmed in store stockists in Kansas City and Osaka, Japan. I never thought this would be possible! 2016 has been amazing so far and I thoroughly recommend starting a zine for anyone who has the side project itch.


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