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A Quick Contemplation on Comparison

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Comparison is the thief of joy.
Theodore Roosevelt

Since I’ve started putting so much of my time and energy into writing, running my distro, and doing things that make me happy, I’ve felt so much better about…everything. I’m writing and mailing out more zines than ever, it seems, and I’m getting so much support and enthusiasm from everyone around me. I’m not boxed in by routine but still producing so much great stuff every day. Life feels great.

Why, then, is it still so easy for me to look at the life and work–the Instagram, the writer’s website, the published works list–of a woman I went to college with four years ago and have barely spoken to since and get so down on myself? When I look at her posts, it suddenly feels as if I’m not doing enough or not doing things “right.”

The list of questions that run through my head looks something like this:

Am I less legitimate in my work if I’m not submitting all the time? If I don’t have a list of links to web publications who have accepted me, then am I really doing anything worth bragging about? Should I be spending less time posting and even more time writing? Should I be writing different things? Why don’t I have as many followers as she does? What am I doing wrong? Am I not (cute, quirky, smart, stylish, etc.) enough?

All of this occurs in a matter of seconds, of course.

It gets my head all muddled, and I start to feel like what I want is wrong or isn’t what I really want. I wouldn’t call it jealousy because I like that she’s doing well–I want us both to be successful–but it’s also far from confident or secure. I just can’t help wondering if that’s what I should be doing; maybe there is a right way to go about this writer thing.

It’s confusion and self-doubt, and I’d like to think it will go away with time and more hard work, but I know there’s almost no chance of that happening for good. If it does, then I’ve probably gotten overly confident in myself and turned into an asshole. We don’t want that to happen.

In between all of the good days, the ones when I get compliments from friends and strangers who have just finished reading a new zine they got from me or the ones when I’m just happy, there will still be the ones when I’m asking myself if I’m doing this right or why things seem so different for me compared to others doing this. While it gets old and depressing, maybe it’s not the worst thing. Maybe it keeps me on my toes, self-evaluating and evolving over time as we all do (and should).

It’s a bummer to think that maybe someone is doing it better and to know it’s not worth fretting about but being unable to stop yourself.

What do you do when you get down like this? Let’s chat about it and lift each other’s spirits!

March 17, 2017

Working Girl: My First Month of Self-Employment + an Office Tour

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I mentioned in my February wrap-up that at the beginning of last month I took my last day at the copy shop and started working from home. Over the past month or so since then, I’ve managed to put out three new zines (two minis and a perzine), plus a newsletter for Nine Lives to go out with all orders and to offer as a freebie at the upcoming Pioneer Valley Zine Fest. On top of that, I’ve been keeping up with my Patreon rewards–and I am so, so thankful to everyone who’s pledged so far!–working on a novel, working on various essays for more perzines, making a neverending list of mini zine topics, and taking care of the house. I have been one busy bee.

When I started, I was splitting my days into two parts: In the morning, I would work on my novel either until I’d hit my word count for the day or until lunchtime came. Then I’d have lunch, and in the afternoon, I’d work on just about anything else I needed to that hadn’t been done in the morning: Patreon, Facebook posts, blog work, zine orders, whatever. I kept that up for about two weeks, but then the routine started to feel stale. My approach now is to simply do what I’m in the mood for. This means I’ve been doing a lot more zine work than novel work for the past couple of weeks, but I’m enjoying it, and I’ve gotten so much done, so I have no complaints.

As part of the agreement for me to stay home, Dan and I decided that I’m in charge of keeping the house relatively clean and also working on some of the renovations (although I have to admit I haven’t done any of that yet because I’m really picky about my renovation activities). To be honest, it was mostly my idea because I would much rather be home listening to podcasts and making the house presentable than out in the world dealing with people, and it’s working quite well so far. The house feels much cleaner than it ever really has been, and it helps me to feel productive on days when I can’t get myself to write as much as I’d like.Dan has especially been helpful and supportive in the transition: he’s agreed to do so many building projects to make my office the perfect work space for me, making me a brand new desk (which I love) and some corner shelves to help organize the space; he listens to all of my crazy ideas and is always enthusiastic about them; and he’s been the most supportive voice when I’m freaking out thinking this is a horrible idea and will ruin my life. I swear, he’s not even human. It’s amazing. It’s something that I really need right now because as much as I needed the change, it was scary to leave a job I’d been at for nearly three years.

As much as I liked my job and the people I worked with, the overall environment was stressing me out far too much to justify staying any longer. One of my coworkers on my last day asked if I was excited and I just shrugged and tried not to cry because it was scary and sad. I don’t like change. I don’t like not getting a regular paycheck every two weeks. But it was a necessary big step for me to take right now.

I’m not opposed to going back to a “normal job” at some point, but for now I think things are working out well for Dan and me. I’m feeling better than I have in a long time and get to do exactly what I’ve dreamed of for years. Is it a little harder in some ways? Well, yeah. Of course. But I’m just thinking of it as, “I’m now as uncool as I was in high school,” because I could never afford the things that I thought would make me cool, which is kind of okay since I never really cared about that anyway–and I still don’t. (I’m rambling. Sorry.)

Ultimately, the worry and the fear are worth it because I’m kind of living my dream right now, and I realize how incredibly lucky that is. I don’t know if I’ve ever been this productive with my writing before, and it feels like my life has aligned in the perfect way, at least for the moment, to be everything I really need it to be.

Photos: A detail shot of my desk; my built-in bookcase and wedding bouquet; my corner shelves, which include some plants, mini zines, washi tape, and other miscellaneous decorations; my art + postcard collection above my desk as seen from the dining room; one of my favorite and most photographed corners, with my first couple of plants and my record player; and a wide shot of my built-ins, which were the main reason I wanted this house.

If you’re at all interested in helping me keep up this work-from-home habit, please consider buying some zines or pledging to my Patreon. You’re also welcome to just send a small donation to my paypal (sonyaeatszombies[at]gmail[dot]com), but it seems more fun to get something out of it, if you ask me. Remember that writing is work, so both emotional and monetary support are necessary to help me keep going.

March 6, 2017

Project 365: Days 46-52

I have some serious mixed feelings about this week’s photos. I’m still working with color and clarity a lot, and sometimes no amount of photo retakes or fiddling around in Photoshop can make everything look exactly how I imagine. Still, I have some from this week that I absolutely love, so it’s not a total loss or anything, just a learning process.

46/365: My first order from Band of Weirdos. There was a special for a mystery box of “misfit” pins (five for $10) so I treated myself to some and was not at all disappointed! (I’m also in love with the partner website, Moss Love. *heart eyes emoji*)

47/365: My favorite corner of my home office. I’m so grateful to have a space of my own to work in our house, and this has quickly become my favorite corner in that space. It actually already looks a little different from  this photo because my plant obsession is not slowing down.

48/365: A hedgie and a jade. Michaels was having a 50% off sale on their terrarium supplies, so I picked up some pebbles and this little hedgehog figure, then got a new jade succulent and some moss from Home Depot to make my plant collection a little fancier.

49/365: Perch cat. Charlie’s been on steroids the past couple of weeks for his autoimmune disease, so on top of being more aggressive toward Lexi, he’s also been acting a bit more mischievous. I often find him perched on the bar cart and dining room table or roaming around the kitchen counter.

50/365: An unending obsession with plants. I released this mini zine on succulents over the weekend because I have been all about mini zines lately (and also plants). If you’re at all interested in the basics of cactus/succulent care, you can order it via Etsy.

51/365: Newsletter. I’m putting together a seasonal newsletter to start sending out with zine orders and to give out free at zine fests, and I’m kind of in love with how it’s coming along. I’m typing and doing general layout in InDesign, but I’ll still cut and paste like usual because I just love how it looks.

52/365: Support your fellow artists. My zinester/writer pal Jessie Lynn McMains was interviewed for the newest issue of Maximumrocknroll and it was one of the most inspirational and resonant pieces I’ve read in a while. I’ve never read MRR regularly, but this issue was worth the buy for the interview alone.

February 22, 2017

2017 Goals

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I haven’t even looked at my goals from last year because I doubt I met many–if any. I’ve decided this year to try having only two larger,  more distinct goals, ones that can be worked on year-round. Additionally, I’ll have some smaller, simpler goals to keep some focus on the fun as well as the work.

Let’s get into it.

Reach my second Patreon goal. / I’ve decided to definitely launch my Patreon page, thanks in part to the emotional support I’ve already received from a number of people, and this goal feels a little bold, seeing as it assumes I’ll reach my first goal this year. I’m rubbish at publicizing my own projects, so this may be the most challenging part of the year for me. My concern is about coming off as insincere, so I often fall to the opposite end of the spectrum  and instead don’t do much sharing at all. It’ll be a demanding goal, but it’s not an impossible achievement.

Finish a full book manuscript. / This is clearly a “by the end of the year” goal, which I expect to be pushing hardest through the final months of 2017. I’d love to have a full, ready to submit (or self-publish) manuscript by December 31, 2017. For years I’ve though it would be a novel, and maybe it will, but the idea of a book of essays has also been rattling in my skull as of late, so it’s all about seeing where the year takes me. I have ideas for both; it’s just a matter of which one grips me harder in the long run.

As for smaller goals, the list so far looks like:

  • Go on three ghost hunts/UFO watches.
  • Table one out-of-state zine fest.
  • Write and publish two zines.
  • Go on seven hikes, preferably in a few different states.
  • Complete a Project 365.
  • Make twelve different kinds of (new to me) bread. (Please send me recipes!)

I’ve made a point to include numbers in the smaller goals to keep them measurable and to keep myself accountable. (Accountable of fun–what a concept.) Of course, I could always do more of each thing, as well, and I really hope that I do.

What’s your biggest goal of 2017?

January 9, 2017

To Ask or Not to Ask: Considering Patreon and Other Options

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I’ve been trying to set a writing routine for myself over the past few days; I fell off the wagon sometime in September, and I fell hard. The only upside to this is that I finally started reading again, but not creating is a steep price to pay for Netflix binges that have no foreseeable endpoint. The past several months, though, have been difficult. A lot of days took the life out of me, and it was all I could do to pick up a book and make a good meal for dinner.

For even longer than that, though, I’ve been eyeing Patreon as an option for my work. I learned about it shortly before I read Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking, and it’s intriguing. My biggest fear isn’t that people won’t use it, though. It’s not taking that step to ask with the potential of “no” as the answer. It’s the concern that I won’t be able to keep up with rewards. When I’m feeling crushed, I don’t know for how long or how hard it is until I’m in the thick of it. It’s hard to even know that it’s coming, so I’m afraid I’ll shirk my responsibilities, especially when people are paying real money for me to fulfill them.

I try to tell myself that it’ll be motivation, that creating a Patreon page for my writing will help keep me from falling apart and hold me accountable. I try to believe that it’ll be helpful in, well, all of my goals. It’ll be a good thing. It’s something I can handle. But being my habitually pessimistic self, I’m very skeptical about all of these declarations. I have a hard time believing in myself, which is rather tragic, isn’t it?

I do have a couple of rewards in mind for various pledge points, including flash fiction stories, which I’ve just started incorporating into my hourly writing sessions, in which I bounce from project to project based on what’s floating around in my brain at any given moment, and I’m considering a free option, as well, such as a newsletter-style monthly story. It’d only be one small piece per month, or maybe part of a serial (shit, that’s an awesome idea), rather than say, three stories for $5 a month or something like that, but I think I like that as an option because it could get people exposed to my writing without having to pay anything in the beginning, and then if they chose to pay for more, they could.

I feel like I’m going to go back and forth on this because it feels like such a good idea, but it’s such a scary one at the same time. I guess I’m what I’m really looking for is some feedback, so if you’ve got any thoughts, let me have ’em.

December 19, 2016

On Skipping NaNoWriMo 2016

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On November 1, I was in a three-room cottage near the east coast of Ireland on my honeymoon. My heart broke a little bit that day because I knew I wouldn’t be home for almost a week, and as much as I wanted to, I just couldn’t find it in me to try NaNoWriMo this year when I would be struggling through five whole days at the very beginning. I hadn’t even brought my computer with me. Sure, I could have started writing by hand, but I think we all know it’s so much easier when the word processor can keep a word count for you.

Now it’s we’re almost through November, and I’m still disappointed. I’ve been seeing so many people working on their own NaNoWriMo projects this year, and I’m both excited for and jealous of them all. I love hearing people’s updates–and struggles–as they put their heart into something that might grow bigger come December or might not. Either way, they’re committed for at least these thirty days, and it’s wonderful and inspiring.

It is also ZineWriMo, so I am using that as inspiration to get through a new issue of Whatsername, but to an extent, it’s just not the same: it’s a smaller commitment overall, with not real word count requirement, nothing except, “Make a zine!” to push me through the month. The payoff just doesn’t feel equivalent, even if I’m excited for this issue.

It has always been a dream of mine to write a book, as I know it has been for so many people, and it’s so frustrating to feel like the past few years have been a complete struggle in this goal. Especially since publishing my chapbook, my writing has fallen by the wayside. I don’t know if it’s a result of being further and further removed from a school environment or just the fact that 2016 overall has been, let’s just say it, a shitty year. The irony is that given all the personal things I’ve dealt with this year on top of the public issues we’ve all gone through, you would think I might want to write more, might want to use it as a therapeutic tool–and I do want to. I just can’t seem to find it in myself to do that.

So I’m heartbroken to be missing out on NaNoWriMo this year, even if it’s of my own choosing. There’s not much I love more than the glide of a favorite pen on paper or hearing the quick clicking of my keyboard, and it’s something I really need right now, but it was something I just couldn’t do. Committing myself would have lead to nothing but frustration and disappointment–which I guess isn’t a whole lot different from how I’m feeling now.

The best solace I can find is in the fact that there’s no rule NaNoWriMo has to be done in November. I mean, it does to actually be NaNoWriMo, but I can commit myself to writing 1,500 words a day for thirty days any month I choose, except maybe February.

I’d like to say I have big writing goals for next year after how slow 2016 has gone for me, but I don’t. At best I have some vague ideas I would like to accomplish, but there’s nothing concrete in mind right now.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? How’s it going for you?

November 23, 2016

Thoughts on My First Owlcrate

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Owlcrate March 2016

Last week, my first Owlcrate arrived, just in time for my birthday. I’d been eyeing the boxes since January, but I ended up deciding not to get the February box (and kicking myself for it after seeing The Love that Split the World in it because it sounds amazing and looks beautiful). I was determined to get it this month, so I gave Dan a not-so-subtle hint that I wanted it for my birthday, and being the wonderful person he is, he got it for me.

If I’m being honest, I have to say I got spoiled a few days before mine arrived, and for once I wasn’t even trying to find spoilers. I was just browsing the bookstagram tag and someone had posted what they got inside. I was a little let down because my birthday and Christmas are the only times of the year that I like surprises, but no worries! I was still excited for it to arrive.

Now let’s take a look inside, shall we?

Owlcrate March 2016: Opened!

Out of Print Banned Books Socks / Guys, I’ve been browsing Out of Print for years hoping to order something and it’s never really happened for some reason. I guess I could never quite justify the purchase to myself (which is completely silly but whatever). So I was already excited to be getting something from them, but socks?! Who doesn’t love socks? Weird people, that’s who. But I’d like to think even those people have to admit that these banned books socks are great.

Bookworm Boutique Pinback Buttons / Another thing that I absolutely adore because I’m kind of a slight button addict, along with the fact that Bookworm Boutique is another shop I’ve had my eye on for a while.

642 Tiny Things to Write About / I’ve flipped through this a few times, and I’m really intrigued. I’ve seen a few of the other versions of these books and was interested, so this was a bit of good luck because I love writing prompts. I’m hoping this will help keep me inspired and

Quill Pen / Okay, it’s not a real quill, but I assume that would be pretty expensive and hard to ship, anyway. I haven’t tried writing with it yet, but I do like the fine-point tip on it. I’m very particular about my pens, so I’m hoping I’ll enjoy this one. Sara mentioned on Instagram that she likes the way its writes, so I’m feeling good about it.

And lastly,

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner / I don’t know if this is a book I would have picked up on my own–I might have grabbed a copy from the library if I found it, but it wouldn’t have jumped out at me or anything. It seems like it’s up my alley, though; I think I read contemporary YA more than just about anything else, so it’s a safe bet that I’ll enjoy this one.

Overall, I’m pleased with my first Owlcrate experience. The items are excellent quality, and they’re all things I’d be interested in anyway, but might not have been able to justify buying on their own. Even if I don’t go ahead with April’s box, I’m quite confident that there are more of these in my future.

Have you gotten an Owlcrate before? How’s your experience been?

March 30, 2016

Shiny New Year: 2016 Goals

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11.26.2015 / york harbor beach

York Harbor Beach, Maine / November 2015

And here it is: My requisite blog post chronicling my goals of 2016. Nothing wrong with that, though. It’s good to have someplace to keep your ideas and easily refer to them, right?

As 2015 approaches its end, I can honestly say that I’ve grown content with how it’s turned out. The first half of the year was, for the most part, miserable. I was dealing with a lot of work problems, and the way that affected me mentally and emotionally made all my personal projects fall apart. I don’t think I dug into my chapbook with my whole heart until June or July, but once I did, it was, well, not quite smooth sailing, but smooth enough that I haven’t spent every day crying when I’m not at work (or even when I am, as tended to happen earlier in the year). Life is good now. It’s not perfect. It’s not my entire dream come to fruition, but I’m getting there.

So what do I have planned for 2016?

Table at three zine fests. This year I did two–Pioneer Valley Zine Fest in spring and Boston Zine Fest in fall–and they were such wonderful decisions. (I mean, hell, BZF bought my new tattoo.) I’m hoping to do one or two out of state if I can, but they tend to be far enough away that it can be a challenge logistically. I’m not even sure where the closest one is outside of Massachusetts.

Write my fucking novel. I will do it. I wanted to make it a focus for 2015, but losing half the year to stress and depression didn’t help, and it never happened. But I published my chapbook, so I’m not getting down on myself in the least. I had a productive year overall. I’ve already begun plotting out what, to me, is a super fun novel idea, so I’m feeling optimistic that I’ll get something done in 2016 that I can proud of in all its messy, first draft glory.

Write two more zines. I actually have far more than two zine ideas, but I’m trying to keep it simple with everything else I have planned around the novel. Mostly the goal is two more issues of Whatsername, but I’d be happy with finishing up some other projects I’ve had stewing, as well.

Expand Nine Lives. I want to add so much more to the catalog. I think as far as first years go, 2015 was not a bad year for my distro, but I really want to get back into a serious mode with it and get loads more added to the catalog. The problem tends to be I’m too nervous to ask anyone if they’d let me carry their stuff, but whatever. I need to get over that if I want this to grow at all.

Blog more. Somehow, I fell off the wagon a bit with my blogging the last few months. I just didn’t have it in me, maybe because I preferred to focus my attention elsewhere for a while. My hope is to get back into it regularly, whether that’s once a week or twice a month or what. I don’t know yet. But I plan on taking a couple of weeks to sit down and think about where I want to go with my blog. I’ve mentioned before it can be a challenge for me to reconcile blogging and writing zines, so I think that’s a major aspect I need to look at in the next year.

As you can tell, there’s a bit of a running theme here, but my life tends to revolve around writing and zines because those are the things I love the most–so it only makes sense.

Smaller goals include: Make local-ish & snail mail friends. Hold a zine workshop at the library. Work harder on my garden. Practice more photography. Cook and bake more foods in more elaborate ways. Take more bike rides. Knit more. Basically, just do more things that make me happy.

Oh, yeah, and get married.

What do you have on the docket for the coming year?

December 15, 2015

I Wrote a Chapbook

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reflections in a dirty mirror by sonya cheney
Guys! Guys! I did a thing!

About a year ago I talked about writing a chapbook being one of my goals for the year, and while it originally started out (in my head) as a forty-piece collection to be released in the spring, as you can see, it didn’t exactly turn out that way; instead, it’s about half that, six months later. And you know what? I’m okay with that. I’m really proud of my poems, and I’m perfectly content with what it’s turned out to be.

The collection, Reflections in a Dirty Mirror, contains pieces mostly about girlhood, identity, and personal survival. It has beautiful cover art by a friend of mine from high school, Kagey Illustration, and I don’t know how I could be any happier with how it all turned out. Sure, maybe I could have kept revising (I mean, really, we can always keep revising), but it got to the point when I couldn’t see a point to keep picking apart what I’d written. I got feedback from friends, edited accordingly, and I’m so happy with how it reads.

You can pick up a copy from my Etsy shop or Nine Lives.

October 14, 2015

A Decade Under the Influence (Of Pop-Punk)

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I started listening to a lot of pop-punk/emo again on Saturday and it’s funny, isn’t it, how emotive music can be? How strongly it can resurface feelings and memories you didn’t know were still there, good or bad, wanted or not. This, specifically, has me thinking about middle school, high school, how they were different and yet still the same in the end. (Major disappointments, if you couldn’t guess; the majority of my school experiences turned out that way for various reasons.)

I’m trying to listen to music again. I’m trying to let myself sink into the melodies and lyrics, the things I clung to through school, the things I used to pay so much attention to and learn religiously to the point that I could sing and read at the same time without pause. With Netflix now, I spend more of my time mindlessly bingeing on TV shows than much else, if I’m to be honest with myself. It’s not that that’s a bad thing necessarily, but there’s no doubt it’s contributing to how unhappy I’ve been. (And not just because I get so sad when shows end.)

I’m realizing lately just how much pop-punk shaped me. I like to think riot grrrl had a hand in creating who I am, and it did, but it wasn’t the beginning; I would have never gotten to it without pop-punk first. I would have never gotten to it without falling head over heels for Green Day, and I still adore all the old bands I listened to then and I’m discovering others now that are quickly becoming new favorites.

The funniest part, to me, is that so much of pop-punk is male-dominated (like most music genres), and I actively try to listen to so many more women artists now, but it’s not something I can just throw away. It’s had a huge hand in who I’ve become and eight years of school and the last ten or so years of my life. It’s an unavoidable detail of something I’m not willing to compromise on, not when it makes me feel so deeply now, years later when I don’t even talk to the people I associate with these songs, these lyrics, these chord progressions that make me laugh or cry or both within seconds. My taste in music may have evolved exponentially since then, but inside that thirteen-year-old girl screwing around on a skateboard outside her best friend’s house still exists and always will.

It’s like music is making me feel things in a way I haven’t in a long time, and I’m still trying to figure out what to do with that. I think it’s meant to inspire me; I think it’s meant to get (and keep) me going again.

Things music has reminded me of lately: Old friendships • crushes • school nights spent staying up until two a.m. simply trying to make it through until the morning • school days spent trying to stay awake, stay positive, and make it back home to where I was most comfortable • scribbling song lyrics in class notebooks and on paper bag book covers • belting out lyrics with the house to myself • my heart breaking and mending and breaking, again and again and again • lying in bed, headphones on, drowning in songs and teenage sorrow • wandering around town past dark with girl friends • my first cup of tea.

January 26, 2015