Updated: Aug 8
In honor of Milwaukee Zine Fest happening this Saturday, April 22nd, I thought I'd share a little zine project I've been working on the last few months that has gotten much more fun with time...
Here's how it started. I got back to Geneva this August, and sitting in my apartment -- I really wanted to make something. Struggling to think of any interesting topic, I decided to just summarize my week in a 1-page mini-zine. Looking back now, I can see it was actually a pretty memorable one -- we had a celebration for my dad's milestone birthday, saw a great movie at the Oriental Theater (check out "Fire of Love" if you get a chance!), I got acclimated back to my Geneva life, my new friend Jenelle introduced me to lake swimming after work and I had a breakthrough on a project.
One week later, I thought it would be fun to do it again. And I did. Since then, I've kept it up for 35 more. It's now become something I look forward to create each week and something I hope I can continue going forward many more weeks.
The idea to summarize the week came to me from a book I'd read earlier in the year, Oliver Burkeman's Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals. I can't recommend it enough and if you ask me about it, I'll probably do my best to convince you to read it by sharing some of my favorite anecdotes. In short though, 4,000 weeks is about 78 years-- our life expectancy. And Oliver suggests that instead of trying to maximize what we can fit in, we should be more selective and intentional about what we do fit in, enjoying the time we have. Thinking in weeks really changes your perception.
I've learned so much with this project and while I hope I'll have more learnings in the weeks to come as I continue, I thought I'd share a few insights:
You Can Make Mindfulness & Presence a Personal Mission - One of the things I've grown to love most about this is that I find myself paying closer attention to what is happening in my life. I feel like an explorer in my day-to-day, always on the lookout for interesting moments and insights.
You Always Have to Edit - A mini-zine made from a single piece of paper has 8 pages: A cover, 6 pages and a backpage. There are some weeks were I find myself wishing I had many more pages-- sometimes whole events are left out. As someone who is inclined to always want to tell the whole story with all the details... this has been a great practice for me to try to really focus on what is most important to share in the limited space.
Reflections Bring Connections - On the backpage of each zine, I've been choosing a word for each week - something that stands out. It's incredible to me how often a theme seems to emerge. Just considering things through that lens often leads me to make connections I hadn't considered before.
Give Time & Make Space for Things to Develop - For anyone who is creating things-- whether it's poetry or policy, this practice has also tangibly shown me how something can develop over time. There is enormous value in starting something, finishing it and pausing to see what you have. With space and time to breathe, what you are working on can evolve in new and interesting ways you never would have been able to imagine at the start. (Interestingly, there's also a great anecdote in the book about buses in Finland that also makes this point!)
Weekly Rituals are Powerful - The process of making this every week has become a ritual I really look forward to. Before I put marker to paper, I do a brainstorm on a scratch paper of what happened during the week - I try to think in terms of my most and least favorite moments, things I learned and things I am grateful for. I make an outline and then I make the zine - it usually takes me just an hour or so. After it's done, I look at my calendar for the upcoming week and make sure I am prepared for what is ahead. It's been a great exercise that has also helped me bring more purpose and focus to each week.
Looking Back Generates More Awe - Now and then, I pick a random week or pull out a few to look back through. Sometimes it feels like time passes slowly, sometimes it feels way too fast. Often, I'm surprised by which things happened together in the same week. Mostly though, I'm struck by how many amazing moments can fit in each week when you really start to pay attention.
I'd love to learn more about creative ways you are tracking your weeks going by and welcome any other ideas or advice you would share!
Ps. If you want to make a 1-page mini-zines yourself, here's a great quick tutorial!
**UPDATE**: I officially made it a full 52 weeks - with a few more weeks of practice since I wrote this, here are a few more learnings I would share:
Focus on the Positive - As I've reflected more on the limited space in each weekly zine - I've found I get more energy and inspiration focusing on what went well and how I can do what is already working well better as I go forward. Focusing on the positive for me generates more possibilities and creativity for tackling challenges.
Just Start - This is a mantra I learned from my friend Dawn - and it is ever present in this weekly exercise. It has underscored for me you don't need to wait for a milestone of a new year or a new quarter. You can decide to make a change any time. And, that a week is wonderful unit for making and tracking change!
Listen to Your Heartbeat - One of the messages of Four Thousand Weeks is that we don't appreciate enough how quickly our time here will pass. On the same theme, a few weeks ago I came across this article from one of my favorite blogs, The Marginalian with advice from writer Grace Paley and her father on aging. It's inspired me to add another routine to the week-- to spend 10 seconds each morning listening to my heartbeat. As it turns, out slowing down a moment to listen is a very grounding and effective daily reminder to spend your time on what is most important.
I'm excited to continue this into a new year, though it's time now for some new markers!
Pictured above: My collection of zines so far and two of my inspirations, a post-it gifted to me from my friend Joel with parting wisdom before I came to Geneva & Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman.