Starting an independent magazine is a pretty weird thing to do. In that same vein, it feels very weird to start an independent magazine. It has been a very strange and rewarding journey so far. I think there are a lot of things that it's made me think and feel that I never thought I would, and also come across some conundrums and 'hush-hush' topics of the 'art world' that I feel need to be aired out a bit. I think it helps people when someone speaks about things that are usually kept a trade secret (just ask Austin Kleon). It also helps us feel connected and like we're sharing a human experience, which of course we are. So this is a more personal post about what I went through emotionally and mentally in the first couple issues of the magazine. I think to anyone who's ever tried to start something, you'll understand where I'm coming from! We're all in this together.
When I started this project, I was sitting in bed, drinking my coffee, and I just thought, 'this will be a fun experiment!'. I think that's probably still the best way to describe my approach to each issue; it's an experiment for me, for my friends, for my family, and for the contributors. I'm usually pretty obsessed with perfection and putting things out that are 'ready' to go out. I think this comes from my work with clients and my strange high school experience to be honest. I like to work fast, I like to work hard and I like to exceed expectations. But this project has been so rewarding for me because I let all that go.
With Liner, I am a student constantly learning, adapting, changing, re-doing, and starting over. It's so freeing to just have something to test crazy ideas on and not put pressure on myself to be perfect. In the first volume, I spelled my own name wrong. Instead of beating myself up about it, I laughed about it. I left the mistake instead of re-uploading. It's like when you see an old person's wrinkles or scars, and those imperfections speak to who that person is and where they've been. I left a visible trace of all my errors and misjudgments in the magazine as a way for me to look back, remember and think how fun and far the journey has gone. I think in this way this magazine has been really, really good for me. It's a way to go back to a childhood sense of play and excitement. It's what I was like before I started to let the pressures of perfection and 'professionalism' creep in.
I think because I started to feel this way, the over-arching theme of the magazine began to crystallize for me: forget perfection. It's stupid. We're all human and it's time there were a magazine that acted like it. No Photoshop. Delve deeper into things that are hard to talk about to help people see they're not alone and that style is a way of being. My friend Chelsea Boyle, for example, wrote a beautiful essay that made me cry about her struggles with body image and self-worth. It is an amazing piece and she is an amazing person. She is brave for sharing such a personal story and we can all relate to her struggle in some way. It unites us. I began to see that this magazine could be a vehicle for this kind of thing. And I wanted it to be online, for free, for anyone with access to the internet to be able to read for this reason. I wanted the idea of the magazine to be accessibility.
I started to meet so many articulate, truly individual people who also shared a common way of thinking with me, but pushed me a bit further in my thoughts. I will be forever grateful for the experience of meeting all these amazing people who dress a certain way and talk a certain way because they think a certain way. There's a depth to style that is not often spoken about but I think it's worthwhile. It gets a bad rep. because people think it's superficial. Sure, it can be, but that's also the fun and joy of it. And also, there's deeper things going on beneath the surface of someone's style that speak to who they are and how they see and approach the world. As Ev told me when we were shooting his editorial for the first issue, he had been looking for a floral hat forever; like a year. Then he found it and he rocks it all the time. I think that says so much about who he is. He is not afraid to search for something that fits his style and flaunt it--especially when that something is not what most people would wear in the first place. But he looks amazing in it and exudes confidence in it. I think that says so much about who he is.
There are also some hard and tricky things that have come with this experience. There's something a lot of people won't talk about when they start a creative project. Money. It is essential to starting something. And I had none of it. The model most independent magazines follow: in order to get the readership to get to the money, they reach out to famous people (either IRL or on the internet) they know to get them aboard, which those people then promote through their channels, creating a tsunami of support and admiration, and, well, money. This is a genius business model and it works really well for a lot of amazing magazines.
But here's the thing that was confusing: I don't know many famous people who would be the right fit for the magazine, and also, the whole point of the magazine was that ordinary people have interesting stories, lives and adventures and they don't have to be 'famous' for that to mean something. I love to interview people who are well-known/have many followers, but not feature them just because of that fact. They have to have a story and be willing to be vulnerable about that story. So, I didn't really want to go that route. It also meant that for the first while, my magazine probably wouldn't get many reads and wouldn't be very 'popular'. Surprisingly, this did not bother me very much at all.
Yes, sometimes it is painful to see other magazines succeed and be admired and written about and people take Instagram photos with the magazine up on their laptop screens or on their coffee table. I am human and it's hard to see other people live off of their magazine and be super successful and admired for it. But, I am doing something different from them. We are doing something different from them. That was the whole point! To make something different, in a way that was different. So, those feelings if inadequacy I expected to have pretty much never showed up and what's left is a donations system and me using any extra money I have to buy clothes, pay contributors and buy gas for location shoots. It is hard. I'm not going to lie. But it also keeps it personal and driven by people who are truly passionate about the project. There's something really nice about that.
I think what's surprised me the most is a. I can make a magazine with no education on the subject other than loving magazines and b. that people would want to read my magazine and especially c. that people would want to submit such personal, amazing work to it. It blows me away every day. All the hard stuff, the questioning if I'm going in the right direction, sitting at my computer crying because a whole editorial layout has simply vanished, struggling to pay people, wondering if anyone would ever want to read what we're working on...it's all worth it because it amazes me every day that we did it, we're doing it, and people are reading and contributing to it.
It's an amazing thing. I've had so many failed ventures before, let me tell you. But I think maybe the mixture of my sheer naiveté, enthusiasm and gratitude for the people who have been a part of it keep me going and really make it worthwhile for me. And hopefully for other people too. I'm still learning, I'm still making mistakes and improving...but that's the whole point of an experiment, isn't it? I plan on being open about it, not hiding the process or giving off airs of casual success or perfection. We're all in this together.