Yesterday Leiden turned three. Although the occasion was marked in my diary, what with every other thing going on in my life at the moment, I was unable to give the occasion the fanfare I feel it deserves. And so today, one day after the blessed event, I have settled on my couch with my cup of tea and fancy Irish scone to reflect on what three years of Leiden has meant to me.
The idea for Leiden came to me at a time when I was desperate to have something in my life that was of my own making and within my control. At the time I was working a job that gave me no stimulation or satisfaction and I had no concrete plans for my future beyond saving to go on yet another holiday. While I wasn’t necessarily unhappy, I recognised that I lacked a broader purpose and direction, a state potentially dangerous to my type A personality.
In starting and shaping the magazine, I filled the void of my self-perceived lack of success and soon began to embed the role I played within it as part of my identity. I was no longer worker-of-crappy-unsatisfying-day-job-with-$7000-of-credit-card-debt-still-living-at-home, I was Emma Batchelor, editor of Leiden Magazine.
One and half years into Leiden’s life, I got a new job and for the first time in my life I had full-time employment that I actually liked. Suddenly, Leiden was not the sole source of professional satisfaction for me in the way it had been, which scared me. I found that while my passion for Leiden had not dimmed, the amount of energy I had to give it had as I found myself content with working harder and longer at my new job than I had at my previous one. It became increasingly difficult to keep it all together.
When I started this publication I did dream of making money from it but as time went on and I continued to explore what that would actually mean I found the traditional model of selling advertising or advertorial content didn’t sit well with me. I instead began to consider other options but, for one reason or another, could never quite bring myself to enact any of them.
Almost every day I am bombarded by ‘inspirational’ posts left in various girl boss groups telling me to ‘value my time’ and ‘know my worth’. That if I ‘turn my passions into a job, I’ll never work a day in my life’.
These mantras are no doubt important for bolstering self worth and are likely helpful for the myriad small business owners out there, but for me they have been detrimental to the way I have thought about Leiden. Phrases such as these have added to the pressure I have felt to monetise my passion and have instilled in me the idea that a venture is only ‘successful’ if it makes money.
But what if I place a value on my time that isn’t financial? What if the joy of creating is in itself is enough? What if all I hope to achieve through our collective writing is to spark conversation and connection?
For these are the greatest gifts Leiden has given me, the ability to facilitate connections between not only myself and our contributors but also with the readers who engage with our work, and to initiate conversations, to question and to consider, to push the boundaries of our knowledge.
Do I need to make money alongside that? I am no longer so sure.
It would be nice to not have to work quite so hard, to be able to come home from a full day of work and not have to pick up my laptop and continue working, this time under another guise. It would be nice to have a weekend.
Most of all I would love to be able to pay the incredible people who work alongside me. But as time goes on I realise I have things to offer them that, while not money, are still valuable and I hope still make contributing to Leiden worthwhile.
So if I am not working towards turning Leiden into a business, does that mean it is just a plaything, a hobby? While parts of my identity are entwined within it, I have always wanted the publication to grow and for those who contribute to it to also have ownership over it; after three years of life Leiden exists beyond myself. In this sense, it is not, and never will be, a hobby.
In not relying on making an income from what I do with Leiden, I have been able to nurture and adapt my relationship with it on my own terms which as my mental health has deteriorated over the last few months, has been vital. As such Leiden has gotten off to a slow start this year, however, as I continue to evaluate what Leiden is and can be, I know that the publication will continue to grow.
It remains a difficult time to work in media. During 2018 a number of independent publications folded, Rookie, Racked, Lenny Letter and, closer to home, Hot Chicks with Big Brains. The media landscape is both shrinking as traditional print media publications continue to consolidate or fold and expanding as the number of voices sharing content online continues to grow.
As one small, independent voice, vying for your attention among the cacophony of content being produced, we deeply appreciate the time you, our readers, have given us over the last three years. We will continue to write and create work that we hope sparks ideas, conversation and connection.
Illustration: Lexi Keelan