New Year, New Zine: Plural Selves

New Year, New Zine: Plural Selves

To mark the turning of the year I’ve made a new zine about one of the ideas that I’ve found the most helpful during the challenging times of 2017. This is the notion that our selves are plural rather than singular, and that it’s useful to get in touch with all these different selves, rather than fixing ourselves as one true self.


Rewriting the Rules: 2nd Edition

I wrote about this idea many years ago in the first edition of Rewriting the Rules. During 2017 I got the chance to write a second edition of this book which will be coming out in Spring 2018. I felt very fortunate to be able to revisit this project which marked a massive turning point for me: the point at which I finally allowed myself to do the thing I’d always wanted to do: be a writer. Since then I’ve written several more self-help style books, zines, and graphic guides. 2018 will (hopefully) be a year when I make further steps towards making writing the core of what I do.

Rewriting Rewriting the Rules (!) was challenging exactly because of this point that we are plural selves. I’d assumed that the second edition would just involve me polishing up what I’d written before and adding a few bits based on what I’ve learnt since I wrote the original. Instead as I edited I realised it felt like more of a collaborative writing process – complete with the tensions and conflicts those can involve. I was writing this book with an older version of myself who was a very different person to the person I am now (even with a different name!) I hope that readers will appreciate what’s come out of that collaboration. I believe it’s a stronger book because my current self is a more intersectional thinker, more open about their own experiences, and – I hope – a better writer. But through the process I had to learn to value and embrace the writer and person I was back then too, because I had to write with them not against them.


One of the challenges of editing this second edition was that I’ve come across so many helpful ideas in the years since I published Rewriting the Rules which I wanted to add in. But I also didn’t want to spoil the flow of the chapters with too many additions and tangents. I hope I’ve struck the balance as well as I could (there may still be quite a lot of tangents!) One way I handled it was to point readers to some of the zines that I’ve published which expand on things like self-care practices, social mindfulness, or staying with feelings.

However there was one topic that needed a lot more detail which I hadn’t already zined about: Plural Selves. So I promised myself I’d get that zine made before the second edition came out, and here it is. As with all my zines it looks best if you print it out in booklet format (at 48 pages it takes 12 sheets of A4 so it’s the biggest yet!) But you can also read it on your computer or phone, or print it the regular way.


Plural Selves

In Rewriting the Rules I focus on the evidence that we are plural rather than singular, particularly drawing on the work of my friend and colleague Trevor Butt, to whom the second edition is dedicated. In the zine I concentrate more on explaining the various kinds of plural selves that we have, and how we might go about embracing them and improving communication between them.

This metaphor for understanding ourselves – as many selves – has been one of the most helpful in my own life, and when I’ve shared it with clients. It often makes sense of experiences people have struggled with, and offers a set of practices to help them to get on much friendlier terms with themselves. It seems to be helpful for self-understanding, for making choices, for improving our relationships with other people, and for improving mental health.

The zine is a step forward for me because it’s more of a complete (and lengthy) comic than any of my previous zines, with the same characters telling a story from page to page. It’s also a lot more open about my own experiences than previous zines, given that I’ve got two of my own – most confident – plural selves introducing the whole thing! This makes it feel more vulnerable to share, but also – I hope – more engaging to read. Making this zine felt like another step, for me, towards the kind of writing I want to be doing, which is more personal, and also brings in more drawings (which several readers who fed back on Rewriting the Rules told me they enjoy).

I hope that you find these ideas as useful as I have, and wish you all the best for 2018 whatever it may bring for you, and for all of us.

Meg-John (MJ) Barker (they/them) is a writer, zine-maker, collaborator, contemplative practitioner, and friend. They are the author of a number of zines and popular books on sex, gender, and relationships, including graphic guides to Queer, Gender, and Sexuality (with Jules Scheele), and How To Understand Your Gender, Sexuality and Relationships (with Alex Iantaffi).