Naima Morelli

Keep it simple

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For years I’ve considered myself a massimalist.
I’m Italian, I’m Neapolitan. We are baroque people. We are about adding, getting into the abundance of love, life, colours, art, words, food, everything. We don’t throw away stuff. We are sentimental people and everything has a value to us. An old handkerchief can remind us of a particular day, a necklace of a particular person. Objects for us are about suggestions, evocations.

Also, we don’t throw away stuff because “It can always be useful”. We stuff our shops with exotic objects, our wallets with family photos, the windows of our car with praying cards, our bookshelves with books. We are curious people, we are open to change our mind even in the span of a short conversation – in fact more often than not we are also contradictory in our speaking and thinking. I’m guilty of that myself, never getting straight to the point but continuously overlapping levels and levels of thoughts. A common Neapolitan saying is: “A cap’ è na sfoglia ‘e cipolla”, meaning “The head is as layered as an onion”. We might have an opinion about everything, but deep down we question everything.

So, with such a cultural background, how in the world did I become interested in minimalism? Minimalism – that Swedish-sounding word that evokes boring empty houses, annoying white and black furniture and dotted painting (Niele Torini did it much earlier than Demian Hirst). Well, if you know me, by now you have probably noticed I like to do many different things – but never one at the time. I have languages to learn, books to write, art communities to explore, artists to interview, projects to realize, comic books to draw, interesting characters waiting to come alive, new outfits to photograph, places to visit. Ultimately – to quote Italian rap band Corveleno – I have “too many stories pressing in my heart, not to speak of the only way left”.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m more than happy to wake up every morning with a new idea. I’m also aware though that many people have ideas all the time. To put them into practice is the important – and fun – part. But an idea entertained for one morning is too vague, you need more time to figure it out properly and make it real. Not to mention the efforts to find people and a support system that would help you getting that idea off the ground. Well, that’s when discontent comes into play.

Just like any other freelancer, every so often I would have a day of sadness and confusion. Of course, a little gloom every now and then is a normal feeling. It might be the bad weather, it might be the planets alignments. There are certain times though when I could really spot where the gloom was coming from. It’s coming from a place of trying to do too many things and realize that that each one of these things is exciting, and it could possibly lead to other projects, other ideas, other life choices, another career even. And that’s not possible, because I love what I’m doing, I love my path and I don’t want to steer away from it just because of a new enticing idea.

Sometimes even in my own path of arts writer/ journalist /curator I get stuck in a rut. Just limiting myself to the contemporary art world, every single project that I’m doing can lead to thousand others. While I’m happy not knowing what the writer’s block is, I’m also wrestling to keep new ideas at bay. Being a freelance writer is all about having ideas, so the best thing for me would be channel all the ideas into pitches for magazines. But of course, I often forget about that and ideas are hard to be tamed.

For example, somewhere around spring that year, prioritizing had been particularly tough for me. Around that time I got completely overwhelmed by all my “priorities” – which clearly when they became more than three they don’t actually deserve to be called priorities anymore, isn’it? I’m talking of two different researches for two books overlapping, shows to curate, the need of freelancing consistently and honing my craft, all that while keeping up with my three blogs on a regular basis and producing new material for them. And on top of that the biggest task: researching where to ive, evaluating the next step. I felt like I was keeping myself constantly ready for whatever opportunity would come to the horizon, not excluding anything of what I was able to do. I was trying to be everything for everyone. The formula of self-sabotage basically.

Well, luckily I managed to push through it and in the process I’ve built the best working routine I ever had. Discipline is becoming increasingly natural to me, while making sure there is also room for adventure and the unexpected. Practically speaking, I’m applying a common rule. I schedule three big tasks I need to do every day, and considering all the extra tasks … just extra tasks!

I’ve to be honest; on my project-based schedule I still have five different projects on the go, but as strange as it may look like, that’s still an improvement compared to the past. I’m definitely easing up on my side projects. I still don’t have hobbies – just passions. But now I also know you can’t have three boyfriends at the same time and be in love with all three of them. You have to love them one at the time, and don’t feel bad for the other two. The missed opportunities, the missed identities, the missed yous.

For a long time I was worried that, if I’d ease up on things like my graphic novels and my fashion blog, I just gave up on a big part of my identity. That’s not entirely true. My need to tell stories has naturally flown into my writing, instead of my comic books – so has my research process. Even if I don’t take pictures of my outfits every two weeks anymore, I still like to dress-up, play with fashion and take pictures of my beautiful and stylish friends. As soon as I start considering what I am doing not as mere things I’m doing, but rather as quintessential qualities within myself that can be applied to a varieties of activities, I know I will never give it up. As for the physical thing – the blogs for example – I’ve just decided to dedicate less time and thought to them, in order for me to dedicate hundred percent to my writing and “contemporary art stuff”. I just don’t think of them not as obligations anymore, but “games” in the more noble sense of the word. I’ll do them out of desire whenever I feel like.

So that’s what led me to a minimalist approach. It all starts by being intentional. As much as I would like to add things (start a course of martial arts, do the interrail), or bring my side projects to the next level (became a full-time illustrator, making a hats and clothing brand out of my fashion blog) I also know new choices would betray my previous commitments with myself. Even if it’s eight years now I’m writing for magazines (four years just for Italian magazines and four years since I started freelancing for English-language magazines), I still feel I have a long way to go. There is still so much to learn – in the last two years alone I’ve totally changed my approach and my prospective on freelancing for example. You need mental space and clarity to improve.

Obviously I don’t want to attach myself too much the definition “journalist” or “arts writer” – I’m well aware that such figures in the traditional sense don’t really exist anymore. I’m happy to build my own path, but I’ve to choose one direction and be consistent and clear-minded. It all passes through choices that you won’t second-guess. Pick your chance and have no regrets. Draw your road-map with black ink, not with a pencil. And keep it simple.

That doesn’t mean I’ll get rid of the paintings in my room, much less I’ll became minimalist in my writing. I love beauty, I love stories, I love gonzo, I love decadence, I love Italian roccocò palaces, I love adventures, I love playing all sort of songs on my guitar. I’m still a Gustave Moreau person, not a Niele Toroni person. But minimalism will be the structure to contain my pockets of massimalism. Be intentional and keep it simple, so you can stick with it. And that’s just the start.

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Photo 1 and 2 from The Dirty Stache