On March 15 I officially started my Minigrooves literary project. Describing the nature of the project is simple, and I’ll reiterate by quoting from the foreword I wrote at the time: Minigrooves are portable words, which, like songs, you can carry with you everywhere. They’re miniatures you can read when you have five minutes, when you are between things, places, times. The idea came to me last summer, while I was checking some illustrations made by a young designer. I thought that, despite having never heard about that guy, I could at once realise his talent and what style(s) were influencing him. Similarly, with a musician, I can listen to some of his/her songs and get an immediate feeling. In both cases I can see whether they’re good or not at what they do, and more importantly I can immediately feel if we’re on the same wavelength, so to speak. Then I thought: what is it I’m good at? Well, writing of course. So I realised I could offer something similar. Instead of illustrations or songs, I could publish short, self-contained stories.
An important realisation related to creativity
You should understand that before my interest in technology and before my job as a translator, I am a writer at heart. I started quite early, writing poetry and lyrics for local bands of amateurs when I was 15. And my early writings were in English already, which is not my first language. Prose-wise, my most intense creative period has been the 1990s. During that decade I wrote a short novel, a long one, and dozens of short stories (in English and Italian). Apart from some self-published works, a lot of what I’ve written over the years has remained unpublished. And not for lack of trying. But what can someone with no contacts (or the wrong contacts) in the publishing world do? I sent my stories to well-known and lesser-known publishing houses. I trusted acquaintances with a small selection of my works because they told me they knew someone who could help. I went as far as self-publishing booklets and manually distributing them in the university I was studying at the time. I also did the occasional reading, accompanied by some jazz musician friends. I accomplished very little. The vast majority of people who read my things told me they enjoyed them very much, said that I have talent. I mention this in case some of you who are reading this now think my failure at becoming a renowned writer lies in the poor quality of my work.
Anyway, I experienced a serious creative block around 2002-2003. I’ve been recovering from this block roughly since 2010, when I started writing poetry again. As for short stories, my Minigrooves represent my most serious creative accomplishment in the last fifteen years, but most of all they represent the end of my creative drought. Non-creative people cannot fully grasp the impact an eight-year long drought has on a creative person. Imagine being involved in a horrendous car crash and having to stay immobilised in a cast in a hospital bed for months. Imagine a period of eight years where your creative mind can’t ‘move’ and feels similarly immobilised. It’s awful and it really, really eats at your self-esteem. Then imagine my joy when I felt the wheels moving again at the start of this humble literary project.
The important creative realisation I’m referring to is that — believe it or not — my creativity has returned through discipline. I could have started Minigrooves by opening the website and publishing a new story whenever I wanted, whenever inspiration came knocking at my door. I could have chosen a more leisurely pace. But I have the feeling that, if I did that, now I would be here publishing my second or third story. Instead, by self-imposing such a strict schedule, i.e. a new story each Monday and Thursday, I have noticed how the urgency has stimulated the flow of new ideas for new stories. Over the years, I’ve been thinking that schedules and deadlines were something exclusively work-related, that creativity should be ‘free of boundaries’. I was so wrong.
I’ll be sincere with you: the feedback for Minigrooves has been disheartening so far. I don’t have traffic statistics for the tumblelog where the project resides, but 5 Tumblr followers and 22 Twitter followers, combined with the almost complete silence and lack of commentary, all this speaks volumes to me.
It’s not that I was so naïve as to think that it was enough to start the project, spread the word a bit on Twitter and keep people updated every Monday and Thursday to be successful, but I honestly believed my stories were the right format and varied enough to interest different kinds of people, and I also honestly believed people turned out to be a little more supporting. I’m not asking you to do all the hard advertising work for me, but seriously, even a retweet is too much work today? Too much to ask? Even the literal word of mouth (“Hey, you should check the work of this guy I know through Internet, it’s cool”) is too much? I do the same with creatives of various fields (type designers, illustrators, musicians, app developers, etc.) I know or discover — is it really so outrageous of me to ask for the same treatment? Is a writer some sort of second-class creative? Is it because I’m not making you pay for reading (so that free content = cheap quality for you)?
Six weeks ago, I wrote a little reflection about this on Twitter:
I believe that some of my short stories at Minigrooves are rather head-scratching in some places. Receiving next to no feedback can mean:
- My readers are smart, intelligent fellows who don’t need explanations or suggestions. — Which is cool, and means I have an ideal audience.
- My readers simply accept the stories as they are, no matter how much they ‘get’ out of them. — Which is okay, but not really rewarding.
- My readers would like to ask questions, but then life goes on and they forget and oh well. — Which is understandable but a bit sad.
- Almost no one reads my short stories and/or doesn’t care to send any kind of feedback. — Which is disheartening, considering the work.
Let me say it again: I may have closed comments on this site for various reasons, but Minigrooves is a completely different thing. If you read my stories, even if you haven’t read all of them, I’d like a word of feedback, I’d like to know what you enjoyed, if you were taken by surprise by some endings, and so on. You can write me at the email address you find in the footer, or just throw me a tweet at my account @morrick or at the project’s account, @minigrooves. I don’t write these stories only for myself. I write them with an audience in mind. That’s why I really value your feedback — it helps to keep me going.
And I’ll leave it at that, regarding feedback.
The future of Minigrooves
The project won’t go on indefinitely, of course. I am tempted to follow a TV series’ format here. That is, ‘airing’ the stories in ‘seasons’, then publishing the stories as a book (I was thinking of ebook as the only format, publishing my stories on the Kindle store and Apple’s iBookstore, but if I can also strike some deal for publishing them on paper as well, that’d be grand). The books will have some ‘extras’ (just like movies and TV shows’ DVDs/Blu-Ray discs), like bonus stories, author’s commentary and notes, etc. This way, even those who have followed the stories during their ‘airing’ period will find something of value by purchasing the book.
I’ve decided that each ‘season’ will consist of 42 stories, so at the moment we’ve just passed the middle of Season 1. I think it’s a solid publishing plan, but I’m open to suggestions.
Finally, I wanted to thank all the people who are following the project, reading my stories, and spreading the word. You’re not many, but you’re the best!