MMCP: My Most Cherished Project

Like most people, I also possess the natural desire to create something lasting, leave something behind that will touch people. We all long to capture our moment, become immortal. It’s all an illusion as in time, everything perishes; nevertheless, we struggle to attain this goal. Our utmost goal in life.

For me, the closest I have come to perfection and pure unadulterated joy was through writing. It is also my futile but very delectable effort to leave something lasting for mankind. Writing that I mostly did as a hobby and a pastime for many years. At first I wrote to entertain myself; later to entertain others. Despite my humble origins as a writer wanna-be and my seriously flawed style I have received much support and positive feedback from people who read my stories, mostly fan-fiction. I won’t go into the ethical qualms regarding fan-fiction, I have had numerous dark moments due to my shame, guilt and sense of worthlessness from having used this or that celebrity as basis to my stories. I have struggled through these moments with a lot of help from my loyal friends. (You know who you are – THANK YOU!!!) I kept writing my stories because I believe they are good stories and they were a humble source of entertainment and joy to many people. Yes, I gave in to the temptations of vanity and pride. But this, like most things in life, has two sides to it.

My novel in progress started out as a fan-fiction in the June of 2007, right after I returned from a certain concert at Hampton Court, London. I’d been toying with a vague idea of a story where two people meet in a clinic, an elderly painter and a younger singer. (A not very famous movie also inspired me a little.) I saw no details or outcome, just a blurry mess of possibilities. I started writing the story and already from the first chapter it felt different. The tempo was slow, the style relaxed but I tried loading it with descriptions to best capture moods. The scenery, and the sea, and the inner landscapes of my characters. I was trying hard to perfect my own style and even though I was falling very, very short of my literary heroes (Virginia Woolf, Patrick White, DUH, in my dreams?!), I knew I was getting better at writing. I wrote the story for almost two years and for two years I published the short instalments on a website where people commented. I am happy to say I received some of the best feedback there, for this story, not only from friends but also people who never knew me before reading it. Some of the comments were detailed and meant as positive criticism. I welcomed every ounce of it. I incorporated ideas and wishes into the story. It was a common effort. My dear friend Lory, she held my hand virtually through my most exalted and depressed moments writing this: we discussed chapters, I showed her paragraphs, I asked her opinion on numerous things. She has been there for me and the story all the way, she loved the characters as dearly as I did. In fact, I believe that our friendship became so strongly knit together partly thanks to my stories and this story in particular. I showed my true colours through my fiction and she welcomed those colours even when they were ugly. I also received priceless comments from other people, one of which being another dear friend’s, Helga’s introductory message to me (in response to my story) on the Josh Groban Yuku board. I still have that saved, it is very dear to my heart, it made me weep of joy and it still makes me teary whenever I re-read it. There is also another friend I made through this story, she also corroborated my thoughts through events from her own life but I shall leave her nameless, I know she would like to stay private.

After a while, I had to realize two things. One, I was making compromises for the sake of my readers. I was writing things I had not originally planned for my characters. I indulged in erotic passages that appealed to me, of course, as to everyone else who read them, but that deep in my heart did not feel an organic part of the story. I felt I was selling out. The other thing I realized was that the story was taking a hike, going off on its own. It had started living a separate life from me a while before, the characters had become well-rounded and lifelike, and the more time went by, the more profound the story felt, and the more genuine the message. I was understanding things about myself and other people through writing the story. I was hitting on sensitive nerves of people without even knowing what I was writing. Also, details were coming together in a miraculous way, things written years before suddenly were pointing at details that sprung out of my head “out of the blue”, and vica versa. As if I had written many things back when I launched the story without even knowing why I was writing them.

By the time I read an article about unusual real-life romances, one of them being a woman in her late fifties and a man in his early thirties, I knew there was more to the story than I had ever thought. (In the same article two more couples seemed to reiterate and corroborate what I had written in two of my other stories. I cannot be more grateful for such vehement affirmation from life!) A short while later, a Hungarian acquaintance of mine with whom I went to a figure skating event told me about her own affair with a much younger man. When she was relating her doubts and fears, I was hearing Mary’s doubts and fears. I could not have known any of it back when I started writing the story. I have very little personal experience related to people, so I mostly draw from my imagination and whatever I picked up from here and there, stories, movies, music, etc. Needless to say that when I heard my character’s thoughts almost mot a mot from the mouth of my acquaintance, I freaked out, and in the best way possible.

Taking all of these factors into consideration, I had to make adjustments in the writing department. I had to say goodbye to my comfort zone: writing publicly, writing so people could comment right away. I also had to decide what to write: by that time I was writing appr. 10 stories simultaneously. (All of those stories but one are unfinished and I dearly, I repeat, I dearly love them all. It is my intent to finish them sooner or later, in one form or another.) It was insane, it was total madness. Some days I’d write several updates to several stories. I think my record is 5 different updates/day. The state of my brain and my body after that day is something you wouldn’t wanna hear… I was wasting myself, I was losing inspiration and energy. It had to stop. So I put most of my stories on hold and they remained on hold with a few random breaks up to now.

And this is how “A walk by the sea” became my no. 1 priority in writing.

I’ve been writing it ever since. After several years I realized I wanted to make a proper novel, a publishable book out of it. So I went back and changed a lot of things, I erased and edited, added and altered. The verb tense, the characters. The names. Mary became Meriel, a telling name. I adore it. I simply adore it! I lost Diane and she became Angela, also very telling, I love the switch. Joshua, well, he will stay Joshua if I can help it. It’s my favourite male name in the entire world, has always been, long before a certain curly-haired singer stormed his way into my heart four and a half years ago. After writing and re-writing for a while, I asked my beloved to help me and thus he offered to be my editor. He put long hours of effort into reading my story; it is not his style but he worked hard at it because he loves me. He provided me with priceless comments and ideas, some of them I incorporated into the story. He drew my attention to the weak points and I’m very grateful to him for that. I started to re-write again, for the third time. It’s still a work in progress.

Right now, I have mostly found the structure I want, and I have the message I want to convey. I have the characters and their inner conflicts, as well as the struggles between them. I am writing about each of them alternately, their stories unfold before my very eyes as I type up the paragraphs. I know what I want to write, the big bulk of it, but the details are born as I go along. It’s an adventure like no other, it’s psychology, it’s emotions, it’s something that tugs at my heart-strings. When I write this story, time stops. I sit with my characters and I hear them speak, I hear their heartbeats. I lose track of everything else. I want to make them happy but most of all, I wish for them to learn their lessons and move on to the next stage of development. I see their mistakes and I dearly love them for those mistakes as well as their strengths. They are my friends, all of them. Meriel is a lot like me, through her I learn about myself. Joshua is troubled but very, very lovable. Joseph is probably in the deepest mess right now, with so many demons to fight I’m not sure how he’ll manage. Andrew is exciting and reliable at the same time. I created their past and I welcome all ideas I get from deep inside when I get into the zone. Sometimes they don’t fit but sometimes it works like magic!

Today I was listening to my compilation of gloomy songs and “L’amour devant la mer” came up. It has been THE song for the ending scene of the story for years. (In my original vision, and after. In my original vision, btw, he and her meet by the sea, their relationship only guessed at, never consummated; it’s a relationship of inspiration and support and friendship but also a hint of something else. An embrace, nothing else; and a goodbye. That would’ve been it.) Tonight I heard the song and the ending changed itself in my head; I had had what I thought was the perfect ending for years and I thought I would never give it up. Today the vision was not blurry but crystal-clear and tears rolled down my cheek as I realized the sacrifice I would have to make. For the sake of perfection, closure and a beautiful message. It’s a new era that started today in my novel’s life.

I don’t always find the time to write, by the way. These past two days I took my laptop with me and I wrote during the 40 minutes that takes the local train to reach the capital, and then back home. I’m happy to say I wrote about 3 pages of (I think) good material. I’m proud of it. I also came across looooong pages that will end up in the virtual trash-can. There is a lot of mushy stuff that must go. I will replace it with plausible and tangible emotion, real genuine dialogue and human behaviour.

God only knows when I’ll finish my novel. But it’s a labour of love and it’s definitely my most cherished project to date. I’m grateful for every bit of support I got and get from my friends, from the universe, God, my inner voice, and for the inspiration that finds me in my moments of silence. Because this story has taught me through darkness and light that writing is a place of unique joy for me, a quiet corner of my soul where no one enters unless I allow them to. This story made me understand that I write first and foremost for my own pleasure and I cannot share my joy with anyone else for now, but me. Sometimes I’m dying to show someone passages I’m especially excited about. I long to discuss the development of my characters, their thoughts and problems. Or just a phrase or two that makes me happy. For now, this is a lonely activity and who knows if my story will ever make it to the wider public. But that is not something I can ponder right now: my task is to finish the novel as best as I can. The story was born in my head and heart and it’s my duty to write it according to my abilities. The rest is an open ending and will remain so until I write down the final dot.