My Writing Process
It’s hard to believe eleven years have gone by since the publication of my memoir Legacy of a False Promise: A Daughter’s Reckoning. Now I’m launching a novel, The Courier: Death of an Illusion. The topic of the two books is the same: young New Deal idealists commit themselves to the cause of American communism only to become disillusioned and distraught upon discovering the extent of the Soviet Union’s control over the Party.
Legacy of a False Promise
In Legacy I told the true story of my own idealistic parents’ early life in left-wing politics. My research revealed their motivation for joining the Communist Party, why they decided to leave and what it was like to live in crippling fear of exposure by the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Writing the memoir was a labor of love. The process was heart wrenching, intellectually stimulating, and healing. The catharsis of expressing deeply buried feelings was profound.
But, telling a family secret carries significant risk to cherished relationships. Family members who’d been hurt by the events in my memoir were not comfortable having their personal lives laid bare. As an author, the onus was on me to act responsibly with regard to their feelings before publishing the book. I tried hard to do this but was not always successful in avoiding upset feelings. Though I’m proud to have written this book which was meant to honor my parents’ memory, I regret the hurt that my actions caused others.
In The Courier I had the fun of creating a story from my imagination. I gave birth to my characters, fantasized clandestine meetings, conjured up emotions and even explored different endings. I had the fun of using places and characters from my own life, as well as my earlier research, as backdrops for the story’s action. Protagonist Anne Vaughan became a friend whose adventures, uncovered with each new chapter, intrigued me. And, yes, the story did seem to write itself.
My Writing Process
I’m very attached to my writing ritual. Because getting to the task each day is the hardest part of writing for me, I make a point to do a 15 or 20-minute meditation before beginning to write. This calms me and rids me of the mindless chatter that often crowds my mind. Then I set my cell phone alarm for an hour and begin a productive and satisfying writing session. If the alarm goes off and I feel like quitting, I give myself permission to stop, satisfied that I’ve completed what I set out to do. If, on the other hand, I’m in a particularly fluid place in my storytelling, I keep going. I love the discipline of setting goals and accomplishing them. Though a slow writer, I have the satisfaction of walking away with a completed project.