Maybe this is all an off-shoot of the intense, compressed writing bloc over the past week, but I’ve noticed for the past several days that I have been — and am — mad at Emmett Wilson.
This isn’t the first time I’ve been made at him, but this has been the longest amount of time that I’ve just stewed about him. Why?
Because he’s inaccessible, and finally, I think it is all just getting to me. I hate admitting that, but it is the truth.
For months I’ve had to piece-meal his life together via a patchy paper/microfilm trail to consult. I’m grateful for every little bit of information I find, but I have to tell you, it is like putting together a crazy-quilt with very tiny pieces of fabric that — most of the time — are just weird looking, or boring textiles. Occasionally, I find the ‘velvet’; you know, something fabulous and unique. I treasure those ‘pieces’ to build my information crazy quilt like you have no idea.
The thing is, though, it hard to structure an in-depth biography around a few isolated ‘pieces’ written about Emmett. There is also background information from other sources to include (which I have), but I feel like I’m missing something without having Emmett’s actual words.
And here, I think, is the real source of my anger:
I’m angry because I’m worried. Scared, actually.
If I really want to ‘Tell His Story,’ I need to get into the man’s head. Without Emmett’s own words (journals, letters, the Elusive Scrapbooks), I feel like I cannot accurately relate what was going on with him personally, and I will have to extrapolate from the secondary research. I prefer the subject do the talking (Emmett), and not the interpreter (me). I’m scared that his story, via my interpretation, may fall short of the goal, and I don’t want to let Emmett down that way.
Sometimes I think, perhaps, the reason he asked me to tell his story is because he really didn’t have his own voice most of his life. Everyone else was so busy speaking ‘for’ him and grooming him for their own purposes…I don’t know. That’s just a feeling I have.
What I do know is that he did ask me to tell his story for him. I’m going to do the best job I can, whether or not I’m mad at him.
Emmett’s story is a long way from completion. Even though I’ve started writing a few of the chapters, the data collection continues, and who knows, I may come across something ‘in his own words’.
This week, I’m in the middle of an interesting chapter on Pensacola in 1866 — what it was like post-reconstruction for Emmett’s parents.
I’ll be back in a day or so with an update on the writing.