They’ve been chatty this weekend, Emmett and his sister, Katie Wilson Meade. Two days in the writing cave, and 37 pages. It’s a very rough draft, but it means a few important scenes are roughed in. Editing will happen later. What I wanted to accomplish this weekend was to get details down, in a way and style that ‘feels’ real.
These siblings were extremely close, all their lives, even when separated by hundreds of miles. They had each other’s back at all times. Emmett didn’t open up to hardly anyone in his life, and especially, women. But he did open up to his sister. She took him as he was, without judgment.
Sure, she wished he wasn’t an alcoholic. Sure, she tried to help him. Even when he was unreachable, in the throes of addiction, Katie loved her brother. She was one of the last tethers to life as he knew it, before his mother died (which I believe was the worst thing that happened to him in his life). He never. got. over. it. How emotionally fragile this man was. No wonder he turned to alcohol.
Listening to them, hearing the drama and pain of going through recovery over and over again is emotionally draining for me, too. I hear the description of terrible hangovers and not knowing what happened during blackouts. Emmett was ill, violently ill, and still, would not stop drinking. It hurt to drink. It hurt not to drink.
Two days of writing about that, then remembering my own recovery, has made me feel a little burned out. It is valuable too: I realize I don’t have a second recovery in me. I realize I prefer sobriety. Thank God for Emmett in my life.
Anne Lamott has a great discussion in her book, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, about dialogue.
“Dialogue is the way to nail character, so you have to work on getting the voice right.”
I try not to think too much about ‘getting it right’ at this point as I write; because I feel like I do have it right. It is about feeling as you write. I say this because thinking too much is the way I get in my own way. Overprocessing the idea.
I’m doing it right now. LOL!
Here’s what I mean: Feeling is a part of listening. What is it I feel when I hear Emmett describe in detail an event and what it made him do and feel? He says, I have significant character flaws. Do not overlook them. Don’t paint them so sympathetically.
Katie says, I, too, have significant character flaws. I loved my brother and I hated him, too, for what his actions were doing to my sense of peace and well being, and to my family. Don’t paint me so sympathetically, either.
I’m still feeling a little crispy today, and there’s a lot of administrivia on the desk to manage, so I’ll take a break from the story.
Communication, Arts, and the Humanities
The University of Maryland Global Campus