Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sunday Scribbling--when Good goes Bad


You remember Resistance, don’t you? Some days I fool myself that she’s gone; for whole weeks I can get through without seeing her smirking face. But for some reason, this prompt has brought her back into the foreground of my life.

She looks over my shoulder. "No ideas, huh?"

"Well, there are these three girls in a playground...and uh..."

She rolls her eyes dramatically. "Cliche! Ugh! Quick...better erase it before anyone sees it!"

I sigh...she's right. Their voices aren't flowing for me--there is no story there, alas. Reluctantly, I say goodbye to the girls, now grown sullen and silent, as they fade away from my mind and I am left with nothing with a blinking cursor and an empty screen, which I try to hide, to no avail.

"It’s been what, one, two weeks since you wrote fiction, or anything you really liked?"

She sounds sympathetic, but I know it’s a trap. I stay silent.

"Maybe it’s just know? Whatever impulse you had for those weeks (and wasn’t I nice to take that vacation and let you have those?)...maybe you used up all of your creative juice?"

I frown. She knows just where the soft underbelly is. "I don’t think that’s possible. I mean...I think it’s just that I haven’t been getting enough sleep, enough reading time..."

"God, aren’t you tired of those excuses?"

Ouch. But she’s right. de Sade wrote in blood, in feces, while in jail. I can’t manage to create something during a generous nap time?

"Ok, yeah, I am...but I am just dry...this prompt...nothing is coming up. No voices anymore. None but yours."

Good is just a loaded word around here. I catch myself calling Madam a "good girl" and then correcting myself, because it sounds like I am praising her just for being docile, for being easy for me to handle. And I know what it’s like to grow up thinking that being accommodating is your greatest accomplishment. Just be quiet, do what everyone around you says, and get by. Don’t be difficult. Don’t be loud. Don’t make too many waves.

Whenever I see the word "good" I wonder what it is hiding underneath it. Pain? Fear? Rigidity? A fixation with being right? I think of all of the categories—good mother, good wife, good daughter, good sister, good friend, good writer—and how often I feel left out of those narrow passageways. Bad seems ever-present, sprawled all over your house, taking a drag from a beer bottle. Bad moves in, never pays the rent, never buys the groceries. But bad seems alive, immediate. Good is that china doll balanced precariously at the top of the TV, the one with the white angel wings that must never get dirty. The one you always want to touch, but your mother smacks your little pudgy hands away. It’s unachievable, because it’s outside of you.

So whenever I see "good," I think "bad"—I think about all of the ways that the very idea of "good" makes me feel worse about myself. Once people put that mantle on my shoulders, I sway, unsteady. I can’t handle it for long. Hearing that my writing is "good" makes me afraid to write at all, for fear of sliding back down to my natural state, "bad." Hearing that I am a good mother makes me want to confess my many failures—Madam still nurses many times a night; Madam refuses to get into the carseat; Madam throws tantrums and sometimes I give in because I don’t know what else to do. Remembering those days that I was a good wife only brings my many failures in that area into stark relief.

But I can’t ignore Good...I can’t ignore the seductive promise of it. The promise that the china doll ignite my dreams and star in creative fancies. The dream that I’ll figure it all out somehow, that I’ll earn that label. That I’ll make everyone happy. That I’ll live up to something that I sense inside, in quiet moments. That I won’t fail anymore. And the thing is...I know Good exists. I see it all the time--in other people, in other pieces of writing. But usually not in myself...well, not for very long. Good is a blink of a moment, over before you finish your breath. Bad is to the left and the right--it fills my eyes like night. It's my Shadow Twin. I can't seem to escape it.

Why can’t Good provide a road map, instead of giant stop sign? Why can’t it inspire me to try, and learn, to get behind the wheel and drive off to parts unknown? Why can’t Good be lots of little road stops along the path, or even the path itself, instead the Celestial City Beautiful far off in the distance, glittering because it’s never sullied by human presence?

"So...basically. You are stuck." Resi confirmed it. "No inspiration. No voices. No characters. Nothing. Just whistling voids where imagination used to live."

"Hey, I like that!" I grin weakly at her.

"Why? It’s just a few words. It’s nothing special." She said, alarmed. She hates the idea that she could ever really help.

"I know...but lately, I’ll settle for a nicely turned phrase."

"Is that good enough?" She leaned over my screen, now full of words—not the words I wanted. Not the story I wish I could have written. Not the character I wish I could have brought to life.

"No...but right now, it's better than a blank screen. I think I need to put Good back on top of the TV, and concentrate on Better."

To see truly Good writing, go here.



Blogger wendy said...

I too, rail against the notion of good as docile, submissive. Yet whith my kids at school, sometimes that's what it feels like I do. I tame. I placate, I soothe.

The image of Madame nursing for comfort, is so quietly beautiful.

The internal dialog was very intriguing to witness.

Better is just a few trys away from good. Always try to overshoot the goal. You're already there!

12:19 PM, October 22, 2006  
Blogger paris parfait said...

I like your piece, which is powerful and good. Yes, good!

12:27 PM, October 22, 2006  
Blogger Jessie said... i'm one of the guilty ones that have called your writing "good." i'd apologize, but i meant it. so instead i'll just say that i hereby give you permission to write ABSOLUTE CRAP!!! :) i don't know if my saying that counts for much, but...
sometimes bad is good.
love you,

3:31 PM, October 22, 2006  
Anonymous fern said...

Hmm...well, if you dislike Good so much, how about "moving" or "insightful" or "brilliant"? I loved this, and I think if we all concentrated on "better" instead of Good we'd get further than we expect. Sometimes the problem is that we're never happy with where we're at. Once we get to something that seemed ideal, Good automatically moves to just beyond where we are. Great (not Good) post!

4:45 PM, October 22, 2006  
Blogger Colorsonmymind said...

This seems good to me:) and the ending was even better.


5:30 PM, October 22, 2006  
Blogger Catherine said...

"Good" is good sometimes, rather than docile. It does depend on the context. But how about passion, truth and beauty, if "good" makes you feel bad? Three worthwhile words, I think.
I enjoyed reading your thoughtful piece, I always do.

5:41 PM, October 22, 2006  
Anonymous Marilyn said...

I won't say this is 'good' writing (as I always do)...I'll say it's REAL, how 'bout that? It's real...I related and felt it...and I HEAR YOU. P.S. Which means it's good...and that has nothing to do with BEING a 'good girl.' ;)

7:57 PM, October 22, 2006  
Blogger krista said...

I loved this post. The ending of it too.

I love how you nicknamed Resistance Resi. The personification of it worked really well.

Also, I know what you mean about not wanting to say "good girl," I feel the same way, not wanting to congratulate docile behaviour too much just because it makes my life easier.

8:18 PM, October 22, 2006  
Blogger Stacy said...

Good is the worst sort of parent about good enough? Most of the time that's plenty good.

9:56 PM, October 22, 2006  
Blogger Amber said...

Super post! And do I EVER have way more of these moments than I could even tell you!! So I think you did a GOOD job here. And I relate to your feelings, as well.


10:01 PM, October 22, 2006  
Blogger Bohemian Girl said...

Mmmm...i like the concept of better over good. yes.

you had me enraptured, as usual.


1:07 AM, October 23, 2006  
Blogger Mystic Wing said...

A few weeks ago, it sounded like you weren't going to write anymore. I'm so happy that you're still blogging.

So if it is too much pressure to tell you that your writing is good, perhaps you'll settle for the fact that we like it very much.

Very...enjoyable post, for everyone who has struggled with lack of inspiration or self-doubt. This of course means all of us.

8:32 AM, October 23, 2006  
Blogger dailypanic said...

enjoyed your post. Even at times when we think we have nothing to write, we find just what we wanted to say.

9:20 AM, October 23, 2006  
Anonymous tinker said...

Thanks - it's good to know that voice CAN be outwitted. Excellent post, even if it's not the one you wanted to write!

4:14 PM, October 23, 2006  
Blogger Ally Bean said...

I liked what you wrote about "good." For me I'd say the same sentiments about the word "nice." Oddly, I'm comfortable with "good" but "nice" makes me squirm.

4:41 PM, October 23, 2006  
Blogger DJPare said...

Yes! Much better than the blank page/screen. I really enjoyed reading along with your internal dialogue!

9:45 PM, October 23, 2006  
Blogger la vie en rose said...

oh yes, i know that voice...that voice that tells you you're never good enough...i know it...

1:23 PM, October 24, 2006  
Blogger Laini said...

In a dry period of non-writing panic and alarm myself right now, and I know well the fear that I've already said whatever I have to say, I've used up my good phrases, and it's all downhill from here. Ugh. But somehow, I think, the urge always beats out Resistance in the end, and she knows it will!

2:23 PM, October 24, 2006  
Blogger sophie said...

good as tame indeed -
better a "good gracious what are you up to!!"

great writing - as always and
writing in feces is stinky:)

1:02 PM, October 25, 2006  
Blogger briliantdonkey said...

holy "I am such an amateur batman!" If THIS is what you come up with when you are 'empty' I am quite impressed! I had you bookmarked from who knows how long ago and based on this post alone I am glad that I found my way back.

But I won't say that it is 'good".


7:08 AM, October 27, 2006  

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