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 gone...you 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.
Labels: sunday scribblings