[ For those of you who do not yet know her, Chérie l'Ecrivain IS NOT US WE SWEAR, although Chérie and the Rejectionist do occasionally have the same thoughts at the same time, and by "occasionally" the Rejectionist means "all the time on gchat when we are technically supposed to be working but a person does get tired and need to check in with her friends who keep her sane and functioning smoothly, doesn't she." You may view more of Chérie's excellent contributions to our blog here. -ed ]
I have never been of the belief that melancholy bodes well for a novelist. In my experience, depression and malaise lend themselves nicely to lost weekends spent holed up in my apartment, watching my stories and drinking sweet tea vodka, eventually passing out on my living room floor next to my empty bottle and takeout containers, then waking up in the middle of the night with a devious hangover and profound sense of shame. Sometimes I skip all of that, and go straight to the part where I rock back and forth in my bed and wonder why I was ever naive enough to believe that adulthood (I use the term loosely, of course) would be anything more than this paltry existence of worrying about money and feeling incompetent. Some people may be surprised, but this is not a mindset I find conducive to working on my novel, which revolves around a couple of teenagers with very poor impulse control and might as well be called Bad Decisions: A Love Story.
Blind rage, on the other hand, I find positively inspiring. It comes upon me now and then, not entirely unpredictable--someone palming my roommate's ass at a show, conversations with my mother, and the demon whiskey are all things that can be counted upon to send me into a veritable frenzy, although just as often it takes nothing at all. Ever had that dream where you're trying to run and you can't? For years I've regularly dreamt its fucked-up variation, where I'm trying to fight off an imaginary enemy with ineffectual fists, and no matter how hard I try to punch him, the blows don't land right, and he laughs and laughs until I wake up in an impotent fury. There are times in reality, almost always when intoxicated, that I experience this emotion with such a pure, fevered intensity I actually step outside myself and think, "Yes, Chérie, you are like a crazy person right now, you must file this feeling away so the next time your characters are screaming at each other in a parking lot, you will know exactly how to capture them. Now, pick up that garbage can and throw it into the street while you shout about how you're going to kill all the motherfuckers." Later, of course, my recollections are hazy. What made me so angry? How did it feel, exactly? There's only one way to find out, and that's to get another bottle of Jameson and do it over again.
Fortunately, it also works the other way, in which I routinely dismiss prolonged bouts of contentment and instead seek out short bursts of wild, maniacal joy. It can manifest in so many different ways: giddily climbing fences and trespassing with my friends or walking out to my favorite Brooklyn pier in the middle of a foggy night or going to see a Guns n Roses tribute band, getting tossed around in the audience while a man dressed as Slash spits Jack Daniels at my person.For six months I experimented with being a full and willing participant in a Functioning Relationship with a nice young man who was, sadly, a bit of a homebody and eventually I asked myself this question: What good am I to the world sprawled on a couch with this nice young man and a bottle of wine, my belly filled with spaghetti carbonara, watching Slap Shot for the sixteenth time and patiently accepting a neckrub? What inspiration can I possibly derive from this experience, except to perhaps fall asleep by ten-thirty? I am not averse to the pleasures of domestic felicity, but I've found that the line between contentment and apathy can be dangerously thin. I realize when I say things like that, I sound a lot like an adolescent myself, and while I'd like to use as an excuse the fact that I've been working on a novel about teenagers for a couple of years now, the truth is I just never outgrew my precocious teenager phase, which is why I started writing a book about them in the first place.
There are parts of my novel that I want to be like throwing a garbage can and shouting profanities and there are parts of my novel that I want to be like pogoing in the pit at a rock show to a fist-pumping anthem you can feel inside your chest. The kids are seventeen--they don't do contentment and they don't do moderation, and if I spend too much time doing either myself, I start to feel disconnected from them. Maybe I've gotten a little too Method as I've been working on their story, but I can't help it. I hate when my imaginary friends seem like they're having more fun than me.