Thursday, July 26, 2012


Hello World.

 Depression and writers.  How true it is.  We seem to go hand in hand.  We're joined at the sterum, closer than lovers.  Whether we're  genetically predisposed to depression or not, I think the writing life seems, well...inauthentic, without  occasional periods of the deep, deep blues, the  Mood Indigos.

We feel morally bound to brood, because that's what 'serious' writers do. We  live by our wits, and sometimes live too close to the  poverty level.  And so we isolate, which deepens the blues.  We envy the thriller-writers who rake in  big royalties.  Sometimes  we  hate them.  We stop feeling attractive and lose our lovers, even our spouses.  We become loners because socializing, even conversation, has become an endurance test.  Oh, enough.

We chose this life.  No one drafted us.  Let's jolly up and admit we LOVE this writing-thing.  When we are creating, our juices are flowing, our brains are kicked into high gear...don't you feel the  rush? It's like a snort of cocaine. Two snorts. Doesn't your heart palpitate, and your very follicles sizzle?  Mine do. There is nothing that compares to it. Isn't that worth occasional depression?  (I'm not talking about clinical depression. That is more serious and calls for medical supervision.)

Perhaps the next time the 'blues' descend, we might want to sit back, take a breath and compare someone else's life.  I guarantee you, afterwards you'll feel extremely blessed.  You will feel grateful.  I'm talking about the life of Roald Dahl.  A genius who wrote thrilling and absurd and fabulous books for children.  Remember 'Willy Wonka?'  'James and The Giant Peach?'  Or 'The Sound Machine?' (In which a man could hear plants screaming.)  Or how about 'The BFG,' the giant who went around at night, blowing dreams through a tube into kid's bedrooms.  Dahl was a brilliant storyteller, a magician.  His books are still read around the world in many languages.

  He made $$millions from his books, and  died 20 years ago.  Finally, his personal history,  his private life, was made public.  It was horrendous.  Absolutely grisly. His father, as a child, had his arm amputated thanks to a drunk doctor.  At three, Dahl's older sister died, and shortly after,  his one-armed father died.  Several years later, still only a boy, Dahl's nose was completely severed from his face  in a car accident. A near-sighted doctor sewed it back on. Slightly off-center.

In WWII  Dahl  joined the RAF, became a pilot, and crashed on his first official day of flying, in the Libyan Desert.  His skull was fractured, spine broken, his  face burned, his poor nose driven back into his face. Stoked by the heat, his plane's machine-guns started shooting at him.  Miraculously, he managed to survive the crash, was somehow patched-up, fought others battles, and survived the war.  Then he was diagnosed with cancer. (Are you still with me?) During treatment,  his doctors recommended he have all his teeth pulled. Who knows why? So, he did. Dahl was only twenty-one!

After the war, he began writing stories to ward off depression. Thus began his illustrious and lifelong career. Then he married and had children. His 4 month-old son was hit by a taxi, shattering his skull. The child survived, but damaged. Two years later, Dahl's 7 year-old daughter contracted measles and died of a brain inflammation. Then his 39 year-old wife, the actress Patricia Neal, suffered an aneuryism and fell into a coma for weeks.  He coached her through months and years of grueling rehabilitation.

All his life he suffered pain from his war wounds. And all the while, he wrote.  He wrote magical and fabulous stories for children, that they still quote from as adults. Of course, Dahl was notoriously  impatient and rude to people (can you blame him?) He picked fights at book parties,  slugged editors, sold out friends, repeatedly and  publicly insulted his still-rehabilitating wife.  In the end he  proved to be a racist, an anti-semite, an all-around  stinker. No one liked him. No one. But he never stopped writing.  I think writing was how he had survived his life.

 Perhaps its best to forget the man, and remember the genius. But when we writers are feeling depressed, unloved, unpraised, it might be worth another look at Dahl's horrendous, nearly inconceivable life of tragedy.  By comparison, I think most of us are lucky.

So let's gather  our inspirations and energies - our mitochondria, and centrioles, and genomes, all those marvelous ecosystems that contain and define each of us - say a little mantra of thanks for what we have,  and then get back to work.

Happy Writing  and Imua! (Press On, no matter what.)




  1. Wow--My kids and I loved Roald Dahl books--I had NO idea! OK, thanks, Kiana, stopping complaining now!

  2. What an astonishing story! Thank you for writing that. It is inspiring to know what this man endured and yet created so much magic.

  3. Thank you for reminding me why I have to finish this book!

    love ya,
    little l

  4. My jaw is still dropping from Dahl's horrendous life. There's an old saying that
    "Comedy=Tragedy+Time." but I can't think of anything comical about his life. A miracle that he produced the fantastic books he did.

    And yes, it really makes you count your blessings. Thanks for reading!

  5. As artists we sacrifice everything in the name of our art. I don't know how many times I've been asked why anyone would choose such a life. My answer is always the same. Who said we have a choice?
    Keep on rockin', Kiana. There are a lot of stars in the galaxy, but you are one of the brightest.

  6. Mark...on reflection, I think you're right. Really dedicated writers have no choice. We're driven - a blessing and a curse. We don't know any other life. We don't WANT any other life.

    Turgenev once envisioned the perfect death: "Bent over a manuscript, pen in hand, brooding over where to place a comma." Oh woe! Still, compared to Roald Dahl, our lives are a lark, a day at the beach! So, press on, you dedicated man. You've got the goods.

    And thanks for reading! Kiana