Number one on the bestseller list. Millions of books sold, translated into several languages. Scores of media appearances and book signings. A glamorous cover photo. On the surface, the life of author Marian Keyes is a dream that all budding novelists aspire to. Yet in her January Newsletter, Keyes confessed that she is suffering from depression.
Keyes has never been one to shy away from the dark side. The experiences of characters in novels such as Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married, Rachel’s Holiday and This Charming Man are clearly drawn from experiences in her own life. In her non-fiction pieces, she is frank about her battles with alcoholism and depression. She has always struggled with a sense that there is something wrong with her, no matter how well her life is going. It is this honesty and humanity, mixed with humour, that is at the root of Keyes’ success.
Many writers and artists are afflicted by dark, brooding thoughts. They feel things deeply and can often be unusually sensitive. It may be a cliche to say this, but cliches have a habit of being true. While many writers take a no-nonsense, career-minded approach to writing, many others write out of a desire to give shape to their innermost thoughts. If they are blocked for whatever reason, they may feel frustrated and clogged up, rather like an athlete who cannot exercise.
Writing acts as a channel, giving them the opporunity to give shape to their world. When the world seems like a dark place, writing can provide much-needed illumination. Though medical or psychological intervention may be needed to bring someone to a point where they can write, I have known of cases where people have used writing to help them recover. It has worked for Keyes in the past and I am confident that with the right support, it will help her again.