Richard Rhodes – Writing Quote Wednesday

Richard Rhodes Writing Quote

Writing Quote created by Paul Jenny using Flickr photo “Look Downstairs into the Stairwell Whirl” by Karl-Ludwig Poggemann

How often do we ask ourselves the questions posed in Richard Rhodes’ quote?

  • Who am I?
  • What right have I to speak?
  • Who will listen to me if I do?

A great teacher of mine once said, “No matter what has happened in your life, you always have the right to tell your unique story NOW.”

Often, we think of our failures, our lack of trying, our excuses, as reasons to give up. We say, “I failed again, I might as well stop doing this thing I really love doing.”

But at any moment, you can choose to start again, to tell your story, to enlarge the circle.

With the passing of Robin Williams, many people have shared the stories of their experiences with depression. Each story I read gives me strength to tell my own.

My struggles with depression and anxiety happened during a time right before I was hired for my dream job. Instead of being happy about finally achieving a modicum of success, I had constant worries and thoughts about how it could all go wrong. I thought I deserved my illness somehow, that I was a bad person and was being punished. I thought that I didn’t deserve happiness.

Then, when I sought help, I realized that those thoughts had more to do with mixed-up brain chemistry and the need to share my stories more openly and live a more authentic life than anything to do with who I was as a person. The depression was causing me to think of myself as undeserving and bad and wrong. My only crime was being human.

Those closest to me didn’t understand. They said things like, “Cheer up, don’t be sad, look on the bright side,” and other clichés that people say to those who are feeling down. But depression is not just feeling down. It is a dark, spiral staircase that descends into a deep cellar of despair and loneliness.

It took a mental health doctor and prescribed medication and telling my stories to really help me recover.

I lost some important relationships and a job or two while I struggled with depression. I look back on those years and wish that I had been able to find help sooner. Maybe by sharing this story now, I can help someone else find the help they need more quickly.

Those relationships and that job cannot be recovered, but I can continue sharing my stories with passion and hopefully enlarging the circle.

Please share your stories, you have every right.

Watch Richard Rhodes talk about his writing on


Get Richard Rhodes’ book How to Write: Advice and Reflections on

If you are feeling desperate, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-TALK or visit them at

Karl-Ludwig Poggemann on Flickr. (CC License)

Carpe Diem – The Death of Robin Williams

The death and apparent suicide of Robin Williams saddens me. In addition to being a writer, I’m a comic actor and improviser and Williams is someone I’ve always greatly admired. I owned rainbow suspenders as a kid and quoted Mork and Mindy and his stand-up recordings all the time.

Williams once drew a doodle for a fundraiser that Live Bait, a small theatre company in Chicago, was having to raise money for their season. It was a fun and expressive drawing of Albert Einstein in a flying car in Williams’ flowing hand and it said, “Einstein traveling at the Speed of Life!”

I wanted that drawing so badly because I thought if I owned something Williams created, some of his creativity might rub off on me as well. Sadly, I didn’t win the drawing because it was one of the more expensive pieces to be auctioned off that night.

I did win a doodle by George Carlin, though. His drawing was a series of heavy straight lines connected in a series of angles. The straight lines seemed too stiff for the philosopher comedian, but I was glad to have it. If anyone has a copy of the Robin Williams drawing, I’d love to see a photo of it after all these years.

Like many, one of my favorite Robin Williams films is Dead Poet’s Society. 

One of my favorite moments in the film is when Robin Williams, as John Keating, kneeling on the floor speaking to his charges says, “We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life.

But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, ‘O me! O life!…of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless…of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?’ Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.

That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”

I ask this question of myself often.

Oh, Captain, my Captain, you will be sorely missed.

Flickr photo by Charles Haynes

Flickr photo by Charles Haynes

Anne Lamott on Williams’ suicide