While recovering from a suicidal depression, writer Ray Robertson decided to put together Why Not? Fifteen Reasons to Live, a book that addresses some of life’s most fundamental questions. Here, Robertson offers some insight into what makes people happy and what makes life worth living.
Q: Can you tell me a little about the depression you experienced and how it led to writing this book?
A: Basically, not long after completing the first draft of my sixth novel, David, during the summer of 2008, I suffered from a depression of suicidal intensity. A year later, after physically and mentally recovering, I found I’d been provided with a rare opportunity: to write a book exploring from a uniquely advantageous perspective two of life’s most central and enduring questions: What makes human beings happy? What makes life worth living?
Q: How did writing this book change your perspective?
A: Writing the book reminded me of what I wanted it to remind its readers: That life is full of plenty of frustration, injustice, and disappointment, but also beauty, truth, and even the miraculous.
Q: Was there anyone or anything you came across in your research that was particularly inspiring?
A: Writing Why Not? was a chance to both revisit and share some of the books and authors that have inspired and sustained me over a lifetime. In a way, Why Not? is not only as close to an autobiography as I’ll ever write, but also the commonplace book I’ve always been too lazy to assemble. Everyone from Emily Dickinson to Jonathan Richman is in there, and they’ve all at one point or another helped me lead a better, happier life.
Q: So, what makes humans happy?
A: My book explores fifteen different things that make me happy that I think are fairly universal — art, intoxication, solitude, home, friendship, et cetera — but I’m sure there are plenty of others that other readers will find more important than I do. But that’s one of the reasons the book exists: to stimulate people to think about their own lives and what makes them happy.
Q: And, for you, what makes life worth living?
A: A good day’s work done, a night of good fun ahead.
Q: If you had to offer advice to anyone who’s searching for happiness, what would it be?
A: Eat well, exercise, and a read a good book. And it doesn’t even have to be Why Not? Fifteen Reasons to Live.