Oliver Sacks (1933-2015)



If Awakenings is the only story you know about Dr. Sacks, you’re missing out on a lot. All of his writing is very accessible to the non-clinician, and can give writers valuable insights about the personalities and motivations of their fictional characters. I’m a retired Registered Nurse, but Musicophilia is the book I went to, when I needed to incorporate music psychology into Irish Firebrands.*

Some clinicians did not like Dr. Sacks, because he wrote in the popular press, but I think that disfavor was largely sour grapes. He did not have all the answers, but he did a lot to demystify a spectrum of disorders that can be frightening to the healthy, and that continue to cause disability.

Oliver Sacks also suffered from a neuro-psych disorder. He has awakened in a world where all of the dark nooks and crannies of the brain, which so fascinated him, are now in the light.

Thank you, Dr. Sacks, for sharing so much of your journey of discovery with us.

* As a healthcare professional writing my first novel, I knew that the causes, context and consequences of character decisions had to be part of the story. Out came all the nursing school psych textbooks; I re-read other works about bereavement, grief therapy, and “flow;” and I did new research reading to update myself on other mental health issues, including mood disorders, personality disorders, and aging.

The knot of nerves between our ears is too important to leave out of writing, if our work is to reflect the human condition. A novelist who omits psychology lacks intellectual and artistic integrity, and the result is cardboard characters whom nobody likes, because they’re not like us.

No matter what your genre, don’t be afraid to research psychology for your novels. Good resources abound, and if you do your psych homework, your writing will become the best possible reading experience.

1 Comment

Filed under books, Uncategorized

One response to “Oliver Sacks (1933-2015)

  1. “don’t be afraid to research psychology for your novels”—That’s a great point. It can really help get to the motivations behind characters’ actions.


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