"The element of surprise is that which lies outside the boundaries of nature."

Why I Write

Why I Write

I did a blog tour in April, and one of the guest posts I did was titled “Why I Write”. I recently came across an article detailing a list in an essay written by the great George Orwell also titled “Why I write”. I found it rather interesting, so I thought I’d do a post on it. I’d be interested to find out what others think of Orwell’s opinion on the motives of writing.

“Why I Write” is an essay written by George Orwell and first published in 1946.

Orwell lists “four great motives for writing” which he feels exist in every writer. He explains that all are present, but in different proportions, and also that these proportions vary from time to time. They are as follows:

  1. Sheer egoism– Orwell argues that many people write simply to feel clever, to “be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on grown-ups in childhood, etc.” He says that this is a great motive, although most of humanity is not “acutely selfish”, and that this motive exists mainly in younger writers. He also says that it exists more in serious writers than journalists, though serious writers are “less interested in money”.
  2. Aesthetic enthusiasm– Orwell explains that present in writing is the desire to make one’s writing look and sound good, having “pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story.” He says that this motive is “very feeble in a lot of writers” but still present in all works of writing.
  3. Historical impulse– He sums this up stating this motive is the “desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.”
  4. Political purpose– Orwell writes that “no book is genuinely free from political bias”, and further explains that this motive is used very commonly in all forms of writing in the broadest sense, citing a “desire to push the world in a certain direction” in every person. He concludes by saying that “the opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.”

Here’s what I said in my Guest Post for Michelle Pickett’s blog “These Words Tell A Story”:

“You only live once.” Okay, so you’ve probably heard that phrase a few times, right? Well, if that is the case, then you might as well live life to the fullest. And that’s why I write. I write to experience life in every way I possibly can. Every time we read a story, we step out of our world and into someone else’s world, so we are, in a sense, experiencing a different reality.

When I first started to write fiction, I wrote because I had a story I wanted to tell. It was getting to the point where it was nagging me, so the only way to get my mind to stop ticking away like crazy was to get the story out of my head and onto paper. After doing that and jumping out of the world of my book, I had a good read of what I had written and had an urge to continue with the story. I fell in love with not only the characters but also the reality of the world in which I had created. It was not only a life changing experience but also an adventure – one that took me to places I did not know existed.

I write because I love to explore the world. I write because I have something to say that can only be said through written words. Often, the problem I have with many books is the lack of explanation of why certain things happen and how they come about. So, last but not least, I write to satisfy my own appetite.

Hmmm …

Now we come back to Orwell’s list. Orwell has listed some good points. I’m not sure where Orwell would place me, but I would say my writing perhaps gravitates somewhat towards 3 and 4.

What do you think? Where, if anywhere, does your writing belong?

Al Stone