Why I Write: An Elaboration on Orwell

Tomorrow or the next day I will be exploring the reasons why I write (I have to find the time between my day job and my freelance graphic design work). For me there is no better reference piece than Orwell’s Why I Write.

Here are the 4 major points from Orwell’s essay on Why I Write with a brief introduction:

“I give all this background information because I do not think one can assess a writer’s motives without knowing something of his early development. His subject matter will be determined by the age he lives in — at least this is true in tumultuous, revolutionary ages like our own — but before he ever begins to write he will have acquired an emotional attitude from which he will never completely escape. It is his job, no doubt, to discipline his temperament and avoid getting stuck at some immature stage, in some perverse mood; but if he escapes from his early influences altogether, he will have killed his impulse to write. Putting aside the need to earn a living, I think there are four great motives for writing, at any rate for writing prose. They exist in different degrees in every writer, and in any one writer the proportions will vary from time to time, according to the atmosphere in which he is living. They are:

(i) Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc., etc. It is humbug to pretend this is not a motive, and a strong one. Writers share this characteristic with scientists, artists, politicians, lawyers, soldiers, successful businessmen — in short, with the whole top crust of humanity. The great mass of human beings are not acutely selfish. After the age of about thirty they almost abandon the sense of being individuals at all — and live chiefly for others, or are simply smothered under drudgery. But there is also the minority of gifted, willful people who are determined to live their own lives to the end, and writers belong in this class. Serious writers, I should say, are on the whole more vain and self-centered than journalists, though less interested in money.

(ii) Aesthetic enthusiasm. Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement. Pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story. Desire to share an experience which one feels is valuable and ought not to be missed. The aesthetic motive is very feeble in a lot of writers, but even a pamphleteer or writer of textbooks will have pet words and phrases which appeal to him for non-utilitarian reasons; or he may feel strongly about typography, width of margins, etc. Above the level of a railway guide, no book is quite free from aesthetic considerations.

(iii) Historical impulse. Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.

(iv) Political purpose. — Using the word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. Once again, no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.”

It’s a formidable task but I will take this on (time allowing) as best as I can.

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About Phil Wikel

The Julian Day began recording immediately after the Winter Solstice of 2010 and posted their first song "Policy" on reverbnation during the first week of January, 2011. With the days growing longer, they felt something in the air. And then came the Arab Spring and The Julian Day were in what Shakespeare once called, "a fine frenzy rolling." 
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3 Responses to Why I Write: An Elaboration on Orwell

  1. Katie Gates says:

    Hello Philip, I saw your comment on my blog and so came to yours. I’ve read a few postings, and I like both your writing style and your approach. I wish you great luck with Ticket to Ride! The self-promo biz is exhausting, but every small pay-off makes the effort worthwhile. When you have a chance, please visit my amazon listing for The Somebody Who, my novel. Also, I am curious: how did you learn of my blog?

    • Thanks a million Katie. Yes, the business of books can be exhausting but I’m like a little kid at Christmas every time a copy sells. And every time someone like you has something positive to say about what I’m doing I feel like the most successful writer in the world. Thanks again.
      I found out about your blog via LinkedIn. I wish you great success as well.
      Take care,
      Philip

    • Your book sounds like a good winter-time read. I’m adding it to my list.
      All the best.
      Philip

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