Why Do You Write?

Image: © Davy D Writer

I have been revisiting several George Orwell’s novels recently, maybe a sign of the times we are living in. Whatever your thoughts on Orwell’s views and beliefs, there is no getting away from the fact his writing was visionary. My most recent read, Coming Up for Air, written in 1939, could be a mirror reflecting events happening today.

As is oft for a writer, one thread moved into another and I found myself reading his 1946 essay, Why I Write.  I won’t dwell too much on this, but in essence Orwell’s motivation for writing fell into four categories.

  1. Sheer egoism
  2. Aesthetic Enthusiasm
  3. Historical Impulse
  4. Political Purpose

This has led me to think about my own motivations for writing and it is a difficult question to answer. Writing is something I’ve always done, from the rigours of schooling through to a career writing within the confines of criminal evidence and procedure.

The question has been digging at me for days now and all I am able to ascertain is where I would be if I didn’t write. Writing gives me purpose, something which takes me to my writing desk daily. There is something inside which drives me to examine my past and put it into words.  Al Alvarez in his book, The Writer’s Voice, sums this up more eloquently than I ever could.

‘Writing is less a compulsion than a misfortune, like a doomed love affair. We write because we fell in love with language when we were young and impressionable, just as musicians fall in love with sound, and thereafter are doomed to explore this fatal attraction in as many ways as we can.’

I think Alvarez has nailed it. Writing is a compulsion, and we are doomed to be forever in its clutches. I would be interested to hear your thoughts as to why you write.   

5 thoughts on “Why Do You Write?

  1. I mostly agree with the doomed love affair angle. Writing for me is not just a task or a passion. It’s more than a feeling or a thought, it’s blind devotion. The kind that you can’t explain because there’s no intimidating logic to it, and words will always fall short of describing the dynamics. It’s a reason to be, as I believe that I couldn’t be any other way. I could ramble on but will stop now. Haha. Thanks for the inspiring question. 🙂

    1. I like you alluding to blind devotion, Terveen, because writing does feel like that a lot of the time. That search for perfection in a piece of writing which always seems just out of reach. Maybe there is no answer. Thank you for adding to the conversation and giving me more to ponder.

  2. I, too, find it hard to say why I write. I kinda like performing, but I don’t have the gift of the gab, so writing allows me enough time to put forth a presentable product. I also enjoy assembling things, and writing can feel like that sometimes, like building a Lego set and feeling satisfied with the final results. Interesting post!

    1. I never thought of writing as a performance, Stuart. Now you have mentioned it, the word fits the act perfectly. Lego !!! That has taken me back many years. I had one of the old sets which had the red and white bricks. How times have changed. Thanks for your thoughts.

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