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.
- Sheer egoism
- Aesthetic Enthusiasm
- Historical Impulse
- 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.