Response to Orwell’s “Why I Write”

After reading George Orwell’s “Why I Write” I find that I am able to relate to many of his ideas; at the same time, however, I am not able to relate to many of the motives that Orwell lists for him becoming a writer.  The first idea that I was able to relate to was writing pieces that are “made-to-order.”  As a college student, I find that the majority of my writing is done based on a given prompt or assignment—there is very little flexibility in the level of my own creativity if I want a satisfactory grade.  It is this lack of flexibility that makes my writing feel “made-to-order,” as Orwell describes.

Along with understanding Orwell’s discussion of producing colloquial and subsequently uncreative writing, Orwell’s love of words also resonates with me.  One of my favorite parts of writing is using new words.  I often structure sentences around single words or a string of words that, to me, has a certain flow or sound.  While I do not change the spelling of words or make words up as Orwell often does, I can relate to the “joy of mere words” which Orwell expresses in his essay.

While I am no way a writer in the same category as Orwell and I have never written a novel, it is hard for me to imagine that all writers are “driven on by some demon.”  While there are definitely those who may be prompted to write due to an inner demon, it seems to me that Orwell is making a generalization when he makes this claim.  Why can’t people write because it is fun?  After reading this essay and realizing that the majority of my own writing is “made-to-order,” I am left hoping that, unlike Orwell, I will continue to write not because I feel I have to, but because I want to.

3 thoughts to “Response to Orwell’s “Why I Write””

  1. I was really intrigued by your description of building sentences around single words because you like the sound of or just the novelty of a word. I think that is really a great and underrated aspect of writing. Your response actually reminded me of playing Scrabble with my family (really cool, I know=). My mom and I were always people that played letters not for points or strategy, but just to make cool words, ones that don’t come up in everyday casual conversation. But I digress.

    I agree with your hesitation to accept Orwell’s assertion that every writer is driven by some demon. When I read this, I thought that maybe I wasn’t serious about writing because I don’t really necessarily write out of a dark place or feel compelled to write all the time. I do admit that the writing process is more often that not a long, tumultuous process for me. However, as far as writing for fun, I think that “writing for fun” is probably masking a myriad of other reasons the writing is actually occurring-whether it be for light-hearted reasons, such as feeling the need to write, or darker ones like some “demon.”

  2. I completely agree that writing is often “made to order.” It’s sad that as we progress through school writing has become a task we do strictly for a grade and not for the mere enjoyment of writing. Yet, at the same time, it sounds like you manage to have fun with your writing by creatively and carefully crafting your word choice. Perhaps that is your way of maintaining control over a writing process that you feel is at times “made to order” by the preferences and specifications of a GSI or professor.

  3. First off, I really liked your post! I agree with you on two points: that, at this stage in our life, writing feels made-to-order and that one can get joy from word usage and placement. I get excited when I use a word that I have not before or haven’t in a while at least. I feel like the flow of a sentence is vital in writing because it sets the writer’s tone, which supports the argument or point in a specific way.

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