Why Do I Write??

After reading the two pieces and only partially identifying with either one on their reasons for writing, the question “Why do I write?” was forefront in my mind. I was turned off by a fact mentioned in both pieces, that writing was at the very core, a  selfish act.  Immediately after reading that, I put up a wall. Of course that didn’t apply to me; I want to do science writing, bring research to a lay audience. Not long after, it dawned on me that despite noble intentions, I wanted to do this because I think of myself as a decent writer, or that I can say it better than the next guy… not so noble. As I tried to appease my science-oriented mind by pinpointing specific characteristics I think make me a decent writer, I caught myself doing something also mentioned in both articles: introspection.

I have never considered myself particularly introspective. In fact, I harbor a sort of disdain for others that I see have that Freudian aspect. Both Orwell and Didion mentioned a “diary that existed only in the mind” and “writing entirely to find out what’s in my own mind,” respectively. Again, something I found myself unable to relate to and back at the core question of why do I write? Along that same vein, Orwell’s mind diary reference did strike a chord with me.

Many times a day I will catch myself doing exactly as both Orwell and Didion described, narrating scenes with intense detail. Sometimes I do it out of sheer boredom, other times I just like the sound of the words and the narrative in my head. Still other times, I place myself in the narration as a character in the hopes that my mind narration will lead to a meet-cute and my life will transform into a romantic comedy. So far, only the comedy has come to fruition.

On a final note, I guess what I took away the most from these pieces (Orwell’s in particular) is that you need to write for a purpose. Orwell is famous for his later work, the politically oriented writing. He wrote that he switched to this kind of writing after a significant life event when he knew where he stood ideologically. This made me think again what my motivations are for writing. I have had no significant life events that would sway me in any one direction for any profession. As Didion mentioned her deep fascination with other people: who they were, how they ended up where they were that day, why they were doing what they were doing; the same questions stampede through my mind a thousand times a day. It’s like an oncologist chooses that profession because his mom died of cancer. I don’t have any deep, personal motivation for writing and I don’ t know that I necessarily need a profound experience to make myself legitimate, but I do feel as though it would be easier to justify to myself.


3 thoughts to “Why Do I Write??”

  1. After reading Orwell and Didion’s pieces, I, too, found myself questioning why I write. Like you, I also was initially taken aback by their insistence that writing is a selfish act. After taking some time to think, however, I decided that I also agree with this idea. To some extent (and this is a bit of a generalization) people publish books/articles/essays because they feel that what they have to say is important. Isn’t this a selfish act?

    After reading these pieces and as I continue to try and pinpoint why I write, I am now stuck with the idea that I write for selfish reasons. While I do not think that my motivations for writing are purely selfish, after reading Orwell and Didion’s pieces I do agree that the act of writing itself is innately selfish.

  2. If you genuinely enjoy writing, then I don’t believe you have to have a purpose like Orwell states. Also, it doesn’t make you illegitimate. Writing can be simply a creative outlet for you. Outside of academic writing, I could see myself drifting towards Orwell’s notion of writing for political purposes because that interests me, especially since I am a political science major.

  3. I was also taken aback by Orwell and Didion’s description of the selfishness of writing. After thinking about it, I’ve decided that perhaps what makes writing selfish is the amount of self that lays beneath the words of a person’s written work. For me, it is almost impossible to write without any aspects of my personality or personal beliefs appearing in the text. It’s unintentional, but also unavoidable because everything we write is biased by our backgrounds, beliefs, and education. Although Orwell and Didion probably meant that writing is selfish because they do it to sort out their thoughts and mental diaries, I think they also mean that a writer puts parts of themselves inside their work.

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