Orwell and Didion Response

In Orwell’s essay “Why I Write” two main things stuck out to me. First was his breakdown of the four great motives for writing. I definitely identified with the first two, “sheer egoism” and “aesthetic enthusiasm” over the latter two “historical impulse” and “political purpose”. While the term sheer egoism does not necessarily have the best connotation, I still agree with Orwell in that a good writer needs to be confident, believe in what they are writing, and be willing to take risks to stand out. I also love the term aesthetic enthusiasm. It’s such a perfect way to describe this idea of arranging every word with a purpose, and definitely something I strive for in my own work. The second part of Orwell’s essay that stuck out to me was the line, “In any case I find that by the time you have perfected any style of writing, you have always outgrown it”. I find this to be so true when I look at old essays that I thought were my best work at the time. However, looking back at them they seem juvenile and lacking so many new techniques I’ve learned since writing them.

In Didion’s piece, also titled, “Why I Write” her last line, “had I known the answer to any of these questions I would never have needed to write a novel” really resonated with me. In high school I was so used to writing one dimensional papers in which I knew exactly what I was going to prove and how I was going to prove it before I even started. It was not until college that I was pushed to write essays in which you explore and search for answers with your audience, coming to new conclusions and understandings as the end result. Now that I have written papers like this I have a much better idea of what Didion means.

One thought to “Orwell and Didion Response”

  1. I agree with you that on the surface, sheer egoism doesn’t sound like such a great term to use to describe yourself. However, I think you’re right that Orwell was really just trying to say be confident. You should definitely want the sheer egoism motive to be in your work; without it, you aren’t going to be writing anything you really care about. To me, writing something you really have passion for will make it about you and that’s what I believe Orwell meant by sheer egoism. So go confidently own your voice and your work because it’s a good thing, I promise!

    P.S- I didn’t really enjoy writing in high school because of the cookie cutter format, but now in college writing isn’t so much a chore as it is a way of expression and coming to new conclusions. I second your ending statements here.

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