Orwell “Why I Write”

George Orwell’s Why I Write was the article that resonated with me the most. It’s a question I don’t often think about. I write because I have to, or I write because I want to. I don’t force it, perhaps to prevent myself from resenting it. Orwell discussed the common traits that writers share. He believes they are sheer egoism, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse and political purpose. While he does not say that every writer is confined to these traits, each person possesses them at different levels. Though it sounds worse than I mean it to, I connect to his sense of sheer egoism. I myself have written two manuscripts and am currently working on a third. His quote, “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand,” resonated with me more than anything else we read so far.

While I wouldn’t claim that my writing is fully driven by demons, it is driven by my desire to let people see things from my perspective. I’ve found myself in some unusual situations (by anyone’s standards—they have almost been laughable) over the past two years. While some people have come and gone, some I wanted to leave and others I didn’t, it is the need to immortalize these things that motivated my writing. My hope is that these books serve as a guide to readers letting them know they are not alone in their struggles of their college years and that it does get better, with a little effort. Though some of these things have been painful, frustrating or just amusing, I feel that I have something to say, which is my greatest motivation. As Joan Didion said at the end of her article, “had I known the [answers] I would have never needed to write a novel.” Writing helps me to understand just as much as I hope to clarify things for readers. It is not as much a need to be remembered, as it is a means of healing. It is both amplifying and correcting those who have wronged me, or those whom I have wronged, whether accidental or otherwise.

Writing is the one place where you make your own rules. The confines of academia are not permanent—the formatting guidelines, word counts and hard structure only last for so long. Writing is with you until the end. What makes it so much different from other learned skills is that you are never done learning it. My hope is that through this class and through these blogs, I will figure out why it is that I write and to build my skills enough to be able to develop my story in the way, I believe, it deserves to be told.

2 thoughts to “Orwell “Why I Write””

  1. Elizabeth,
    I really like the way you put your reasons for writing so simply: “I write because I have to, or I write because I want to.” You encapsulate both academic writing and personal writing in one sentence, and I definitely think in the same terms. You’re not alone in connecting to Orwell’s point on sheer egoism; without personal experience and creativity that can only come from within me, I’d never have anything to write about. I too am driven by the need to immortalize my experiences, although less so for a readership and more for my memory. It’s almost as if I don’t tell someone about an experience, be it at least a friend via conversation or future me via a journal, I can’t be sure it really happened.
    It looks like we’re both trying to figure out how to tell our stories in the ways they deserve to be told, although we have different audiences. Hopefully by the end of the program we each will have found our way!

  2. Hey Elizabeth,

    I really liked your blog post. I think a lot of thing that you wrote about resonated with me as well! I think Orwell’s quote on how writing a book is a terrible process is definitely true for me. I always thought that maybe writing wasn’t something for me because I dreaded the process so much. This was why I would never try to sit down and stick to an idea that I had in my head. But to have writers such as Orwell and all of us agree about this process is comforting. When I read “it is driven by my desire to let people see things from my perspective”, it was really encouraging to hear. Sometimes I wonder why I still have the desire to write if the process is so dreadful. And I think its both scary and exciting to think that we are never truly done learning with writing. And its interesting to think that we all have similar or different motivations to continue on that path.

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