When looking at the “Why I Write” pieces, I read Orwell’s first, and his style and word choices stood out immediately. He uses so much eloquent vocabulary and sophistication that it seems the essay was written in a time when language was more complex and beautiful. He uses phrases like “outraging my true nature,” and “Good prose is like a windowpane” throughout the entire piece that make it sound like poetry. In addition to admiring his use of language, I also enjoyed his cynicism and self-deprecating tone. Though he may sound pessimistic, his criticism and classification of writers is ironic and relatable. At times I too like to admire my own work, enjoy the sounds of words, and use writing as a tool to understand more about the world, which are many of Orwell’s main arguments. Though I relate to some of his points, there are others I disagree with. For example, I do not identify with the sense of historical purpose that Orwell highlights. Perhaps this is because I have not yet developed many political loyalties, but it makes me wonder if I would be considered a good writer through Orwell’s eyes.
In contrast, I very much agree with Joan Didion’s entire piece. Didion, though inspired by Orwell’s “Why I Write,” took a very different approach. Her tone is less poetic and more conversational. Unlike Orwell, she speaks casually with the reader, a distinction that makes sense due to the fact it is an article rather than an essay. I was struck most by Didion’s explanation of how writing helps her think clearly: “Had I been blessed with even limited access to my own mind there would have been no reason to write. I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.” This part stood out to me as incredibly accurate. In my writing I feel that I can explain thoughts and feelings that are difficult to vocalize. I enjoy journaling when there is a lot on my mind, because when they are on paper, feelings are easier to define. I can write and then read over my thoughts, choosing which ones sound right.
While reading both Orwell and Didions’ pieces, I felt a sense of comfort knowing that I am by no means alone in my feelings toward and dependence on writing. As Orwell describes, a relationship with writing is a part of your identity, and as Didion explains, it is useful tool to sort out a jumbled mind. As I compose my own “Why I Write” piece, Orwell and Didion have helped me reflect on these aspects of my own relationship with writing.