You’re so Vain: You Probably Think This Post is About You

Never have I considered that my need or desire to write is at all connected to vanity, selfishness, or laziness. Never have I considered that my want to write and express my thoughts is due to a purely self-involved motive that has nothing to do with my consideration of others. I’ve always considered my need to write, at least publicly, a way for others to simply understand the ways in which I think and how my decision process works. But maybe, rooted somewhere deep within my subconscious, is a need to express myself just to express myself, not necessarily to help anyone to understand, just a medium through which I can push the deep workings of my brain onto others. And that’s where George Orwell comes in.

George Orwell, author of Animal Farm, a book that made me feel so discomforted that I will never again read it, yet again has managed to make me feel discomforted. But this time, it’s not about a subject that hasn’t much to do with my own life. Instead, he made me think about my own life and motives in a way that did not make me at all pleased. It worries me that simply because I need to write that I may have a desire “to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death”.

Fortunately, I found some semblance of hope in thinking back to something I learned in my 12th grade AP Biology class – humans have a tendency to categorize. Let me rephrase that, not just a tendency, but a need. It’s the only way that the human brain can make sense of the world.┬áThis is why taxonomy, Venn Diagrams, and stereotypes exist. (Observe the below illustration and let hilarity ensue).


Therefore, is it fair enough to say that Orwell’s note that one of writers’ sheer need to write is due to “sheer egoism” is just another way to categorize humans? Or is this truly the main reason that writers write, as Orwell tends to argue? My need to see myself and other writers as good, well-meaning individuals prefers to choose the former.






3 thoughts to “You’re so Vain: You Probably Think This Post is About You”

  1. Gabriella, I was also struck by the egoism thing in Orwell’s piece. Hey! He just made all of us look like egomaniacal attention-seekers! I know I don’t wanna be associated with those kinds of qualifiers. That being said, I do see his point if you think about being “ego-centric” in the sense that you are focusing your writing on your own interests, craft, and general views. Sometimes it isn’t good to be completely selfless and not consider your own thoughts/personality/likes and dislikes etc. Being a self-centered writer could just mean being a writer who focuses on what she cares most about, and wanting others to appreciate her thoughts too. Why else write if not to be heard by someone? Also, you have to admit, you do get a little thrill when you write something that you KNOW is good/clever/memorable. Maybe we can be a little self-centered after all…

  2. I’m going to chime in here and say that I may be one of those egotistic writers Orwell was talking about. How cool would it be to write a bestseller, to actually be known for your written work? This isn’t my only motivation, far from it, but I have to admit that writing something that slips into the oblivion of unsuccessful, unpublished works sounds horrible. Really, really horrible. At the same time, I think one’s general personality greatly influences the way they approach writing. When I start a new hobby, I feel the need to go all out and try to “be the best”. I’m sure not everyone is like this, so I agree with your point that Orwell painting all writers with the brush of “egoism” could be incorrect.

  3. Gabriella, I recognize the sheer absurdity of Orwell’s claim that one of the reasons writer’s write is sheer egoism. While it is true that fame, reputation, and “being talked about” could be accessories to writing, I believe that you only produce valuable work when you’re passionate or angry about something close to you. I don’t know anyone who has said they write to be known in the world. I think it was interesting that he categorized the reasons of writing into 4 distinct divisions, and I do think there is some truth to aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse, and for political purposes…but I don’t think a reason for writing is egoism. Even Orwell himself started out by saying “I do not think one can assess a writer’s motives without knowing something of his early development. His subject matter will be determined by the age he lives in…if he escapes from his early influences all together, he will have killed his impulse to write.” There’s a lot that goes into what makes writer’s want to write…but I don’t agree with “sheer egoism” as a category.

Leave a Reply