As a kid, I never had a best friend. I had friends at school, sure, and there were one or two kids in the neighborhood with whom I could kill time, but for all those years there was no one I felt inclined to confide in. During the summers especially I spent nearly every day with only me, myself, and I due to the fact that both my parents worked and my much older sister had better things to do. So instead of talking, I thought. When the thinking got to be too much, I wrote. I kept a big purple box filled with half-finished notebooks that chronicled the breaks in the monotony of my suburban childhood. Imagine then my pleasant surprise at Orwell’s twin confession that, “…from the very start my literary ambitions were mixed up with the feeling of being isolated and undervalued.” I find it incredibly comforting that authors of real note have picked up the pen not to write something prolific but, like me, with the lowly purpose of easing the sting of loneliness and isolation. In his article “Why I Write” Orwell goes on to say, “I knew that I had a facility with words and a power of facing unpleasant facts, and I felt that this created a sort of private world in which I could get my own back for my failure in everyday life.” Orwell’s notion of creating a private world resonates with me quite deeply: my notebooks, which became less scattered and more complete as I grew older, afforded me space to work through my own unpleasant facts. Eventually I started to take genuine pleasure in crafting these private diatribes, pausing minutes at a time to wait for the word which would achieve my end most poignantly. Orwell describes this motive for writing as “Aesthetic enthusiasm,” where the driving force can be summarized as, “Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement.”
I wish that I could liken myself to Orwell in terms of creative skill, but I will happily settle for a feeling of kinship in terms of motivation. Orwell states, “When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art’. I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.” I often find that when I open my broken in, black leather journal that my initial intent is not to produce something pretty. Rather, I want to vent. I want to scream or cry or question. I want a voice when that which comes from my throat is too tired to make itself heard. So I write to get an audience, even if the listener is only an ink strewn piece of paper. Orwell continues, “But I could not do the work of writing a book, or even a long magazine article, if it were not also an aesthetic experience.” In the end, when I have satiated my desire for what Orwell terms a hearing, I find that the real pleasure comes from shaping my thoughts into a pleasing form despite the frequently occurring ill temper of their nature.