why i write. orwell.

In 1946 George Orwell outlined his four great motives for writing in the essay “Why I Write”. He believed these motives exist, in different degrees, in every writer. I’d be lying if I said he wasn’t right. For me, it’s mostly about Aesthetic Enthusiasm. It’s also about a kind of peace that comes over me when I’m under no pressure to get it right. Or when I’ve finally pushed that boulder up the hill. I’d like to think I’m not as egocentric as Orwell but every writer has to have a little bit of ego going for her. Why else would she think her words important enough to preserve?


Buffy Holt2

Historical Impulse

In Orwell’s own words. Why he writes:

Sheer Egoism – Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc., etc.

Aesthetic Enthusiasm – Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement. Pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story. Desire to share an experience which one feels is valuable and ought not to be missed.

Historical Impulse – Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.

Political Purpose – Using the word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. Once again, no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.

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