“A writer without interest or sympathy for the foibles of his fellow man is not conceivable as a writer.” Joseph Conrad
When I write I find my story often veers off on an unexpected path. This can cause problems when I find myself heading towards a dead end. Frustration sets in and I start wondering what on earth I’m going to do. What is the point of going with the flow if you get stuck? Why write at all?
In his 1946 essay ‘Why I write’ George Orwell suggests that there are four great motives for writing hidden inside every writer. Firstly sheer egoism. The desire for recognition and fame is, according to him, a characteristic that writers share with the top crust of humanity. The second motive is aesthetic enthusiasm. Orwell believes that the pleasure of creating a great story or an interesting phrase should guide us all. However he also mentions that this motive is very feeble in a lot of writers. The third motive he puts forward is historical impulse: the need to record facts for posterity.
The fourth motive for writing is political purpose. Orwell stresses that this is a broad definition. He defines it as the desire to push the world in a certain direction. He went on to describe his own creative process as follows:
‘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 I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.’
My own writing has no political purpose whatsoever but he made me stop and think. Is there anyone out there hoping to change the world, or are we all just a bunch of egoists?