Is Writing A Book Horrible?


In his book Why I Write, first published in 1946, George Orwell writes:

“Putting aside the need to earn a living, I think there are four great motives for writing, at any rate for writing prose. They exist in different degrees in every writer, and in any one writer the proportions will vary from time to time, according to the atmosphere in which he is living. They are:

1. Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc. etc. It is humbug to pretend that this is not a motive and a strong one. But there is also a minority of gifted, willful people who are determined to live their own lives to the end, and writers belong in this class.

2. Aesthetic enthusiasm. Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangements. 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.

3. Historical impulse. Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts.

4. Political purpose- using the word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other people’s idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.

All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one’s own personality.”

writing

Do you agree? Do any of these points, do any of his ideas make sense in today’s world?

ChK

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One Response to Is Writing A Book Horrible?

  1. Hmm, interesting post. That last sentence stands out to me. I’m not sure if anyone can erase their own personality from their writing, even if that’s all that can make something readable. I feel like I write from a point of view based on my personal experiences and beliefs/values based upon who I am and what my personality is.

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