Two of my favorite books that I read in high school were Animal Farm and 1984, both written by George Orwell1.
Recently, I came across his essay titled, "Why I Write", and he enumerated four motives for writing, which could exist to any degree for every writer:
(i) 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. It is humbug to pretend this is not a motive, and a strong one. Writers share this characteristic with scientists, artists, politicians, lawyers, soldiers, successful businessmen — in short, with the whole top crust of humanity. The great mass of human beings are not acutely selfish. After the age of about thirty they almost abandon the sense of being individuals at all — and live chiefly for others, or are simply smothered under drudgery. But there is also the minority of gifted, willful people who are determined to live their own lives to the end, and writers belong in this class. Serious writers, I should say, are on the whole more vain and self-centered than journalists, though less interested in money.
(ii) 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. The aesthetic motive is very feeble in a lot of writers, but even a pamphleteer or writer of textbooks will have pet words and phrases which appeal to him for non-utilitarian reasons; or he may feel strongly about typography, width of margins, etc. Above the level of a railway guide, no book is quite free from aesthetic considerations.
(iii) Historical impulse.
Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.
(iv) 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.
It made me think about why I write, especially on this blogging platform. Yes, all four of the things that Mr. Orwell listed are true for me too.
- Sheer egoism.
There is a part of me that wants to leave my mark in the world. I definitely don't have to write plays like Shakespeare did, but writing is a powerful tool to make a difference. You can change perspectives. You can relate to someone spatially distant from you. In those cases, you are making some kind of impact. There's a sense of pride that I feel knowing that I have written 70+ blog posts; it's out there in the interwebs. It's probably vain of me to think that my story should be shared and heard.
- Aesthetic enthusiasm.
Writing is beautiful because words are a way for us to express the intangible. Have you read a quote or heard someone put into words exactly how you were feeling? Or, have you been transported away to another world/dimension/reality because you read it in a book? Writing, even through all the struggles of doing it, is like an art form that requires creativity. It is only through a carefully crafted combination and arrangement of words can you accomplish magic, and I strive to be able to get better at achieving magical moments.
- Historical impulse.
I also write because it helps me to understand what is going on in the world. On one of my blog posts, I wrote about inequality and wealth in the US, and it helped me understand how complex that issue is. It also helped me study for my final exam.
- Political purpose.
I don't have a deep political agenda when I write, but I do want to share a perspective. For a long time, I've struggled (and still do) with writing because I didn't believe that I had anything worth sharing. My opinion, one person out of the billions of people we have on Earth, isn't going to matter. There's probably someone out there that has similar thoughts can could probably say it better than I can. But, then I think about my peers, and how much I value their words, experiences, and opinions. Then, I think, 'why not mine?'
To be honest, I'm afraid to write. Well, that's not exactly correct. I'm afraid of sharing my writing to the public. If you know me and have seen my struggles with writing, I've been hesitant because I'm afraid that no one will read it. I'm afraid that I'll insult someone. I'm afraid that someone may think that I'm unintelligent, that I don't know what I'm saying. I'm afraid of receiving disparaging comments (I still acutely remember the feeling I had when someone demeaned me on Twitter). I'm afraid that what I write isn't worth people's time and attention.
But, now I'm coming to realize that it really doesn't matter what other people think. I write for me.
I write with purpose and every word that I write is intentional as I can be. I write because it's a form of expression, and it's not healthy for me to keep all my thoughts and feelings swimming around in my head. I write because I want to understand the world, and I want to understand myself. I read that writing can have emotional & psychological benefits.
Writing is my way of living wholeheartedly.
“Wholeheartedness. There are many tenets of Wholeheartedness, but at its very core is vulnerability and worthiness; facing uncertainty, exposure, and emotional risks, and knowing that I am enough.”
– Brené Brown
Writing makes me feel vulnerable. But, if writing is something that I want to do, then I should be able to do it, without fearing what the outcome will be. Although people may not read it or may not like what I write doesn't mean that it's not worth doing. My worth doesn't come from external outcomes.
Why I Write is a feeling that is hard to explain right now because it goes into feelings of vulnerability, courage, and worthiness that I'm still trying to understand myself. Maybe someday, when I have practiced the art of writing more, I'll be able to put it into words.
Over and out.
1 His real name was Eric Arthur Blair.