Why we write

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“I give all this background
information because I do not think one can assess a writer's motives without
knowing something of his early development. His subject matter will be
determined by the age he lives in — at least this is true in tumultuous,
revolutionary ages like our own — but before he ever begins to write he will
have acquired an emotional attitude from which he will never completely


George Orwell, ‘Why I write’, 1946.



In his famous essay, Orwell
also put forward what he called four great motives for writing (or at least for
writing prose):

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.

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