Monday, 9 March 2009

Why I Write...

I have just finished reading the 1946 short book by George Orwell, 'Why I Write', and to be honest... the book has had me questioning myself and why I write... which I guess is the point.

George Orwell believes that there are four main reasons that people write. These are;

1. Sheer egoism - the desire to seem clever and wanting your work to be talked about.

2. Aesthetic enthusiasm - 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 and store them up for the use of posterity.

4. Political purpose - desire to push the world in a certain direction and to alter other people's idea of the society they should be striving towards.

So which of these, as young budding journo's do we categorically fit into? Well the answer is up for debate but I believe that all of the reasons can be applied to some of us and at least one to everybody else.

Reading everybody's blogs I would say some of us are very interested in our work being noticed and praised by the lecturers (and in the working world, a publicist). Others are passionate about getting a point across in which they think is too valuable to miss to their peers. (Lucy Pilgrims attitude to grieving in her blog is a good example of this). Some are written with historical impulse to gather facts and indeed others are written with political purpose. (Andrew Emmerson :D).

I did notice that there is one reason for writing that Orwell did not mention directly in his book. This is writing for money. Having little passion for writing as such... just wanting to make a quid or two from it. He did however argue that egoistic writers share the same charicteristics as scientists, artists, politicians, lawyers, successful business people etc. I think he may have been trying to say that egoistic writers are the ones in general who make a living from writing.

I'm still not sure why I write... maybe because if I didn't I would have a hard time passing this degree?? Answers on a postcard!


  1. Why Write? - there's a good essay by Jean Paul Sartre. Writing is the concrete tangible act of a free person. Writing is freedom in action. How else can you find out if you are free or not. In the act of writing you find out just how free (or not) you are. Well that's what sartre said. The people on the course who do not write unless it is for money or because they feel compelled to do so for reward of some sort - other than the compulsion to be free - are subject to a type of mental slavery. In the ethics of a person like JP Sartre you swhould only write because you feel the need to express some subjective truth or other, and never in order to please a master of some sort. But that's just sartres view. Most people will prefer slavery to freedom because it is often the easier option - especially when the option (as has often been the case in history) it is a choice between slavery or death. Many activity complain at attempts to make them take some responsibilities for their own lives.

    Existentialism is something we have not yet touched upon but it is the most importsnt contemporary school of philosophy and has a massive influence on contemporary culture and just the way people look atthe world. But we don't 'reach' existentialism until year two, we only get as far as empiricism and romanticism this year!

    I am personally a devotee of JP Sartre and especially his nine rules or maxims set out in his great book 'existentialism and humanism' and also the important essay 'Why Write' which is contained in David Lodge's anthology of modern literary criticism.


  2. Sartre and Simone De Beavoir - very much a double act.

    To be clear about one thing in your note. I think that anyone who writes or does something just to please a master or just to get marks on a course is in bad faith and I find that despicable. People should write or study on a course freely and in a spirit of complete generosity and good faith. Then the 'marks' will follow. I find it ethically very difficult to give marks anyway and I just can't take it seriously. I'm not setting myself up as special, because I am by no means a complete;y free person myself. But its a matter of at least trying to resist to some extent.