Why DO I Write – responding to George Orwell

“Why I Write” the headline boldly stated, backed by a confidence only years of success and failure could yield. When I read this essay for the first time I was flooded with a mixture of emotions – all of which ended in resounding agreement leaving me in stunned silence – though I paled in comparison to such brilliance. The very statement Orwell makes implies that inquiries have been made, which led me to believe that the same could be asked of all of us. I decided to respond to the silent voices requiring an answer; thus the reason for this diversion, divulgence, and disconnect from normality.

When considering the question: “Why do you write?” one must begin by examining his or her style long before motive. For example, if you were to ask a fiction novelist and then compare their answers to those of a journalist, you might find some interesting differences. The very medium with which they express themselves says something about their motives. One purposes for deep conversations and vast adventures with their readers, the other perhaps finds security in knowing an audience will use their words to formulate opinions and discussion topics in everyday situations. Two different styles, two different writers, two different motives.

Yet still, there are common elements that bind all writers beyond what limitations form and style can impose. Structure is important for any writer, it helps keep their thoughts in check and enforce logical progression in their work. For this reason I believe that style is an important issue to address, but cannot be the overruling factor in determining why a writer does what they do. I do know, however, that my own styles have changed several times over the years – beginning with early childhood letters and stories, traveling through the experimental stages of poetry and research, followed by a mixture of prose and long-form expulsion – though this may also be due to my altered interests and passions as the years flew by.

Motives can be difficult to narrow down from one moment to the next, even more so over the course of a writer’s history. In efforts to encapsulate my own reasons for writing, I could only deduce that seasons and changes over time directly influenced my deeper reasoning for putting words on a page. I imagine this is true with most writers, for it is natural to write what you are passionate about or that which spurs you onward. As I look back over research papers, poetry, narrative, and other areas I dabbled in I found this to be true. Truly inner motives and struggles did impact my reasons for the structure I chose at the time; as with many of my other interests it swayed back and forth with a certain eclectic yet purposeful swagger.

Having discovered a style and motive, the third area to be examined must be the purpose or end goal of a written work. To merely tell stories or amuse others seems a worthy end, though I would always wish that my time was spent on something making more of a difference than that. I believe the end goal in a writer’s efforts is reflected by their choice of style, and confirmed through their motives. The adage: “You can’t have one without the other.” seems to fit here, purpose being indicative of how they would like their work to affect the world around them. Beyond this, I have found that writing is also a source of peace; a way to exorcise the inner demons or pieces of our souls that we would not wish others to see. Sometimes even the most vile or controversial stances can be portrayed in our writing, a comfort known by anyone who has emptied their thoughts onto a page instead of allowing it to spew forth onto someone else. Surely this can be included in the definition of purpose, as it helps the writer themselves just as much, if not more, than their readers.

Throughout history writing was the single method for conveying truths, beliefs, troubles, and other lessons of life that transcended language barriers. Even time itself cannot destroy or eradicate memorable texts scrawled by writers of old; there exists a strange immunity making this seem criminal or outright impossible. Many factions or leaders in history have attempted to stamp out literature because of the thought processes it awakens. While many have succeeded in part, none could ever erase the presence or impact of written works entirely.

Writing is much more than just the recording of important dates, times, and events; it is a means for transferring information and culture to others that may have otherwise been beyond the reach of the writer. Once a word is on a page, decisions or rituals that form the building blocks to entire cultures can be passed on and replicated for all time. Though entire nations can be swept away in the blink of an eye, words and messages echo from beyond the grave influencing others to solve mysteries vexing untold generations prior.

In many ways, the greatest enemy a writer faces is his or her own mind, and perhaps the most profound obstacle any writer can face is a dry or empty time in their work. I believe inspiration never ceases, regardless of our ability to interpret or decipher the strange ways of our subconscious; this means of course that the symptoms commonly referred to as “writer’s block” exist only within ourselves, and cannot be attributed to something beyond our sphere of responsibility. Why it occurs or to what pattern it subscribes is a topic many writers have attempted to tackle since writing began, yet still there is a clear silence that exists within the mind of any linguist or literary practitioner. Silence is dangerous, paralyzing, and demoralizing to even the most successful writers in history; when it looms on the horizon each individual is faced with a unique decision.

Just as the reaction to any struggle bears greater weight than the hindrance itself, so does the response to a season of less action in a writer’s work. The complete lack of drive or progress felt during these times are unimportant when paralleled with the alternatives. One must decide to either write, or not. Sometimes the simplest of tasks can awaken the inner passions and stoke the fires that burn through their fingertips, but even simple things require movement. Regardless of any deterrence, no matter the height or width of the vast unknown, it is absolutely crucial for the pursuit of their craft to continue. Victory only occurs when the writer traverses great mountains or deep valleys to reach their point of focus again; to abandon the journey at any time is not only a step in the wrong direction, but a leap away from it altogether.

Suppose, for a moment, that one were to pull back from that which made them whole. For many the writing process completes them and fleshes out the battles that wage deep within their minds. Some would call it an escape, others a curse, and some still a cure to that which ails the soul and clouds the mind. I subscribe to all of these definitions, and feel the strain of this inner struggle on a daily basis just as many do. To draw back from writing would be akin to discarding a crucial portion of my life; not something I could do willingly or even purposefully and retain a clear conscience.

Although these reasons roll off the tongue easily, the true gravity of the situation becomes apparent as one ceases to write. Our brain is a magnificent creation, a device beyond all plausible recognition or comprehension with near-limitless capabilities. Something so infinitely complex must be exercised and given opportunities to release everything it formulates, lest it atrophy and become harder to draw information from. Not only are we limiting our potential by not writing, we are actually damaging our ability to interpret the hints and signals or brain uses communicate critical messages to us. One might even suggest that the very essence of creativity becomes stifled when we ignore our impulse to record what our brain is conveying!

For these reasons and so many more, I have found a better question exists than that which George Orwell’s work prompted. I ask myself, all too often, not why I write; rather what possible force or emotion would ever allow me not to. And so laying down any astute or abashed ulterior sense of purpose, I must ask that you consider the same question: “Why DON’T I write?”