Daily Archives: February 12, 2016

“Sheer Egoism”

Not that I’ve written much of anything recently, creative or otherwise, but nevertheless I relate to many of George Orwell’s thoughts in the essay “Why I Write,” in particular the motive he chooses to put at the top of his list:

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:

 

(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.

I fear I’ve slumped into the “smothered under drudgery” stage of life; that’s as accurate a description of my day-to-day experience as anything I’ve encountered. But I still dream the dream I had when I was younger of producing something that will endure after I’m gone… of leaving my mark on the world, an echo of my voice and mind. I guess we all dream of that, though, writers or not…

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