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November 19, 2002

Why Write?

The whole notion of "Total Information Awareness" (see previous post re: Homeland Security, etc.), combined with re-reading/teaching The Handmaid's Tale sent me on a little research about George Orwell. And since I'm currently supposed to be writing a novel for National Novel Writing Month, I was struck by Orwell's explanation of why he writes. Orwell says:

All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one's own personality. Good prose is like a windowpane. I cannot say with certainty which of my motives are the strongest, but I know which of them deserve to be followed. And looking back through my work, I see that it is invariably where I lacked a political purpose that I wrote lifeless books and was betrayed into purple passages, sentences without meaning, decorative adjectives and humbug generally.

Unfortunately, in unskilled hands (like mine), even writing with a political purpose can easily become rather lifeless and purple. Which is to say: Don't expect to see the fruits of my novel-writing labors anytime soon.

Posted November 19, 2002 04:21 PM | life generally

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