I plan to stop outraging my true nature and to start writing myself into existence
In George Orwell’s famous essay from 1946, Why I Write, his conclusion seems to be that he writes because he must:
From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer. Between the ages of about seventeen and twenty-four I tried to abandon this idea, but I did so with the consciousness that I was outraging my true nature and that sooner or later I should have to settle down and write books.
This is the conclusion but it actually forms the first paragraph of the essay. The remainder of the piece talks more about motives that are subservient to this more existential drive.
The final paragraph of the essay addresses the role in his own writing of the four motives he identifies (Sheer egoism; Aesthetic enthusiasm; Historical impulse; Political purpose):
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.
On Medium, I see a lot of posts about how to get writing and why people want to write. I agree with much of what is written. But much, also, lacks the political edge.
Euan Semple, in his altogether wonderful Organisations Don’t Tweet, People Do, has a short chapter called “Writing Ourselves Into Existence”. The chapter title is in quotation marks because the phrase comes originally from David Weinberger, who used it to describe the benefits of blogging. Euan focuses on blogging in particular as a benefit to business. But it is easily applied to writing in general and, as a reason for writing, I believe it comes closer than many books on writing and creativity and artistic endeavour to describing the genuine heart of our creative purpose. Here’s what Euan says at the start of the chapter:
You become more thoughtful about yourself and your place in the world. In the reactions of others to your writing you get a different perspective, possibly for the first time, on how others see you. While this can be scary at first, it can also be liberating. (Euan Semple: Organisations Don’t Tweet, People Do p34)
Especially in working environments where distractions are the norm, writing gives us the space in which to work out what we think and believe.
And that self-examination is where the political lies. Is comes from uncovering the things we fear and the things we desire and the dark depths of our characters and the true nature of the best of ourselves.
My main concern for decades now has been why I don’t write. Like Orwell, I believed from the age of six or seven that I would grow up to be a writer. From the age of eighteen, I have fully accepted that I have been “outraging my true nature” by failing to write.
We’re talking forty years of outrage. That’s a lot of self-sabotage.
It’s time to stop. It’s time to find out what I believe. It’s time to write myself into existence and to mend some wounds.
Bear with me while I struggle to find my voice and to uncover what I have been so desperate to stop coming into the light.