Why Writers Write: George Orwell on the Four Universal Motives for Creative Work
“All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery.”
BY MARIA POPOVA
Literary legend Eric Arthur Blair, better known as George Orwell (June 25, 1903–January 21, 1950), remains best remembered for authoring the cult-classics Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, but he was also a formidable, masterful essayist. Among his finest short-form feats is the 1946 essay Why I Write(public library) — a fine addition to the collected wisdom of great writers.
Orwell begins with some details about his less than idyllic childhood — complete with absentee father, school mockery and bullying, and a profound sense of loneliness — and traces how those experiences steered him towards writing, proposing that such early micro-traumas are essential for any writer’s drive. He then lays out what he believes to be the four main motives for writing, most of which extrapolate to just about any domain of creative output