In the introduction of his short essay Why I Write, George Orwell begins with this following notion: “From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer.” Most children have a vague impression of who they want to be when they grow up, whether they want to be loving like their parents or want to be ambitious like an astronaut. At that age, I had already started writing, drafting short stories, collecting notebooks, and seizing any opportunity to write. Nevertheless, I never knew that I should be a writer. In contrast to Orwell, I believed I certainly would be a writer.
Whereas Orwell “tried to abandon this idea” of becoming a writer on his own, I had others trying to convince me to pursue different aspirations. I wouldn’t budge. I believe those who latch onto an avocation as transcendent as writing will have a hard time letting go. Writers are the lucky ones. The passion for writing is a craft that latches on until adulthood; continually, writing will always seek to mirror one’s growth and progress.
Orwell writes, “When I was about sixteen I suddenly discovered the joy of mere words, i.e. the sounds and associations of words.” Coincidently, when I was seventeen, enrolled in my first creative writing workshop at MCLA, I encountered a similar phenomenon which has not only heightened my writing but indefinitely challenged the process. Too often, I take my time writing because I am consciously aware of the implications of form in relationship to content. I will never be content solely writing down what is contextually correct if it is unsatisfying stylistically. For instance, it is not enough for me to pull examples from the text and connect them to my own introspections; I need more. As Orwell describes, I want my documents to be “ full of purple passages in which words were used partly for the sake of their own sound.” There is power in paying attention to how writing sounds aloud. In a synesthetic sense, there is sonancy in writing, and I believe this will almost always resonant with a reader whether they recognize it or not.
In retrospect to this idea of “purple passages,” I observe Orwell’s additional consideration for detail. Purple, the color of royalty, exemplifies the illustrious and rather majestic nature of writing. We read, “Although I had to search, and did search, for the right words, I seemed to be making this descriptive effort almost against my will, under a kind of compulsion from outside,” to which I determine: great writers are ruled by the act of writing. I used to claim I was a slave to my notebooks, always documenting life from an outside perspective, thus experiencing the human condition as a cursive body on paper. I now realize, however, that without my devotion to journaling, I would have limited access to my past experiences and influences. In light of such, Orwell notes, “…if he escapes from his early influences altogether, he will have killed his impulse to write.”
Orwell follows this notion by exploring the four great motives for writing, to which he believes “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.” The motives–sheer egoism, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse, and political purpose–are resonant within my own compositions, however, I was not aware of how actively involved these motives are within my everyday writing until reading Orwell’s synopsis on such. Perhaps Orwell’s devotion to “make political writing into an art” caught my attention and triggered an inspiration still unfurling as I write this reaction. Prior to this reading, I wouldn’t have acknowledged political purpose, yet the “desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other people’s idea of the kind of society that they should strive after” is a desire I hold very close to home. It is my mission statement, one of the driving forces that keeps me writing.