Tim Price: Why we write
Comment of the Day

June 06 2013

Commentary by David Fuller

Tim Price: Why we write

My thanks to the author for his highly original letter. Here are two of the opening quotes from the behaviourally astute and articulate George Orwell
"I give all this background information because I do not think one can assess a writer's motives without knowing something of his early development. His subject matter will be determined by the age he lives in - at least this is true in tumultuous, revolutionary ages like our own - but before he ever begins to write he will have acquired an emotional attitude from which he will never completely escape."
- George Orwell, 'Why I write', 1946.

In his famous essay, Orwell also put forward what he called four great motives for writing (or at least for writing prose):

"(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. Serious writers, I should say, are on the whole more vain and self-centered than journalists, though less interested in money.

David Fuller's view If you enjoyed these, you will most likely be interested in Tim Price's own comments, not least his concluding paragraph.

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