‘Driven on by some demon’

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.

George Orwell

As this week’s book review was on non-fiction, why not have a non-fiction quotation as well?

I kept this quote for years because, of all the writing theorists (not that I’ve read many, granted), George Orwell in the short essay “Why I Write” seemed to put word to the feeling I’ve had since I was a child, starting stories in notebooks and learning how to use a computer word processor. I was never told I had to write stories, I simply knew I had to. I’ve been asked if it’s worth writing stories even if I don’t ever intend to publish them. My answer is that I can’t not write.

But why? It seems to be the question Orwell is answering, and he does attempt to put some sort of practical, moral reasoning into the purpose of writing anything, including fiction. Look at his two most critical works, 1984 and Animal Farm—he had a definite purpose in writing those. Yet, the urge to write begins without motive. It simply is. I conjecture that the reason writing a book is a horrible, exhausting process is because it takes work to unearth the motive and communicate it in the story so as to make it meaningful. And, as Orwell observes, writers such as myself are lazy.

Selfishness and vanity aside, is it worth it? To subject oneself to this extended pain of writing a book? That is a question I’ve been asking myself more and more recently, and I’m a bit frightened that I don’t have a definite answer. But, admitting that I certainly can’t understand the demon, can I really hope to resist it?

2 thoughts on “‘Driven on by some demon’”

  1. I love that Orwell quote. I think the muse has a drive all of its own. Something knows. Call it ones intuition. It is beyond reason. You simply have to trust it. My best work often comes about when I have a burning desire to write but don’t think too much about it. It just flows. When I force it it doesn’t work as well. That’s my excuse for being lazy anyway! Nice post. 🙏

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for you comment! I agree with you (and am also always reaching for an excuse for being lazy) that the best output often comes from an unknown input, if I can put it that way. Of course, I have to remind myself that even when the “urge to write” isn’t overwhelmingly obvious, often it can be found just under the surface if I sit down and dig a little by forcing myself to start. It’s a bit like finding ways to tap into something that’s always there, but you can’t always see. That’s how I think of it, anyway. Hope you continue to find that flow!

      Liked by 1 person

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