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?