As my second book is complete and the process of it is coming to a close, I have been exploring why I write or rather, why I feel that I must collate information and knowledge and ask the world to listen to what it is I am saying. I understand that I am passionate about exploring our emotional worlds and how the experiences that we have form and shape what we choose to do and who we choose to surround ourselves with. The emotion of life is what interests me; how it feels.
Emotions have a long and tiresome history of being devalued, ridiculed and used as a means by which not to take people seriously (particularly women), deeming anyone using an emotional language as weak and irrational. This has caused indescribable harm to us all for many centuries.
For this reason, I have thought long and hard as to how I can place emotion firmly in the centre of what I do and be explicit about that from the outset. What I have learned is that much of the peace that we seek can come from the direct result of being able to understand and articulate our emotional worlds.
Through understanding how something feels, we can express ourselves and more importantly we can learn what feels ‘good’ to us and what does not, giving us an opportunity to have more control in our lives. The ‘fog’ and the sense of life being ‘done to you’ can then be lifted.
The essay by George Orwell, “Why I Write”, written in 1946, provides some insight into his understanding of this as a writer, although I would like to suggest that there is less ‘emotion’ in it than there might be were he to write this today.
“I was the middle child of three, but there was a gap of five years on either side, and I barely saw my father before I was eight. For this and other reasons I was somewhat lonely, and I soon developed disagreeable mannerisms which made me unpopular throughout my school days. I had the lonely child’s habit of making up stories and holding conversations with imaginary persons, and I think from the very start my literary ambitions were mixed up with the feeling of being isolated and undervalued. I knew that I had a facility with words and a power of facing unpleasant facts, and I felt that this created a sort of private world in which I could get my own back for my failure in everyday life.”
He then rather eloquently describes this understanding of himself vital to his writing and indeed, the writing of all writers..
“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. It is his job, no doubt, to discipline his temperament and avoid getting stuck at some immature stage, in some perverse mood; but if he escapes from his early influences altogether, he will have killed his impulse to write.”
What I really love about this essay are how he gives four reasons for writing:
- 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.
- Aesthetic enthusiasm. Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement. Pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story. Desire to share an experience which one feels is valuable and ought not to be missed. The aesthetic motive is very feeble in a lot of writers, but even a pamphleteer or writer of textbooks will have pet words and phrases which appeal to him for non-utilitarian reasons; or he may feel strongly about typography, width of margins, etc. Above the level of a railway guide, no book is quite free from aesthetic considerations.
- Historical impulse. Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.
- Political purpose. Using the word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. Once again, no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.
Where do you veer towards? Are we a mix of everything or do we feel a genuine pull into one direction? I know what motivates me. Do you?