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Why I Write: George Orwell on an

Author's 4 Main Motives


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
inat least this is true in tumultuous, revolutionary ages like our ownbut 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. !utting aside the need to earn a living, I think there are four great motives for writing, at any
rate for writing prose. "hey e#ist 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. "hey are$
%i& 'heer egoism. (esire 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. *riters share this characteristic with scientists, artists, politicians,
lawyers, soldiers, successful businessmenin short, with the whole top crust of humanity. "he great
mass of human beings are not acutely selfish. +fter the age of about thirty they almost abandon the
sense of being individuals at alland live chiefly for others, or are simply smothered under drudgery.
,ut 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. 'erious writers, I should say, are on the whole more vain and
self)centered than journalists, though less interested in money.
%ii& +esthetic enthusiasm. !erception of beauty in the e#ternal world, or, on the other hand, in words
and their right arrangement. !leasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good
prose or the rhythm of a good story. (esire to share an e#perience which one feels is valuable and
ought not to be missed. "he aesthetic motive is very feeble in a lot of writers, but even a pamphleteer
or writer of te#tbooks 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. +bove the level of a railway
guide, no book is quite free from aesthetic considerations.
%iii& Historical impulse. (esire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the
use of posterity.
%iv& !olitical purpose.-sing the word 'political' in the widest possible sense. (esire to push the world
in a certain direction, to alter other peoples' idea of the kind of society that they should strive after.
.nce again, no book is genuinely free from political bias. "he opinion that art should have nothing to
do with politics is itself a political attitude.
It can be seen how these various impulses must war against one another, and how they must fluctuate
from person to person and from time to time.
/ooking back through the last page or two, I see that I have made it appear as though my motives in
writing were wholly public)spirited. I don't want to leave that as the final impression. +ll writers are
vain, selfish, and la0y, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. *riting a book is a
horrible, e#hausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. .ne would never undertake such
a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. 1or all
one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. +nd yet it is
also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one's own
personality. 2ood prose is like a windowpane. I cannot say with certainty which of my motives are the
strongest, but I know which of them deserve to be followed. +nd looking back through my work, I see
that it is invariably where I lacked a !./I"I3+/ purpose that I wrote lifeless books and was betrayed
into purple passages, sentences without meaning, decorative adjectives and humbug generally
Kurt Vonneguts 8 Tips on How to Write a Great
Story
by Maria Popova
Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love
to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
4. Every sentence must do one of two things-reveal character or advance the action.
5. tart as close to the end as !ossi"le.
#. $e a adist. %o matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, ma&e awful things ha!!en to
them-in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
'. (rite to !lease )ust one !erson. *f you o!en a window and ma&e love to the world, so to s!ea&, your story
will get !neumonia.
+. Give your readers as much information as !ossi"le as soon as !ossi"le. ,o hell with sus!ense. -eaders
should have such com!lete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the
story themselves, should coc&roaches eat the last few !ages.
David Ogilvys 1. no-"ullshit ti!s
On September 7th, 1982, Ogilvy sent the following internal memo to all agency employees, titled How to
rite!"
,he "etter you write, the higher you go in /gilvy 0 1ather. 2eo!le who thin& well, write well.
(oolly minded !eo!le write woolly memos, woolly letters and woolly s!eeches.
Good writing is not a natural gift. 3ou have to learn to write well. 4ere are 1. hints5
1. -ead the -oman--a!haelson "oo& on writing. -ead it three times.
2. (rite the way you tal&. %aturally.
3. Use short words, short sentences and short !aragra!hs.
4. %ever use )argon words li&e reconceptualize,demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. ,hey are hallmar&s of
a !retentious ass.
5. %ever write more than two !ages on any su")ect.
#. 6hec& your 7uotations.
'. %ever send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. -ead it aloud the ne8t morning 9 and then edit it.
+. *f it is something im!ortant, get a colleague to im!rove it.
:. $efore you send your letter or your memo, ma&e sure it is crystal clear what you want the reci!ient to do.
1.. *f you want ;6,*/%, don<t write. Go and tell the guy what you want.
=avid
Henry Millers 11 commandments
to read more and write better#
6/11;%=1E%,
1. (or& on one thing at a time until finished.
2. tart no more new "oo&s, add no more new material to >$lac& !ring.<
3. =on<t "e nervous. (or& calmly, )oyously, rec&lessly on whatever is in hand.
4. (or& according to 2rogram and not according to mood. to! at the a!!ointed time?
5. (hen you can<t create you can work.
#. 6ement a little every day, rather than add new fertili@ers.
'. Aee! human? ee !eo!le, go !laces, drin& if you feel li&e it.
+. =on<t "e a draught-horse? (or& with !leasure only.
:. =iscard the 2rogram when you feel li&e it9"ut go "ac& to it ne8t day. Concentrate. Narrow down.
Exclude.
1.. Borget the "oo&s you want to write. ,hin& only of the "oo& you are writing.
11. (rite first and always. 2ainting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.
$nder a part titled Daily Program, his ro%tine also feat%red the following wonderf%l bl%eprint for
prod%ctivity, inspiration, and mental health"
1/-%*%G5
*f groggy, ty!e notes and allocate, as stimulus.
*f in fine fettle, write.
;B,E-%//%5
(or& of section in hand, following !lan of section scru!ulously. %o intrusions, no diversions. (rite to finish one
section at a time, for good and all.
ECE%*%G5
ee friends. -ead in cafDs.
E8!lore unfamiliar sections 9 on foot if wet, on "icycle if dry.
(rite, if in mood, "ut only on 1inor !rogram.
2aint if em!ty or tired.
1a&e %otes. 1a&e 6harts, 2lans. 1a&e corrections of 1.
Note: ;llow sufficient time during daylight to ma&e an occasional visit to museums or an occasional s&etch or an
occasional "i&e ride. &etch in cafDs and trains and streets. 6ut the movies? Ei"rary for references once a wee&.
a!" Keroua!s3. "eliefs and techni7ues
1. cri""led secret note"oo&s, and wild ty!ewritten !ages, for yr own )oy
2. u"missive to everything, o!en, listening
3. ,ry never get drun& outside yr own house
4. $e in love with yr life
5. omething that you feel will find its own form
#. $e cra@y dum"saint of the mind
'. $low as dee! as you want to "low
+. (rite what you want "ottomless from "ottom of the mind
:. ,he uns!ea&a"le visions of the individual
1.. %o time for !oetry "ut e8actly what is
11. Cisionary tics shivering in the chest
12. *n tranced fi8ation dreaming u!on o")ect "efore you
13. -emove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhi"ition
14. Ei&e 2roust "e an old teahead of time
15. ,elling the true story of the world in interior monolog
1#. ,he )ewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
1'. (rite in recollection and ama@ement for yourself
1+. (or& from !ithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
1:. ;cce!t loss forever
2.. $elieve in the holy contour of life
21. truggle to s&etch the flow that already e8ists intact in mind
22. =ont thin& of words when you sto! "ut to see !icture "etter
23. Aee! trac& of every day the date em"la@oned in yr morning
24. %o fear or shame in the dignity of yr e8!erience, language 0 &nowledge
25. (rite for the world to read and see yr e8act !ictures of it
2#. $oo&movie is the movie in words, the visual ;merican form
2'. *n !raise of 6haracter in the $lea& inhuman Eoneliness
2+. 6om!osing wild, undisci!lined, !ure, coming in from under, cra@ier the "etter
2:. 3ou<re a Genius all the time
3.. (riter-=irector of Earthly movies !onsored 0 ;ngeled in 4eaven
o#n Steinbe!" 9 2ulit@er 2ri@e winner, %o"el laureate, love guru 9 with si8 ti!s on writing,
culled from his altogether e8cellent interview it the Ball 1:'5 issue ofThe Paris e!iew.
1. ;"andon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Eose trac& of the 4.. !ages and write )ust one !age for
each day, it hel!s. ,hen when it gets finished, you are always sur!rised.
2. (rite freely and as ra!idly as !ossi"le and throw the whole thing on !a!er. %ever correct or rewrite until
the whole thing is down. -ewrite in !rocess is usually found to "e an e8cuse for not going on. *t also
interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a &ind of unconscious association with the
material.
3. Borget your generali@ed audience. *n the first !lace, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to
death and in the second !lace, unli&e the theater, it doesn<t e8ist. *n writing, your audience is one single
reader. * have found that sometimes it hel!s to !ic& out one !erson9a real !erson you &now, or an
imagined !erson and write to that one.
4. *f a scene or a section gets the "etter of you and you still thin& you want it9"y!ass it and go on. (hen
you have finished the whole you can come "ac& to it and then you may find that the reason it gave trou"le
is "ecause it didn<t "elong there.
5. $eware of a scene that "ecomes too dear to you, dearer than the rest. *t will usually "e found that it is out
of drawing.
#. *f you are using dialogue9say it aloud as you write it. /nly then will it have the sound of s!eech.