“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
It’s interesting, isn’t it, that writers are engaged in the business of what is often a painstakingly hard process. Writing, as many non-writers can attest, is oftentimes excruciating. Finding the right word at the right time sometimes seems the hardest thing ever attempted. As for actually constructing a good sentence–well, we won’t even get started on that one.
Obviously I don’t know this for certain, but I’ve read too many authors talking about how hard it is to write that I can’t help but think that no one has an easy time writing all the time. At some point, it becomes difficult and frustrating.
Writing is hard. But yet we do it.
So why do we do it? I think that Orwell has something when he suggests that, in essence, we write because we can’t help it.
Perhaps we write because we live in a story, and long to tell our own. We do live, I believe, in one giant story–a plot of epic proportions. Shakespeare famously said “All the world’s a stage,” and I’m inclined to believe that he’s right.
The second part of Orwell’s cause for writing is important, though. Orwell claims that we cannot really understand why we write. Now, I haven’t done any level of extensive research into this, and I haven’t devoted an enormous amount of time to thinking about it. But it does seem that the drive to write is, at least to some extent, mysterious. Irresistible, but mysterious. As I say in my “About” page, a good book is a magical, and mysterious thing. It ticks all the boxes, but the best indication for me of a good book is that it makes me forget about the boxes.
Writing is mysterious. But yet we love it.
Douglas Wilson said that “he writes to make the voices in his head go away.” I think he’s on to something. I know that I, at least, write because I can’t help it. I have stories just begging to be written. Whether or not those stories are good or not is an entirely different question, but there’s a sense of necessity. Of inevitability. I need to be able to write, to tell stories. Through my writing I think–because as one of my teachers reminds me constantly, “writing is a form of thinking.” I can understand the world in a better way if I write. It brings clarity.
Writing is necessary. And maybe that’s why we do it.
That seems to be what Orwell was getting at–that writing is a necessary activity for those who undertake it. What do you think? Let me know in the comments, if you’d like.
For me, though, writing is a hard activity, it is a mysterious activity, it is a beautiful activity, and it is a necessary activity. Writing is magical and enjoyable. It helps me, at least, to get the stories out of my head. To be able to better understand the world. In my opinion, my English teacher hit the nail on the head.
Writing is thinking.