Here are the Four Reasons that Writers Write, according to George Orwell, in a 1946 essay called “Why I Write.”
The four great motives are present in every writer, but in different proportions, and those proportions can vary over time.
1. Sheer Egoism – Writers want to be clever, they want to be talked about, they want to be remembered after death. Orwell had an interesting view here: he said that most people, after the age of 30, abandon individual ambition; but some keep pushing, for better or worse.
2. Aesthetic Enthusiasm – Art for the sake of art. Writers take pleasure in sounds, in rhythm, in the design of a story.
3. Historical Impulse – To find out the facts, judge the truth, see things as they really are.
4. Political Purpose – Everyone has a bias. Writers want to push the world in a certain direction.
I can see how numbers #2, #3, and #4 play a part in my writing, but the motive that resonates with me most is #1.
I hope that I have something important worth saying. If I don’t, then what’s the whole point?
Also I love the idea that when I create something, that thing now has the potential to outlive me. Even if my great grandchildren never listen to my songs or look at my pictures, at least they could if they wanted to. To me the scary part about dying is how soon I’ll be forgotten.
Of course there are a couple of ways that a man can live forever: He can have kids. A part of him will continue through the generations. But a man can also live forever through his work. He can create something that outlasts his physical body. He can leave something behind.
But of course every artist is jonesing for a connection. For someone to say, “ah, I agree.” Or someone to say, “Wow, I never thought of it that way.”
Every time we make those connections, we increase our chances of living forever.