In his famous essay “Why I Write,” George Orwell somewhat precociously states that at “a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer.” Being less of a prodigy, I had no absolutely thought of authorship until my teens. But after dabbling at it clumsily in high school and college, it became both a leisurely pastime and a necessary mental exercise.
Orwell discusses the underlying motivations for authorship: 1) egoism; 2) aesthetic enthusiasm; 3) historical impulse; and 4) political purpose. The last point he describes as political “in the widest possible sense.” By this, I think he really means philosophy.
I agree with the importance of a philosophical impulse, though I don’t accept his view that “no book is genuinely free from political bias.” A few writers, like Max Beerbohm, unquestionably wrote without conscious political or philosophical intentions. But I appreciate Orwell’s impatience with humbugs who are disingenuous about their ideological partiality: “The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.” Still it’s a fact that as a socialist (albeit an unusually sensible one) Orwell was at times too much of a political animal. The best art and literature transcends politics. After all, the immortality of Dante’s Divine Comedy owes nothing to his views on the contemporary Guelph and Ghibillene factions of Medieval Italy. And no one reads H. G. Wells’ Time Machine for its subplot about class conflict.
My greatest motive for blogging is “aesthetic enthusiasm.” I don’t deny the influence of egoism, but my vanity was assuaged long ago by print journalism. Keeping a personal journal or notebook, on the other hand, is pure intellectual escapism from the drudgery of work and life.