George Orwell was a writer’s writer.
While he knew what it took to write a cult classic – the likes of Animal Farm, for example – he knew much more about the very act of writing and creation itself.
In his 1946 essay Why I write, Orwell explores the four reasons why he believes writer’s write.
Reading through the motives, it’s clear that they are not meant solely for writers, but for all creatives: artists, dancers, inventors, musicians, sculptors, architects, and whoever else creates.
What are the motives? Apart from making a living doing what we enjoy doing, why do we pursue creativity?
“[The] desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death.” We pursue creative efforts to be somebody. To create something that will outlast us in legacy and, in return, make the idea of us live on infinitely.
2. Appreciation of beauty
The desire to be part of something aesthetically pleasing. To create it or embrace it as it comes to fruition of natural causes. It’s the moment when the pieces come together or when a detail becomes a central point of perspective. “Pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story.”
3. Making sense of the world
To put pieces together and see things more clearly. The desire to take from the seemingly chaotic state of nature and produce something more clear. “To see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.”
4. To propel society
Orwell uses the term “political” here, but in a broad sense of the word. The desire to move people and their opinions, to shape the future of the world, “to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after”
Intriguingly, two of Orwell’s motives for creation are blatantly external while the other two are mostly internal.
To better understand what motivates you, or those you work with, look at the type of work they’re doing. Are they creating for a legacy or to help shape the world? Are they inherently attracted to the beauty of creation? Or are they doing so to help make sense of the world and to convey that sense to those around them?
What about you? Why do you pursue creativity?
Illustration via Kieran Guckian.