People write for a number of reasons. Why successful, world-renowned writers do so remains enduringly interesting to me.
I’d like to briefly, and with tongue-in-cheek (precisely why it rests there should become clear), breeze over why three of my favourite writers do so.
George Orwell published in 1946 a thoughtful essay entitled ‘Why I Write‘ in which he listed “four great motives for writing” (“sheer egoism”; “aesthetic enthusiasm”; “historical impulse”; “political purpose”). As he explains in the opening sentence:
“From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer”
For his American contemporary, Ernest Hemingway, it was simple:
“when I don’t write I feel like shit”
P. G. Wodehouse, who gifted the world with Bertie Wooster and his indefatigable gentleman’s personal gentleman, Jeeves, prefaced his third collection of stories concerning the duo, Very Good, Jeeves (1930), by remaking on “[t]he question of how long an author is allowed to go on recording the adventures of any given character of characters”. He countered criticism with the plain point that writing the tales not only gave him “a great deal of pleasure” but, furthermore, “keeps me out of the public-houses”.
Why do you write?
For me, all three are applicable. I hesitate, though, to list them in order of preference.
George Orwell, ‘Why I Write, c.1946
Ernest Hemingway in Arnold Samuelson, With Hemingway: A Year in Key West and Cuba (London: Seven House Publishers, 1985 ), p. 9.
P. G. Wodehouse, ‘Preface’ in Very Good, Jeeves (London: Arrow Books, 2008 ), p. 11.