Friday, February 12, 2016

Is that what it is about?

Every once in a while, perhaps a tad too often to my liking, I ask myself why I blog, tweet, and Facebook my thoughts, leave alone the newspaper op-eds that I feel compelled to write.  My writings are barely read by a few, and not remembered by any.  So, "why this agonizing routine" is a question that worries me--quite a bit.

A simple answer is, well, it is who I am.  Stupid is as stupid does, as Forrest Gump put it.  But, I need more than a Gumpism.  So, I turned to the great writers.

In "Why I Write" Joan Didion notes:
In many ways writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind. It’s an aggressive, even a hostile act. You can disguise its qualifiers and tentative subjunctives, with ellipses and evasions—with the whole manner of intimating rather than claiming, of alluding rather than stating—but there’s no getting around the fact that setting words on paper is the tactic of a secret bully, an invasion, an imposition of the writer’s sensibility on the reader’s most private space.
Now, that's why she is a celebrated writer and why I am a nobody in the boondocks ;)

It makes sense, right, when you think about any writing that you read?  Whether it is a piece in the Economist or Cosmo, or whether it is Lolita or Fifty Shades of Grey, the writers want you to listen to them and change your mind.

Didion remarks in that essay:
Of course I stole the title for this talk, from George Orwell.
Orwell, my favorite intellectual.  He opens his essay with this:
From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer. Between the ages of about seventeen and twenty-four I tried to abandon this idea, but I did so with the consciousness that I was outraging my true nature and that sooner or later I should have to settle down and write books.
That is not my story; up until I got to graduate school, I had no clue that I sucked at writing.  I was not born to write, unlike what Orwell and most other writers apparently felt.  It was only as a graduate student did I even start wondering what I wanted to do with my PhD, which is how my thoughts began to focus on writing in a public intellectual life--public scholarship.

Orwell adds:
I think there are four great motives for writing, at any rate for writing prose. They exist in different degrees in every writer, and in any one writer the proportions will vary from time to time, according to the atmosphere in which he is living.
He has set it up well.  The first of those four motives?
Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grownups who snubbed you in childhood, etc., etc. It is humbug to pretend this is not a motive, and a strong one.
Only Orwell could have put that so bluntly.  And he makes it clear that money is not the motive--"less interested in money."  Now, that's something I can claim as a trait!

Of the other three, I like the "political purpose" that Orwell writes about:
using the word "political" in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples' idea of the kind of society that they should strive after.
The newspaper op-eds are certainly political in the widest sense that Orwell describes.

Thus, I write.  Knowing fully well that I am no George Orwell, not even a George Will.  But, that's life, of a wannabe.


Ramesh said...

George Orwell's four "great" motives are dubious. His is a constant negative slant - he of the 1984 fame. And anyway, what's wrong in egoism - if you do something well, you don't have to hide it.

Its easy for me to agree with your last line. You are no George Orwell. You are better !

By the way, what do you mean that nobody remembers your posts. I even remember your BP from the last Walmart visit :)

Sriram Khé said...

hehehe .... thanks
And thanks for the reminder that it is time for a BP check ;)

Anne in Salem said...

Isn't "Because I enjoy it" sufficient reason to write? Or "because my allegedly few readers enjoy it"? Why do you need to explore the reasons of other writers? There is no negative so just write, write, write.

Sriram Khé said...

"just write, write, write."

right, right, right ;)

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