When I sit down to write a book

When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.

George Orwell

4 thoughts on “When I sit down to write a book”

  1. At the other extreme, J. R. R. Tolkien wrote the books he did because they were the kind of books he wanted to read and there were not enough like them. And in the middle, Shakespeare wrote because he had a theatre to fill.

    All three approaches can produce great literature.

  2. Agreed, T.

    It’s what shows up on the paper (or screen), not what motivated the author, that is key.

    • Poseurs, usually.

      Writing with the conscious intention of producing ‘a work of art’ is a bit like trying to dance while admiring yourself in the mirror. The results are seldom of interest to an audience.

      (Incidentally, I think Orwell had the ‘Bloomsbury group’ in mind when he wrote the passage in the OP. They were definitely a dancing-in-the-mirror set, and it showed—much more concerned with their precious reputations and their ability to make or break other writers’ careers than with, you know, actually writing anything. Which is why most of them had chronic writer’s block, and hardly anything that they produced endured past the time when they were actively pushing it on the critics.)

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