The sixteenth of March, 2011: haemorrhoids and egoism

This is the first of George Orwell’s four reasons why writers write:

1. Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc.

I don’t know why he felt the need to write three more reasons after that, but he did (for the record, they are: aesthetic enthusiasm; historical impulse; and political purpose).

“Serious writers, I should say,” he adds, “are on the whole more vain and self-centred than journalists, though less interested in money.”

And there’s more:

All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.

That’s all from Orwell’s 1946 essay Why I Write. Really brings home the glamour of it all, doesn’t it? Anthony Burgess, as I remember, went even further in enumerating the hardships endured by authors; I forget the entire list, but I know that it included alcohol addiction, nicotine addiction, caffeine addiction, sexual impotence and haemorrhoids.

I think I might quite like to be an accountant, please.

(The Orwellian milieu of sandbags and hats may be partly responsible, but anyway I’m put in mind of Bendrix’s lines here (watch the whole scene, if you have time – if only to admire Ralph’s superbly self-torturing hand-on-the-table routine)).


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