100 articles – ‘Why I Write’

18 May 2011

Written by: Lawrie Zion

‘Why I Write’ by George Orwell

Have you ever wondered what makes a great writer tick?   According to George Orwell’s 1946 essay, ‘Why I Write’ a writer’s subject matter will be determined by their experiences and the age they live in.  Writers who try to escape from their own experiences do so at their own peril.

The momentous and troubled times George Orwell lived through left an indelible mark on his personality and his writing. George Orwell’s  experiences as a police officer in Burma increased  his ‘natural hatred of authority’ and made  him ‘for the first time fully aware of the existence of the working classes’.

Everything thing he wrote from 1936 on was ‘against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism as I understand it’. 

A compliant media does little to prevent the development of an increasingly conformist world where dissenters are severely marginalised. Not enough journalists question the increasingly authoritarian and conformist world we live in, and no writing ‘is genuinely free from political bias’.

What would have Orwell made of news, politics, journalism and writing in the online age of the 21st century? The issues raised in ‘Why I Write’ are probably far more relevant now than when it was published in 1946.

Terry Costello is a Master of Global Communications student at La Trobe University.