With the increasing level of control and supervision over our day to day activities, one might almost think that we are in some form of a dystopian equivalent to George Orwell’s ‘1984’, a novel which he wrote incidentally in 1948 as a predictor of things to come.
Orwell was a prolific writer, and I was intrigued to come across an essay written by him in 1946 called ‘Why I write’. In it he says that he writes for 4 key reasons:
- Egotism : that is, in Orwell’s words, ‘a desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get you own back on those who snubbed you at childhood etc’. (That might even extend to past employments, I suppose.)
- Aesthetic enthusiasm. He explains that in writing, there is a desire to make it look and sound good. There’s no real doubt that writing is an art form.
- Historical : A desire to see things as they are… and to store them for posterity. Those who keep a diary fall into that category.
- Political purpose, which he describes as ‘pushing the world in a particular direction’. Remember Al Gore’s stance on ecology called ‘An Inconvenient Truth’?
Since Orwell’s day, writing has become a much more frequent occurrence for nearly all of us:
- In 2016 there were over 1.5 million posts on Linked in
- There are 200 billion Tweets per year
- Facebook boasts 350m photos shared per day, and 4.75bn items shared -per day.
These figures are a marketer’s dream. No wonder digital marketing is so popular, especially as the figures appear to dwarf the level of interest in commercial TV advertising. But it seems to me that many contributors to both Twitter and LinkedIn are often no more than an echo chamber for corporate messaging.
Psychologists even examine why we tweet, loosely linking the exercise to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
Personally I prefer social media content that is original and catchy. From time to time I will follow an event on TV such as a sports game by following twitter, rather than having the TV sound on, as social media sentiment is much more insightful than the TV commentators own views.
You would think that after my hat-trick 3 books of my own, and contributions to many others, that the lockdown would have given me some respite. Instead it gave me more time for personal projects; and autobiography for the grandchildren, so that when I am older and dribbling we can talk about the things which happened in my life; and a book for children which I have also illustrated and might self-publish.
I know from replies and acknowledgements that my 75 or so contributions on LinkedIn have made some small difference and has stimulated thought.
Will I, in cricketing terms, ‘declare’ (that is, withdraw from the field) undefeated after making 100 contributions to Linkedin? ‘100 Not Out’, as the cricket scoreboard might say. A ‘Century’ of Linkedin blogs is a fair target, at least for the moment.
But in terms of why I write – long stuff, short stuff, blogs and tweets – of course the devil always finds work for idle hands, especially in these lockdown and self-isolating times.
Perhaps I use writing (in all its forms) to provide a ‘shop window’ in terms of how I think, originally and creatively?
But I think I write simply because I enjoy the accuracy of the written word, and its ability to both simultaneously provoke and to create collaboration.
And also mainly because I enjoy doing it, which seems to me to be a perfectly good reason.