Why I Blog (A Ranking of 4 Motives)

“Putting aside the need to earn a living, 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.” ~ George Orwell, Why I Write (1946)

I was gearing up to write a post on the reasons why I blog, when I came across snippets of Orwell’s thoughts on the four great motives for writing. I saw several parallels, and was forced to reckon the degree to which each motive exists in me whenever I decide to hit the Publish button here.

Sharing with you the four motives here, in a sort of countdown (because I rarely get to introduce suspense in my blog otherwise, so please bear with me) from what I think is generally my weakest to my strongest motive.

4. Desire to record facts for future generations [Historical impulse]

Historical impulse. Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.” ~ George Orwell, Why I Write (1946)

This is my weakest motive for writing a blog. Although I do occasionally include news or facts in my writing, they’re mostly just a springboard for my thoughts on the matter…and my thoughts are not facts, haha.

3. Desire to share a beautiful or valuable experience, in a beautiful way [Aesthetic enthusiasm]

Aesthetic enthusiasm. Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement. Pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story. Desire to share an experience which one feels is valuable and ought not to be missed. The aesthetic motive is very feeble in a lot of writers, but even a pamphleteer or writer of textbooks will have pet words and phrases which appeal to him for non-utilitarian reasons; or he may feel strongly about typography, width of margins, etc.” ~ George Orwell, Why I Write (1946)

Part of the reason why I blog is so I can share experiences which I feel are “valuable and ought not to be missed,” and challenge myself to present them in a good way, as far as I am able. I’m a sucker for a well-structured piece of writing, a clever turn of phrase, an apt analogy, a seamless transition—and in blogging, I challenge myself to develop these things, too.

2. Desire to change the world, or at least some aspect of it [Political purpose]

Political purpose. — 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.” ~ George Orwell, Why I Write (1946)

This is one of the stronger motives for me, especially when I write about mental health. This blog has become a platform for me to raise awareness about mental health issues, and to contribute what I can in eliminating the stigma against mental illness. I don’t think the things I write will ever have an impact big enough “to push the world in a certain direction,” but that won’t stop me from trying. If I managed to inform at least one other person a little more about what depression is or what might be done to help people with mental illness, then my writing will not have been in vain.

1. Desire to satisfy self-interest [Sheer egoism]

Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc., etc. It is humbug to pretend this is not a motive, and a strong one. Writers share this characteristic with scientists, artists, politicians, lawyers, soldiers, successful businessmen — in short, with the whole top crust of humanity. The great mass of human beings are not acutely selfish. After the age of about thirty they almost abandon the sense of being individuals at all — and live chiefly for others, or are simply smothered under drudgery. But there is also the minority of gifted, willful people who are determined to live their own lives to the end, and writers belong in this class. Serious writers, I should say, are on the whole more vain and self-centered than journalists, though less interested in money.” ~ George Orwell, Why I Write (1946)

Yes, because who am I trying to kid here. Before this blog took on any political purpose, I’ve been writing for myself for the longest time. I have been journaling in private about my innermost thoughts and feelings for over a decade now, and blogging has been an extension of that tendency, this time available to anyone who cared to read.

Writing, to me, is mostly a way of capturing my thoughts and feelings at a particular point in time, like a photograph of my inner life or a “selfie of my soul,” if you will. Most of the time, I don’t even know how I look like until after I’ve taken that selfie and looked at it from the outside. Privately, I like getting to have that snapshot I could go back to at a later time (a throwback!) to see how much I’ve changed, or whether I’ve changed at all. In the context of blogging in particular, I get to post that selfie for others to see. And for what? Maybe I am seeking validation, maybe I am under the impression that people care about what I think, maybe it is out of what Orwell described as the “desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death.”

Whichever the explanation, it can’t be denied that a large motive for my blogging is *it hurts to say this, but* sheer egoism. I want my words to live on even after I’m gone. This is a large part of what this blog is for. This is an understandable reaction, I think (and this is where I rationalize the egoism), to the realization that my time here on Earth is finite, and this too is a confession that I really still don’t know why I’m here at all.

This blog is part of my creating a purpose for being here, that maybe in the briefest time I got to be part of this universe, it will have mattered that I existed. That I will have helped, comforted, informed, or inspired someone else through my words, through this blog (See here now, maybe I do try to infuse it with political purpose, or even altruism…but by how much, I’m never sure). It comforts me to know that even if I drop dead tomorrow, I will have left something behind that’ll outlive me, that’ll continue speaking to others even after I’m gone.

“Like everyone else, I am going to die. But the words – the words live on for as long as there are readers to see them, audiences to hear them. It is immortality by proxy.” ~ J. Michael Straczynski

That’s it for Orwell’s list, although specifically for blogging I might add a fifth motive, the desire to connect. Writing a book/novel (which is what Orwell talked about) is not entirely the same as blogging. Blogging involves a community, where one gets to give and receive immediate reactions and feedback, and hold conversations with people from all walks of life. I’ve learned so much from connecting with others through their own blogs, and through conversations that happen in the comments section. With this, I’d also like to take a moment to say—Thank you! for allowing me to be part of this community, and for being just cool people to hang out with over here at the blogosphere. 🙂

How about you? Why do you write? Why do you blog? How would you rank the four motives for yourself? And, if you could add any other motive to this list, what would it be?

I shall leave you with those questions, and with a final quote from Orwell:

“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. For all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one’s own personality. Good prose is like a windowpane. I cannot say with certainty which of my motives are the strongest, but I know which of them deserve to be followed.” ~ George Orwell, Why I Write (1946)

This entry is part of my undertaking a 30-day challenge Matt Cutts talked about at TED2011. The premise is to “think about something you’ve always wanted to add to your life and try it for the next 30 days.” I am challenging myself to post one blog entry a day for 30 consecutive days. [I’ve given up on the ‘consecutive’ part, though.]

Today is Day 30 (finally!).

I guess this challenge proved I’m not built for daily blogging, but I want to be able to post more regularly here, so I’ll start following a schedule.

New post every Sunday, folks! 🙂

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120 thoughts on “Why I Blog (A Ranking of 4 Motives)

  1. Wow I loved this post. For me, my strongest reason to write is for sheer egoism. I guess I want attention and validation. My weakest reason is to change the world. I used to think that I wanted to change the world but now I guess, I just want to change the way I see things and be more tolerant about them. And desire to share an invaluable experience will be 2nd and keeping historical record will be 3rd I guess. The 2nd and 3rd are interchangeable for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for reading and sharing your own answers, Deepika! I guess I’m not alone in writing motivated by sheer egoism. I’m kinda sad to hear you’ve given up on trying to change the world through writing, but I understand that impulse as well. Still, I believe some of your writings can and will help someone somewhere, maybe change just a thought or feeling, if not the entire world. You never know the ripples every word you send out to the world makes.

      Keep blogging! 🙂

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  2. Ive been thinking about why I blog lately but not in these terms. I’ve never come across the 4 reasons by Orwell before and find it quite interesting so thanks for sharing it.

    If I had to rank my motives for blogging Id say they lie in the same order as yours. I think sheer egoism is a big reason why a lot of bloggers blog whether or not they realize it or not.

    If I could add something it’s be practice, it’s another way for me to get practice at writing. Practice writing different styles, voices etc. Although I have been having the hardest time making enough time to blog write and actually write, something always gives unfortunately…

    Really enjoyed this post, thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Paolo, thanks for coming by! I agree with your addition; I think practice is a motive for me as well. The bonus is that with blogging, we get feedback from readers and other writers so we gain ideas about what works and what doesn’t.

      I understand what you mean about having a hard time making enough time to blog. I try to post regularly now, so it’s become even more of a challenge. I hope carving time in your schedule to blog becomes easier eventually, and wish you all the best on your blogging journey!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m a daily blogger who has relentlessly posted almost every day for the last three years. I would have to say that my main motive is exorcising the demons of my past by joking around and writing humor as if it were a crime I could totally get away with forever. Thank you for helping me to have this horrible insight about myself. It really does help in a way to dig at the roots of the tree. This is a wonderful piece of reflective expository soul searching. I would thank Orwell too, but he already knows. I look forward to reading lots more of your thoughtful posts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts on this, Michael! I also look forward to having you around!

      I think writing does help many people drive out their demons (both past and present), and that’s a strong motivation for writing, too. I believe everyone has their demons; writers are just more in touch with them and often get to have them as unconscious triggers for creative work. Having to exorcise demons may be horrible, but getting to do it while producing creative output isn’t so bad.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I think I share your motives for blogging. It’s a bit difficult to admit to being vain,lazy and selfish but I guess if the cap fits…. I am enjoying the exercise of formulating my thoughts and trying to set them out clearly – something which you definitely do. Look forward to your future posting

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Sue! I think all of us, writers and non-writers alike, can be vain, lazy, and selfish to a degree. It’s just that writers document proof of that, haha! Nonetheless, on good days we may get to help others through our craft, especially when as you said, we try our best to set our thoughts out as clearly as we can.

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    • I make little notes on what I might write about next, too! Sometimes ideas come and go so fast that they leave without me getting to take a second look at them. So getting them down on paper as soon as they come is really a good idea.

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  5. First of all, thank you for following my blog; it was an introduction to your blog which I am pleased to now follow. Second, I admire George Orwell so I appreciate what you wrote about him. Third, your blog reminded me of favorite quotes by other writes, which I consider a sign of good writing. Four, I write for the E-ticket: to be edifying, encouraging, empowering, enlightening, entertaining. Fifth and last, I hope you have a very lovely day.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Nicely done.
    I started blogging to promote my novels, then found that it gave me a platform to say things that would otherwise have gone unsaid. I write the novels to take bits of my experience and place them in contexts where I have more control over the outcome than the experiences themselves provided.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cool! So it’s like through your novels, you get to change the narrative of your own story and institute alternative outcomes. What you shared reminds me of the quote: “Nothing bad can happen to a writer. Everything is material.” (Philip Roth)

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  7. Great find and share! Orwell had such deep insight in coming up with these. 🙂

    For me, it is difficult to pick one as the out-and-out winner out of the 4 categories. The more I think about each, the more I feel I write because of _that_ particular reason!

    And beautiful paragraph about thinking of writing as a purpose. Echoes my thoughts exactly; I probably couldn’t have said it better myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much! That you can’t pick one winner among the four goes to show that you probably write with all four of them playing a roughly equal role in motivating you! That’s a very interesting place to be at. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. This was a great find! Thanks for posting it.

    I think it’s fairly accurate and that all 4 motives apply to me to degrees.

    I’m not sure which is the greatest motive; depends on the post topic I happen to write. I love writing and journaling since they’re an extension of thinking deeply in an organized way. I like blogging because it’s creative; I recently published about that.

    Ego is for sure a motive. Also aesthetic reasons. Historical, yeah because sometimes I consider my kids will one day read my blog and maybe it will help them know me better. Political reasons, sometimes.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. You and I are alike in our reasons to write. One point I want to make – I, too, wrote journals for years – almost 40 years. One day, a few years ago I read them, from start to finish for the first time. It was an amazing journey. I would have forgotten so much if it wasn’t written down. But the best part was experiencing myself mature. The way I thought. The decisions I made. Journals are often train of thought so I could hear the youthful thoughts in my 20’s. Dream the dreams again. I experienced my children as babies and young children. I’ve been married 3 times. All the good and bad. My life as a musician. All the different places I lived. I’m so glad I wrote it down. My grandchildren and even generations who don’t get to meet me in person will know who this crazy lady ( ancestor) is. I wish I had something like that from the generations before me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, 40 years! What a journey it must indeed be to go through your writings in that span of time. It’s like reexperiencing life all over again with clearer eyes and a wiser mind. What a great idea; I think I’ll keep all my journals too and someday set aside time to read them from start to finish too. Thank you for sharing that, Sonni!

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  10. Hello, I’m new here, have only been blogging for 4 months and, am, at present up to to my ears in an A-Z Challenge as well as my daily thoughts concerning my morning stroll and permutations around it from my small corner of Rural Worcestershire.
    My reasons are as follows.
    a) I want to improve my writing technique and style
    b) I want to develop a routine in my life for me, I’ve a full time job, a wife and 2 kids and like to be alone to collect my thoughts.
    c) I really enjoy doing it and also enjoy the interaction with folk from all over the world, I have no desire to change the world through my blog, merely to raise a smile and show people some good photos and some good music.
    d) Its great when the comments are favourable (theres the ego rearing its ugly head)
    So there we are, these reasons for being may change and i reserve the right to allow them to do so. I think i’ll follow you too Misstressoftheink.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for sharing your answers! Such a thoughtful reply. Like you, I love getting to be alone to collect my thoughts, too. I guess that could be an additional motive; one of getting to increase self-knowledge or clarity of thought. Thank you for contributing to the list! 🙂

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