Monday, November 23, 2015

Why do I Write?

Every writer is happy when his writing sells.  When I decided to collect some of my short stories into a book, I was not very hopeful about the commercial success of the book; I was only venturing on an experiment.  The real motive was not commercial success but the dedication of the book to some people who nagged me into writing the stories.  The publication of the book with its dedication that appears on the very title page was a ritual of exorcism for me.  I was casting out the demons that were put in me by certain people. 

One of my acquaintances who read the book or a part of it asked me today, “What made you write these stories?”  Most of the stories in the volume are subversive to some extent, he said that in different words.  My first reviewer, Sreesha Divakaran, said the same thing in her own words: ‘...all the stories in the book, in subtle ways, question morality as we know it, what we have been taught as “right” or “moral.”   Being a subversive is not my conscious choice.  Subversion is my subconscious rebellion against what I cannot protest more effectively and consciously.  Fiction-writing is not entirely a conscious activity.    

Towards the end of his relatively brief life, George Orwell listed four reasons why any writer writes though “in any one writer the proportions will vary from time to time, according to the atmosphere in which he is living.”  The reasons are, in Orwell’s own words:

1.     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.

2.     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. Above the level of a railway guide, no book is quite free from aesthetic considerations.

3.     Historical impulse. Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.

4.     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. Once again, no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.

I don’t think I can add anything more to what Orwell said as far as my motives as a writer are concerned, leaving aside the exorcist one mentioned already.  Only a clarification is required: the ranking of my writing may not rise much “above the level of a railway guide.”  Nevertheless, the impulses that drive me as a writer are no different from those which drove Orwell and others, in short.  There is a lion’s share of egoism, an aesthetic motive which I would like to believe is not too feeble, a very strong historical impulse and a matching political purpose. 

My attempt here is not to compare me with any great writer like Orwell.  Rather, it is to state that my motives and impulses are as good or bad as those of other writers. 

My book, The Nomad Learns Morality, is doing good business, my publisher tells me.  They have made it available at the following sites.


  1. Congratulations on the success of your book. Thanks for the links, will see where I can get the best deal and e-version of it.

  2. Congratulations Tomichan :) I have always loved your writing and it is no surprise to me that the book is doing well :) I do believe sheer egoism is a huge factor for any writer, even if they do not admit... in fact due to this factor only they do not admit :) *vicious cycle*


    1. Thanks, Richa.

      Yes, there's something vicious about the egoism of writers. Very few are honest enough like Orwell to admit it.

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks, Sachin. And nice to hear from you after a very long while.

  4. Ah,about another anarchist.(Look at the alliteration in that line!) I was thinking about Orwell today itself.Quite a coincidence. I was particularly thinking about "All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others." It doesn't quite justify that socialism is baseless,as was said on a website.
    I don't know on what basis he said it.May be it inclined to naturalism.Naturalism is not all that functions in a society.In fact,the modern society life hardly reflects concepts of naturalism. May be it was on something beyond my capability to understand things. May be it was satire approached towards the right side,if there is any side as such.The rightly identified wrong side,or something like that.

    I liked the explanation and content here.Writers are escapists,egoists but you know,a particular race out of them,who aren't interested in money are also very rare a species.They speak what they do not seem to like but they speak what any of them can't deny.What seems to be upside down but is erect logically.You are a great writer,in fact people like Chetan Bhagat and Durjoy Dutta drove my entire interest out of contemporary Indian writers who write in English.You are bringing it back.You incite my own interests in philosophy.I love your blog and have recently been liking all the satire and criticism and thrill in your stories and articles.
    Your book has every right to be read.

    1. Glad to have such an observation, Titas. There's a fire burning in you, a fire that longs to burn up all the hogwash that is imposed on us in the name of religions and traditions, convenient isms and economic theories.

      Orwell was a socialist initially. It disillusioned him eventually especially with Stalin inverting it with his dictatorship. Under Stalin, socialism in Russia was no different from the capitalism of America. That's why we find the pigs and the men, socialists and capitalists, sitting together at the end of Orwell's Animal Farm.

      No, Orwell was not inclined to the right side. He was showing how all revolutions end in futility. Didn't the French Revolution reveal that futility? Didn't the Russian Revolution repeat the same lesson? Revolutions won't change human systems in the long run.

      Then what can make the change? That's what my stories are asking. Perhaps, that's why you like them. Beneath the satire and sarcasm, irony and paradox, in my stories, there is an underlying hint of spirituality though I am a non-believer where religions are concerned. Spirituality has nothing to do with religions. Paraphrasing Einstein, I may say that spirituality is what is left in your soul when religion is cast out. The genuine seeker finds it in him-/herself. And there's a genuine seeker in you. All the best.

  5. Congrats! I hope I can finally lay my hands on it :)

    1. I share your hope. The marketing left quite some room for improvement.


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