Although George Orwell’s essay “Why I write” pre-dated blogging by over half a century, I haven’t heard a better explanation of why millions of bloggers in all types of societies make the seemingly irrational decision to spend long periods of time in an activity that brings them no financial reward, nor any other type of reward for that matter. Here is George on why people write.
(i) 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.
(ii) 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.
(iii) Historical impulse. Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.
(iv) 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 can’t argue with any of that, but, to show how clever I am, persuade you to quote me in your own blogs, and inspire you to grieve for me after my passing, I can’t resist adding a few items to Orwell’s list, some of which relate specifically to blogging.
(v) Support for another career. Very, very few people make a living from blogging, but quite a few pundits write a blog as a sort of side-bar to a more remunerative activity, such as writing a newspaper column, or appearing as an expert on TV shows. The most prominent local example is Manuel Quezon III, whose blog is a springboard to a host of related activities; columns in the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Arab News, a TV series (the “Explainer”), numerous seminar and conference presentations, and a certain amount of political activity (the Black and White Movement). It would be interesting to know from Manolo where he places his blog in the hierarchy of his many activities; is it a bedrock from which the other streams spring, is it a diversion, or a ball and chain? Howie Severino and Carlos Celdran are other Manila-based bloggers who use their blogs to support and promote their other activities, and why not?
(vi) Satisfying a creative itch. This is close to Orwell’s second reason (aesthetic enthusiasm), but reflects a reaction to an upbringing in which any impulse towards artistic or creative activity has been squashed (which certainly accounts for my education and yours too probably. Not everyone can be a good artist, but everyone has within him or herself a little volcano of creativity. Blogs can open fissures in minds overlain by decades of dull and formulaic education, and tedious and repetitive work, allowing little farts of creative energy.
(vii) Anger. Sometimes the stupidity of the world becomes too much to bear and blogging is one way to kick back. Pinay in Barnsley would fit into this category, I think.
(viii) Connecting with like minded people. It is nice to get comments on a blog, especially from strangers, and to feel that you are not just a lone wolf howling in the wilderness. Some bloggers take this a stage further and, consciously or subconsciously, use their blogs to attract lovers (a well known example is Petite Anglaise, the blog of an English girl in Paris whose romance with a commenter was recorded in detail on her blog).
That’s more than enough from me – what about you? Why do you think people lock themselves to their computers for hours to fashion a blog?