When I think about George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four, the prime image of the novel for me is that of Winston hunched over in a small enclave of his room, frantically scratching out diary entries. He gains two things from writing: Firstly, an escape from his material reality; secondly an ability to record and transcribe truth, rationalise and make evidence of the reality he knows. Is it so different for us in 2019?
When I sat down at around age 15 or 16 (I cannot remember which) and decided to write a poem, at home and not for any school project but because I wanted to, why did I do it? My mother had not long since died of Lung Cancer. Was I trying to explain how I felt about that; trying to explain and rationalise how I felt – or was it simply spontaneous? These questions feel fairly pretentious to ask of myself, particularly in publication, but I find it strange that I turned to writing when I could have turned to so many other things.
Words and language create an external material when written down, yet they can reflect and change the internal word that creates them. My perception of the world will be different from anyone else’s, and by putting it in language I give my own perception of reality precedence beyond myself. In a way, I feel like this allows the writer to escape their own reality. By externalising it you can distance yourself from it. Or at the very least compartmentalise the thoughts for yourself.
Reading offered me an escape long before writing as well, especially when I was losing my mother. Reading books like Great Expectations or The Catcher in The Rye made me feel less alone, as cliché as that might be. Writing, on the other hand, offers escape in more complex ways. The image of Winston, completely isolated and scribbling in his room is brave and endearing – yet his isolation is forced upon him. When we as writers, in reality, choose to write, we choose some level of isolation, though I’d be inclined to call it solitude. This escape from the hustle and bustle is increasingly hard to find, yet for writers it is crucial. Writing comes from the self, and in solitude you give yourself time to be nurtured and to develop.
Writing has given me a way of expressing and recording my grief, and it has also given me a way of transforming my grief into something else. Turning it into poetry and art rather than letting it fester on its own. Winston wrote to tell his truth and to express himself, and I suppose that isn’t far from what most people are trying to do when they write. I might not be a diarist, yet I feel that there is some biographical aspect to most of my writing, an attempt to come to terms with something. I write to express myself in an effort to be understood – I write to escape in an effort to understand.
by Micheal Morgan