George Orwell Quotes on Writing: The Complete Collection

orwell quotes on writing
by CJ McDaniel // April 18 // 0 Comments

A man of strong opinions—that’s what best describes writer, journalist, and critic George Orwell. What made him exceptional was how he used his platform to voice his sentiments regarding some of the major political movements of his time. Orwell’s esteemed reputation as a prolific writer was more than enough for readers and writers worldwide to study his writings and use his quotes on writing as a motivation to continue their craft.

Born in Motihari, India, on June 25, 1903, Eric Arthur Blair, famously known as George Orwell, was an English novelist, essayist, and critic. The mentioned writer gained recognition for his literary masterpieces: Animal Farm (1945) and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949). These novels showed his understanding of the politics of his era, capturing his reader’s attention through his writing style. Both books eventually became films, continuously enjoyed by generations after generations.

Orwell’s lucid writing style made his works of fiction and essays friendly and welcoming as if written for modern times to discover. The relevance of the subjects he used remains in our time, and his popularity doesn’t seem to fade ’til today. Orwell’s quotes on writing are also much sought-after by present-day readers and writers, especially those having the same vision as George.

George Orwell Quotes About Writing

George Orwell produced tons of literary essays and reviews throughout his writing career. However, the literary pieces that made him prominent were “Animal Farm” and “Nineteen Eighty-Four.” Today’s generation continues to find these two beloved novels relevant, even studying his other journalistic work to learn more about him and his craft. With such background and experience, it’s safe to say that he’s an incredible source of inspiration, especially when it comes to writing.

To see more of Orwell’s words on writing, check out the collection of quotes below!

Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with 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.

George Orwell

The actual writing would be easy. All he had to do was to transfer to paper the interminable restless monologue that had been running inside his head, literally for years.

George Orwell

When I talk to anyone or read the writings of anyone who has any axe to grind, I feel that intellectual honesty and balanced judgement have simply disappeared from the face of the earth. Everyone’s thought is forensic, everyone is simply putting a “case” with deliberate suppression of his opponent’s point of view, and, what is more, with complete insensitiveness to any sufferings except those of himself and his friends.

George Orwell

Good novels are written by people who are not frightened.

George Orwell

Political writing in our time consists almost entirely of prefabricated phrases bolted together like the pieces of a child’s Meccano set. It is the unavoidable result of self-censorship. To write in plain, vigorous language one has to think fearlessly, and if one thinks fearlessly one cannot be politically orthodox.

George Orwell

He was conscious of nothing except the blankness of the page in front of him, the itching of the skin above his ankle, the blaring of the music, and a slight booziness caused by the gin.

George Orwell

If people cannot write well, they cannot think well, and if they cannot think well, others will do their thinking for them.

George Orwell

When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.

George Orwell

In an age like our own, when the artist is an altogether exceptional person, he must be allowed a certain amount of irresponsibility, just as a pregnant woman is. Still, no one would say that a pregnant woman should be allowed to commit murder, nor would anyone make such a claim for the artist, however gifted. If Shakespeare returned to the earth to-morrow, and if it were found that his favourite recreation was raping little girls in railway carriages, we should not tell him to go ahead with it on the ground that he might write another King Lear. And, after all, the worst crimes are not always the punishable ones. By encouraging necrophilic reveries one probably does quite as much harm as by, say, picking pockets at the races. One ought to be able to hold in one’s head simultaneously the two facts that Dali is a good draughtsman and a disgusting human being. The one does not invalidate or, in a sense, affect the other. The first thing that we demand of a wall is that it shall stand up. If it stands up, it is a good wall, and the question of what purpose it serves is separable from that. And yet even the best wall in the world deserves to be pulled down if it surrounds a concentration camp. In the same way it should be possible to say, “This is a good book or a good picture, and it ought to be burned by the public hangman.” Unless one can say that, at least in imagination, one is shirking the implications of the fact that an artist is also a citizen and a human being.

George Orwell

I do not wish to comment on the work; if it does not speak for itself, it is a failure.

George Orwell

In certain kinds of writing, particularly in art criticism and literary criticism, it is normal to come across long passages which are almost completely lacking in meaning.

George Orwell

Good prose should be transparent, like a window pane.

George Orwell

Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

George Orwell

By using stale metaphors, similes and idioms, you save much mental effort, at the cost of leaving your meaning vague, not only for your reader but for yourself.

George Orwell

Threats to freedom of speech, writing and action, though often trivial in isolation, are cumulative in their effect and, unless checked, lead to a general disrespect for the rights of the citizen.

George Orwell

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible… Thus, political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging, and sheer cloudy vagueness… Political language [is] designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable.

George Orwell

The energy that actually shapes the world springs from emotions – racial pride, leader-worship, religious belief, love of war – which liberal intellectuals mechanically write off as anachronisms, and which they have usually destroyed so completely in themselves as to have lost all power of action.

George Orwell

Good writing is like a windowpane.

George Orwell

Good novels are not written by orthodoxy-sniffers, nor by people who are conscience-stricken about their own orthodoxy. Good novels are written by people who are not frightened.

George Orwell

There is only one way to make money at writing, and that is to marry a publisher’s daughter.

George Orwell

By the time you have perfected any style of writing, you have always outgrown it.

George Orwell

Is not anyone with any degree of mental honesty conscious of telling lies all day long, both in talking and writing, simply because lies will fall into artistic shape when truth will not?

George Orwell

As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me.

George Orwell

Writing a novel is agony.

George Orwell

For weeks past he had been making ready for this moment, and it had never crossed his mind that anything would be needed except courage. The actual writing would be easy. All he had to do was to transfer to paper the interminable restless monologue that had been running inside his head, literally for years.

George Orwell

Do you remember writing in your diary,” he said, “that it did not matter whether I was a friend or an enemy, since I was at least a person who understood you and could be talked to? You were right. I enjoy talking to you. Your mind appeals to me. It resembles my own mind except that you happen to be insane.

George Orwell

[You write out of the] desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, etc., etc., etc. It is humbug to pretend this is not a motive and a strong one.

George Orwell

Money, money, all is money! Could you write even a penny novelette without money to put heart in you?

George Orwell

Man’s greatest drive is not love or hate but to change another person’s writing.

George Orwell

Modern writing at its worst does not consist in picking out words for the sake of their meaning and inventing images in order to make the meaning clearer. It consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug. The attraction of this way of writing is that it is easy.

George Orwell

The four great motives for writing prose are sheer egoism, esthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse, and political purpose.

George Orwell

All the papers that matter live off their advertisements, and the advertisers exercise an indirect censorship over news.

George Orwell

I had the lonely child’s habit of making up stories and holding conversations with imaginary persons, and I think from the very start my literary ambitions were mixed up with the feeling of being isolated and undervalued. I knew that I had a facility with words and a power of facing unpleasant facts, and I felt that this created a sort of private world in which I could get my own back for my failure in everyday life.

George Orwell

This invasion of one’s mind by ready-made phrases (lay the foundations, achieve a radical transformation) can only be prevented if one is constantly on guard against then, and every such phrase anesthetizes a portion of one’s brain.

George Orwell

It is bound to be a failure, every book is a failure, but I do know with some clarity what kind of book I want to write.

George Orwell

So long as I remain alive and well I shall continue to feel strongly about prose style, to love the surface of the earth, and to take a pleasure in solid objects and scraps of useless information.

George Orwell

I wanted to write enormous naturalistic novels with unhappy endings, full of detailed descriptions and arresting similes, and also full of purple passages in which words were used partly for the sake of their own sound.

George Orwell

George Orwell Quotes About Writers

Orwell’s writings proved he was a man of strong opinions. He skillfully used his craft to address some political views and movements of his time—subjects other writers shy away from writing. Moreover, his esteemed reputation as an exceptional writer stems from his writing style. He writes with simplicity in mind, capturing the interest of his readers through his friendly use of words.

Writers have a lot to learn from Orwell, and that’s a fact. If you’re a writer, come and look at the list of quotes below for that much-needed support or motivation.

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.

George Orwell

A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: 1. What am I trying to say? 2. What words will express it? 3. What image or idiom will make it clearer? 4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?

George Orwell

All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives lies a mystery.

George Orwell

I do not think one can assess a writer’s motives without knowing something of his early development. His subject matter will be determined by the age he lives in … but before he ever begins to write he will have acquired an emotional attitude from which he will never completely escape.

George Orwell

Sheer egoism… Writers share this characteristic with scientists, artists, politicians, lawyers, soldiers, successful businessmen – in short, with the whole top crust of humanity.

George Orwell

For a creative writer, possession of the ‘truth’ is less important than emotional sincerity.

George Orwell

But there is also the minority of gifted, wilful 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-centred than journalists, though less interested in money.

George Orwell

I do not think one can assess a writer’s motives without knowing something of his early development. His subject matter will be determined by the age he lives in … but before he ever begins to write he will have acquired an emotional attitude from which he will never completely escape.

George Orwell

From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer. Between the ages of about seventeen and twenty-four I tried to abandon this idea, but I did so with the consciousness that I was outraging my true nature and that sooner or later I should have to settle down and write books.

George Orwell

A scrupulous writer in every sentence that he writes will ask himself. . . What am I trying to say? What words will express it?…And he probably asks himself. . . Could I put it more shortly? But you are not obliged to go to all this trouble. You can shirk it by simply throwing open your mind and letting the ready-made phrases come crowding in. They will construct your sentences for you

George Orwell

“Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
– Never use a long word where a short one will do.
– If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
– Never use the passive where you can use the active.
– Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
– Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.”

George Orwell

… the writer knows more or less what he wants to say, but an accumulation of stale phrases chokes him like tea-leaves blocking a sink.

George Orwell

George Orwell Quotes About Books

Books had been a great companion for Orwell ever since he was young. In addition, books were his source of comfort from challenging situations. As such, it’s understandable how he’s able to craft some of the quotes writers need today regarding books. Do spare some time and read through the following collection to see his words about books!

The fact is that certain themes cannot be celebrated in words, and tyranny is one of them. No one ever wrote a good book in praise of the Inquisition.

George Orwell

The books one reads in childhood, and perhaps most of all the bad and good bad books, create in one’s mind a sort of false map of the world, a series of fabulous countries into which one can retreat at odd moments throughout the rest of life, and which in some cases can survive a visit to the real countries which they are supposed to represent.

George Orwell

For after all, what is there behind, except money? Money for the right kind of education, money for influential friends, money for leisure and peace of mind, money for trips to Italy. Money writes books, money sells them. Give me not righteousness, O lord, give me money, only money.

George Orwell

I managed to get my copy of Ulysses through safely this time. I rather wish I had never read it. It gives me an inferiority complex. When I read a book like that and then come back to my own work, I feel like a eunuch who has taken a course in voice production.

George Orwell

The Penguin books are splendid value for sixpence, so splendid that if other publishers had any sense they would combine against them and suppress them.

George Orwell

In places this book is a little over-written, because Mr Blunden is no more able to resist a quotation than some people are to refuse a drink.

George Orwell

George Orwell Quotes on Language

Orwell’s impact extends from literature to language. For example, many of his neologisms or newly coined words entered the language, either through his novel or essays. Some of his popularized compound words and phrases include newspeak, doublethink, and thoughtcrime.

To see more of his view on language, check out the collection of quotes below.

To write or even speak English is not a science but an art. There are no reliable words. Whoever writes English is involved in a struggle that never lets up even for a sentence. He is struggling against vagueness, against obscurity, against the lure of the decorative adjective, against the encroachment of Latin and Greek, and, above all, against the worn-out phrases and dead metaphors with which the language is cluttered up.

George Orwell

The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns, as it were, instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink.

George Orwell

To write in plain, vigorous language one has to think fearlessly, and if one thinks fearlessly one cannot be politically orthodox.

George Orwell

The slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.

George Orwell

It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.

George Orwell

Language ought to be the joint creation of poets and manual workers.

George Orwell

Has it ever occurred to you,’ he said, ‘that the whole history of English poetry has been de-termined by the fact that the English language lacks rhymes?

George Orwell

George Orwell Quotes on Literature

George Orwell developed a reputation as a writer of well-crafted literary masterpieces in the form of essays, reviews, and novels. His impact as an exceptional writer is undeniable in the field of literature. Moreover, he also coined a few quotes about literature itself. Although there’s not much writing from Orwell regarding this subject, the following words are still valuable in today’s time.

Literature is doomed if liberty of thought perishes.

George Orwell

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.

George Orwell

The atmosphere of orthodoxy is always damaging to prose, and above all it is completely ruinous to the novel, the most anarchical of all forms of literature.

George Orwell

An exceptional writer and an avid follower of politics—George Orwell’s novels, essays, and quotes on writing retain their purpose in today’s generation. Present-day readers have a lot to learn from Orwell’s words, may it be about writing or anything related to the field. His impact is undeniable, making him one of the most influential writers people look up to until now.

Need a little push to overcome your problems on writing other than these quotes from George Orwell? Check out our collection of quotes on writing from other authors here.

CJ grew up admiring books. His family owned a small bookstore throughout his early childhood, and he would spend weekends flipping through book after book, always sure to read the ones that looked the most interesting. Not much has changed since then, except now some of those interesting books he picks off the shelf were designed by his company!