Orwell’s four motives for writing still seem to me the most honest account of why long-form non-fiction writers do what they do, with “sheer egoism” at the top; next, “aesthetic enthusiasm” – the pleasure principle or sheer relish of sonority (“pleasure in the impact of one sound on another”); third, the “historical impulse” (the “desire to see things as they are”), and, finally, “political purpose”: the urge to persuade, a communiqué from our convictions.
To that list I would add that writing has always seemed to me a fight against loss, an instinct for replay; a resistance to the attrition of memory. To translate lived experience into a pattern of words that preserves its vitality without fixing it in literary embalming fluid; that for me has been the main thing.
Simon Schama, writing for the Financial Times, delves into what inspired him to become a writer and discusses some of his favorite writers and passages. Despite his love for words and writing, my favorite work produced by Schama is his documentary series The Power of Art. It features eight artists -- Caravaggio, Bernini, Rembrandt, David, Turner, Van Gogh, Picasso, and Rothko -- and each portrait of the artist weaves biography and historical context to help explain the true power of his works.