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George Orwell's books will without a doubt be read for many, many years to come as they still, decades after being published, tell relevant and important things about our society. While his life was full of ups and downs, his relentless fight for what he believed in can inspire you to keep working for your projects even when things get tough. Read on to learn how. 

Travel the world to broaden your horizons – but find your base as well

It is well known that George Orwell went to Spain to fight in the Spanish Civil War on the side of the Republicans (and wrote about his experiences in Homage to Catalonia), but Orwell travelled much more than this: born in India, he grew up in England and traveled to Burma (now Myanmar) in 1922 to work for the Indian Imperial Police (and to be close to his grandmother, who lived there). One woman said of him that he was a person who "had a sense of utter fairness in the minutest details." Orwell documented his experiences living and working in Burma in the novel Burmese Days and the essays A Hanging and Shooting an Elephant. Orwell contracted dengue fever in 1927 and was forced to return to England, but the time he spent in Burma shaped his political and ideological views throughout the rest of his life. He eventually found a creative and emotional base on the tiny Isle of Jura in the Inner Hebrides. Here, he wrote his perhaps most famous work, Nineteen Eightly-four, published in 1949.

Get your hands dirty

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Photo: Ken Craig (CC BY-SA 2.0)
The house Barnhill on the Island of Jura, where Orwell wrote Nineteen Eighty-four.

When Orwell returned to London, he continued writing; primarily poetry. A friend advised him to write about what he knew. Orwell, bringing with him from Burma a sense of the social injustice, set out to discover the poorest sides of his city. He dressed up as a tramp and lived in the common lodging houses of Eastern London, and continued to take these expeditions to the underworld of London and Paris over the next five years. He wrote of these experiences in Down and Out in Paris and London, published in 1933. The experiences of the criminal, dirty, hopeless conditions of the poorest parts of these European cities were close to Orwell's heart. One biographer writes of Orwell: "In one or another of its destructive forms, poverty was to become his obsessive subject – at the heart of almost evertything he wrote until Homage to Catalonia". Without the experiences of the streets and lodging houses of London and Paris, Orwell's career might have been very different.

Don’t be afraid to stand up for your views

When George Orwell first arrived in Barcelona in 1936, he told John McNair from the Independent Labour Party: "I'm here to fight against fascism." This, in a way, sums up the sometimes blunt views of George Orwell. He believed in democratic socialism and fought against totalitarianism his whole life. In England during World War II, this was not always easy, and he was frequently accused of being a communist (even though he, as an opponent of totalitarianism in every way, was as much against communism as anyone else). Being friendly with people like Peter Smollett, who was later revealed to be a Soviet spy, did not help his case, and actually almost destroyed Orwell's chances of publishing Animal Farm – which is ironic since this book expresses such profound criticism of totalitarianism! 

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Photo: fibercool (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Placa de George Orwell in Barcelona, ironically under heavy surveilance

Do not give up

George Orwell's life was no walk in the park. He was severely wounded in the neck during his time fighting in Spain and was declared unfit for service even though he wanted to continue fighting. Throughout his life, he battled with various lung diseases and eventually died of tuberculosis. However, many people did not know about his diseases as he concealed them and did not want medical treatment because he knew that it would take him away from his work and away from his beloved Isle of Jura. While at E&M, we do not advise you to refuse medical treatment, George Orwell's determination and focus on his work meant that he was actually able to finish many works of art despite difficult conditions – including his wife dying suddenly while he was away in France as a war correspondent in 1945.

Make rules to regulate your creativity

This piece of advice is perhaps most useful for those of you who want to write like Orwell. Less is more, and Orwell is perhaps the greatest European master of that maxim. This is no coincidence. Orwell was concerned with how we use language, both in terms of political arguments and literary writing. As language can be a tool used for manipulation and oppression, Orwell wanted to regulate the use of language. Here are the six rules that he set forth in his 1946 essay Politics and the English language. Read and learn!

  • 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

Thumnail photo: CC BY-SA-2.0

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