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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

I am no Eric Blair, but I try

Are you familiar with the writer Eric Blair? No? That's not unusual; hardly anyone recognizes this man by his real name. You see, he chose to create fiction as George Orwell, because (to paraphrase his own words) "no one would purchase anything written by Eric Blair."

Even George Orwell had his fears. Fears of writing, fears of publishing, fears of selling. Sound like you? I know it sure sounds like me. When I search deeper into Orwell's life, I find a lot of similarities to mine.

We share the same birthday

Albeit, years apart, but the same day nonetheless. Eric Blair was born in June 25, 1903 in what was known as British India at the time. He described his family, at that time, as lower-upper-middle class. I'm still not sure what that means, but it sounds similar to my birth.

I was born on June 25, 1959 is what was known as Portage, WI. In fact, it's still known as Portage and it's still in south-central-Wisconsin. At the time of my birth my mother would describe our family as upper-lower class (perhaps trending towards middle class).

Sharing a birthdate is more of a coincidence I suppose, but from high school on I've always marveled at the work of George Orwell.

We both went to college

While not a prerequisite for becoming a writer, I believe this was and is an important step for both of us. College, in my mind, is a reinforcement of your high school learning. College studies teach a person discipline; a discipline that one will use time and time again throughout their adult life.

According to what I've read, Eric Blair neglected his academic studies while at Eaton (in England). I'd like to think that I didn't neglect my studies at UW-Whitewater (in southern Wisconsin), but I know at time I had other things occupying my mind - as I'm sure we all did during our formative college years.

We both chose pen-names

I must admit that I used the same logic as Orwell in not using my real name as an author. He had actually written some in college; I, not so much. His studies focused on some of the classics. For a while he took french from renowned author Aldous Huxley.

On the other hand I studied accounting in college. My actual degree is a Bachelor of Business Administration with a Comprehensive Major in Accounting. That's kind of a mouth full; let's just agree that I'm a degreed accountant.

So we both did away with our birth names (he and I actually share the same first name - even the spelling) and chose to write under assumed identities. I don't know about him, but my logic followed this - if I crashed and burned as an author, it wouldn't be tied to my real name. Cowardly I know, but safe as well.

I've left one important item from this list: we both write/wrote dystopian. I'm nowhere near an Orwell; I have no shame in admitting that. Chances are I'll never write something as great and important as 1984. And again, I'm okay with that. If there's a list of 1 to 500,000 of great dystopian writers, George Orwell is in one of the top three spots. Me, e a lake, I may not be in the bottom three, but I'm far closer to last than first...so far.

I aspire to be as great as George Orwell, someday. I hope to grasp his understanding of our trade, the ins and outs of creating riveting novels; novels that will stand the test of time. Honestly, I know there's little chance I will ever climb as high as he, not in my lifetime at least. But that won't stop me from trying.

You see, I have one advantage over George Orwell/Eric Blair. He died January 21, 1950 at the age of 46. Some would say his best work may have lied ahead; but we'll never know. I've already reached the age of 55, some nine years Orwell's senior (when he passed away). And I have no plans on dying or halting my writing activities for many, many years.

Take a moment today and study a few of the rules (listed below) that Orwell tried to live by. He passed them along so we can all be better at what we do. And have a great week.


Six rules for writing (from Orwell):

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