Which literary titan is correct?
Samuel Johnson or George Orwell?
Johnson famously said:
"No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money."
However, Orwell said in Why I Write:
"My starting point is always a feeling of partisanship, a sense of injustice. 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."
I spend most of my day writing. And, sadly, Samuel Johnson is largely right about why I do it.
My day job consists of drafting, revising, and amending lengthy formal legal documents, often contracts. Like many other lawyers, my daily wordcount is probably higher than even the most diligent journalist or novelist.
However, few people will read the contracts I write, but the contracts have to be correct all the same. For, if a transaction or project goes wrong, and the people involved enter into a dispute, then it will be the contract which will largely determine the outcome of that dispute.
Nobody writes such formal lengthy contracts, but for money.
Not even blockheads.
But once my day job is over, I carry on writing, often about legal topics.
And - other than $10 from Google Adsense (see the automatic advert, sometimes for a chiropractor or personal injury lawyer, at the bottom of this page) - I have directly never earned a penny from this Blog.
I sometimes - but rarely - do commissioned legal journalism, and I am writing a book about law which I hope somebody publishes and some other people buy.
But money does not explain why I do this Blog.
I also do not often Blog about things which simply interest me or matter to me: on politics, skepticism, and law there are Bloggers and MSM journalists who write well about my interests, and there is no good reason to add my echo.
I Blog because I want to say something which I have not yet seem elsewhere, or because (usually because of my legal background) I am in the fortunate position of being able to contribute to a debate.
Over the last year this has often been in the context of the misconceived libel case brought by the now discredited British Chiropractic Association.
But there are other areas, from the abuse of police powers to the misapplication of intellectual property law, where I am anxious to one day make contributions to the debate.
Blogging is a wonderful innovation. Before the internet, any attempt to engage in a written debate was always at the behest and whim of an editor and publisher. Now these figures can be by-passed, and one can just click on "publish post".
Of course some Blogs are better than others, but at least no one is now held back from making a contribution just because of the decision of an editor or publisher.
So, as for Blogging, Orwell is largely right. The best Blogs make a difference, saying something well and distinctive, perhaps adding new information or a new insight.
Bloggers may well be blockheads, but it is not because they are doing it for money.