In his 1946 essay "Politics and the English Language" Orwell listed four questions that "scrupulous writers" will ask themselves about every sentence they write: "What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?" Notice that these questions are about thinking, a step in writing that gets too little attention. Orwell teaches that writers who don't think enough about what they are doing tend to grab at familiar phrases and images.
He goes on to advise, "let the meaning choose the word, not the other way about." He explains that someone imagining an object is thinking wordlessly. The writer who then describes this object will hunt for just the right words to do the job. But a person thinking of an abstract concept starts with words, and too often they are ready-made descriptions that may blur or even alter thought. Orwell's solution is significant: "Probably it is better to put off using words as long as possible and get one's meaning clear." To a twenty-first century reader like me, He is talking about accessing the right brain, the hemisphere that processes sights and sounds and that we associate with creativity.
The left brain may string sentences together, but the right brain hears their beauty. So when as writers we close our eyes to distance ourselves from page and computer screen, after we have tiptoed across the corpus callosum from left brain to right, we are not just seeing--we are listening, too.
Does Mr. Orwell have any further wisdom to impart before returning to the bookshelf? Yes, as a matter of fact, he does. He will leave us with this guiding principle from his essay "Why I Write": "Good prose is like a window pane." The essay is from 1947, but the image is still fresh.