Ruth Prawer Jhabvala has died. Reading her obituary I recognised a kindred spirit. She had to write. Author of a dozen novels and scriptwriter for the Merchant Ivory films such as Shakespeare Wallah and Howards End, she said, “One doesn’t choose to become a writer. One is just born that way.”
It’s easy to identify with that. Like her, I have something to say. At boarding school it got me called a gasbag, but I turned that to advantage by becoming a speaker. These days I refer to myself as a Wordsmith, having used words for most of my working life, in sales, in copywriting, in public speaking, and in imparting those skills to others.
I have written eight business books and one of poetry, as well as countless articles and blogs. Analysing what I do on a computer, I realised that it is principally Word, Emails, Blogs and contributions to social media. Writing.
The balance, however, is shifting. Most of my wordsmithing has tended, in recent years, to be about others’ concerns. Helping others with their speeches and presentations, for example, is about their concerns, their ideas, their initiatives. Gradually I am finding time to express what is inside my own head.
Writers like Ruth Prawer Jhabvala have a compulsion to set down on paper not only what they think, know and feel, but also how events of the day should be expressed. It takes a certain kind of self-assurance to do that, a conviction that their point of view is valid and, if you excuse an expression I use, that nobody says it better.
For many years I avoided committing myself wholly to writing for a living, perhaps for fear of proving to be less good than I thought I was. Aged 15 I received the greatest compliment of my school days when the Professor of English at the University Department of my College, a Canadian Jesuit called Fr Joseph Killoran, called me the best writer of English prose in his experience.
It has taken decades for me finally to declare that I have something of my own to say. And I shall be writing it.