What use is a writer?

Clearly the answer was ‘None’. “These days, everyone’s a writer”, the blonde girl told me on my first day at MULTI. We were in the kitchen, drinking coffee and I had just been thinking about how women were going to save the world. True, some of us had seen our lives ruined by them. But this was different – here in the world of business, there were women nurturing wounded companies back to health, nursing start-ups into life and offering a maternal teat to lost, orphaned firms.

It was her big brunette colleague, though, who made me choke on my coffee, her six-inch stilettos and generous rack serving to ram home her point: “Save your words, ghostwriter. We all know there’s a damn sight more demand for freezers in Greenland than there is for books in Italy”.

Lost for words, I smiled in response– a meek bovine, smile.

“Listen”, I said, “I’m really just a pen for hire – a tidier-upper of communications.”

And as I washed up their coffee cups, the true nature of my calling was revealed to me and I uttered its name: humility. “Years – make that decades – of practise”, I announced, “have taught me that the true strength of a writer lies in his ability to be profoundly humble”.

That was it – method acting applied to writing. De Niro putting on 30 kilos for Raging Bull. Immersing oneself totally in a role, embodying a voice, conveying a message. Placing one’s writing skills at the service of those who needed them.

I thought for a moment I had them convinced. But then I made the fatal error of looking the brunette in the eye. How was I to know I was talking to the office queen of the abstract?

“So in that case”, she drily pronounced, “we could say you were like a middle-aged, real life version of an automated writing program?”

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