VIEWSnSOME THOUGHTS ON BEING A WRITERnby V.S. NaipaulnThe following is the text of Mr. Naipaul’s speech atnthe 1986 IngersoU Prizes Awards Banquet.nI do not really know how I became a writer. I can givencertain dates and certain facts about my career. But thenprocess itself remains mysterious. It is mysterious, forninstance, that the ambition should have come first—thenwish to be a writer, to have that distinction, that fame—andnthat this ambihon should have come long before I couldnthink of anything to write about.nI remember, in my first term at Oxford in 1950, going fornlong walks—I remember the roads, the autumn leaves, thencars and trucks going by, whipping the leaves up—andnwondering what I was going to write about. I had workednhard for the scholarship to go to Oxford, to be a writer. Butnnow that I was in Oxford, I didn’t know what to write about.nAnd really, I suppose, unless I had been driven by greatnnecessity, something even like panic, I might never havenwritten. The idea of laying aside the ambition was verynrestful and tempting—the way sleep was said to be temptingnto Napoleon’s soldiers on the retreat from Moscow.nI felt it as arhficial, that sitting down to write a book. Andnthat is a feeling that is with me still, all these years later, atnthe start of a book—I am speaking of an imaginative work.nThere is no precise theme or story that is with me. Manynthings are with me; I write the artificial, self-consciousnbeginnings of many books; until finally some true impulsen—the one I have been working towards—possesses me, andnI sail away on my year’s labor. And that is mysteriousnstill—that out of arhfice one should touch and stir up whatnis deepest is one’s soul, one’s heart, one’s memory.nAll literary forms are artificial, and they are constantlynchanging, to match the new tone and mood of the culture.nAt one time, for instance, a person of serious literaryninclination might have thought of writing for the theater;nwould have had somehow to do what I cannot do—arrangenhis material into scenes and acts; would not have written fornthe printed page, but would have written “parts” to temptnactors; and—as someone who has written plays has toldnme—would have visualized himself (to facilitate the play-nV.S. Naipaul received the T.S. Eliot Award for CreativenWriting on November 21, 1986.nwriting process) as sitting in a seat in the stalls.nAt another period, in an age without radio or records, annage dominated by print, someone wishing to write wouldnhave had to shape a narrative that could have beennserialized over many months, or fill three volumes. Beforenthat, the writer might have attempted narratives in verse ornverse drama, rhymed or unrhymed; or verse epics.nAll those forms, artificial as they seem to us today, wouldnhave appeared as natural and as right to their practitioners asnthe standard novel does today. Artificial though that novelnform is, with its simplifications and distortions, its artificialnscenes, and its idea of experience as a crisis that has to bennnMAY 1987/13n