THE TRICK OF IT by Michael Frayn
Like the narrator in this short book I used to think there was 'a trick' to this business of writing fiction; that the rest of the world knew, and that one day, if I worked hard enough at it, I would find it too. But there isn't; and if you think there is, and if you think you've found it then you have lost. All we can do is create alone, and be true to ourselves...I think that is the message. Also we have to be obsessed, and we have to be prepared to lose everything else.
Why do it? What causes us to make such a sacrifice? I think (apart from the fact there is no alternative to someone so possessed) lies on page 115. The narrator (who is married to a novelist and has started to write his own novel too) is in one of the Gulf states and he knocks into someone carrying water. The water falls onto the ground and quickly evaporates.
'In those few minutes under the noonday sun it had lost first its dark gloss and then its dark wetness. It had become nothing but a faintly coastlined whiteness in the whiteness all around. And suddenly I thought that's not just a story about water. That's a story about me. I could disappear off the face of the earth just as easily, and leave as little trace behind.'
Which is, I suppose, why I write books, papers, articles...and this blog. It is not about generating traffic or readers - it is about creating something that will leave more than a trace - a kind of stain to show that I was here.