“Afloat and terrifyingly free upon these boundless seas, the writer attempts, with his bare hands, the magical task of metamorphosis. Like the figure in the fairy tale who must spin straw into gold, the writer must find the trick of weaving the waters together until they become land: until, all of a sudden, there is solidity where once there was only flow, shape where there was formlessness; there is ground beneath his feet. (And if he fails, he drowns. The fable is the most unforgiving of literary forms.)
The young writer, perhaps uncertain, perhaps ambitious, probably both at once, casts around for help; and sees, within the flow of the ocean, certain sinuous thicknesses, like ropes, the work of earlier weavers, of sorcerers who swam this way before him. Yes, he can use these ‘in-flowings,’ he can grasp them and wind his own work around them. He knows, now, that he will survive. Eagerly, he begins.”
—Salman Rushdie, “Influence,” Step Across this Line
I can’t add anything to this. It says what I want to say far better than I could possibly say it.