I was fascinated by the idea of an English novelist writing such serious, metaphysical, almost European prose as this. … “Apparently,” said my friend knowledgeably, as we watched McEwan swing his new wife around the dance floor, “he only writes fifteen words a day.” This was an unfortunate piece of information to give an aspiring writer. I was terribly susceptible to the power of example. If I heard Borges ran three miles every morning and did a headstand in a bucket of water before sitting down to write, I felt I must try this myself. The specter of the fifteen-word limit stayed with me a long time. Three years later I remember writing White Teeth and thinking that all my problems stemmed from the excess of words I felt compelled to write each day. Fifteen words a day! Why can’t you write just fifteen words a day?