Writing can be ridiculous. And yet despite the obvious problems and omissions there’s something—a kind of feeling, a structure, a tone—gesturing there. That something springs not from experience or information but from their synthesis and growth in my imagination.

Each time I try to do this, I relearn the lesson that I can’t, during the process of writing, relegate imagination to an inferior place. I can’t let research, my ally and comfort for so long, push its way to the head of the line. The work never comes alive until I give up the idea that I know what I’m writing about, and allow myself to be led—by the life that goes on outside us, in the world, and also by the fertile life going on in secret, inside our heads—into new and strange territory. Any text, I learn each time, is a tissue of the imagination, in which facts, if we choose to embed them, rest safely encysted.

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