Like a lot of writers, I spend a good part of my waking hours daydreaming. These daydreams tend to fall into two categories: fantasies and imaginings. I much prefer the imaginings to the fantasies, though it is not often clear where I’m headed at first, though some obvious signs quickly emerge.
In my fantasies people I disagree with always come around to my point of view. Usually, this takes a few tries—a number rewrites, as it were—but eventually I get it just right and they have no choice but to change their misguided ways. This is always strangely unsatisfying. By the time I am finished with whoever it is that opposes me they no longer seem like themselves, so I do not have the sense of having revealed anything to anyone. In fact, there is usually a dream-like moment at the end of these fantasies where I look up and discover I am actually alone.
In my imaginings I usually don’t bother with other people. I am aware that my pretend audience is just a prop to allow me to work out how best to say something I have never tried to say before. When I am done I feel satisfied because I understand something I did not when I began the imagining.
In my fantasies, I arrange events in my future like dominoes of convenience. The roulette wheel of life always lands so that I am immediately and generously rewarded. In my fantasies, I am far more interested in where I end up than I how I will get there. The excitement I feel is the false excitement of believing life will be better when . . .
In my imaginings, I see potential connections between where I am and what is possible. Often, I have missed these connections simply because I have never looked for them, or because I believed someone when they told me the connections did not exist. The excitement I feel is like that of the engineer, eager to see if his new design will fly.
When I am writing, I am careful to imagine and not to fantasize. It is tricky, as I said, for one can slip into the other. But the clues are always there. Fantasy characters never surprise me. They aren’t allowed to. They are pawns in a preconceived narrative conspiracy. Imagined characters are the lights that guide me through the darkness of a world I have asked to see.
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