Shauna Gilligan

Imagination: A Delicate Coming Together

Imagination is the thing that climbs into my mind, tunes into my thoughts and images, then turns them inside-out, spilling them onto the page. There they slide, becoming, as Asturian writer Xuan Bello says, “a bridge that is built over the abyss.” Imagination transports me from one shore to the other, “a consolation” [1] for the thing named pain, or perhaps difficulty, or maybe just life. Imagination pushes me to console, make sense, understand, and explain the world. Or, in the words of writer Anne Lamott, imagination – and its sister, creativity – is “also about dealing with emptiness.” [2] But emptiness, of course, is actually about filling up. Look! There! An earthenware jug, still and silent on a table – waiting for me to curl each of finger of my left hand – the one I write with – around its handle. Imagination is delicate: if I grip the handle too tightly it will snap right off, a clean, beautiful break; if I hold it too loosely, it will fall and hit the tiled floor with a crash that might momentarily sound like music. I’m thirsty, always thirsty, so I touch the outside of the jug, jagged on one side, smooth on the other. I lift it, before reluctantly placing it back on the table. Then a warm weight spreads inside, like blood. Imagination lets me see beyond myself and go deeper. It makes me care, madly. It is a coming together before a falling apart. An undoing and a becoming. Yet, what heavy loss when I don’t listen to, or watch carefully, this thing that climbs into my mind, and turns me inside-out, showing me what in the world I must witness.


[1] Xuan Bello elcuadernodigital.com

[2] Lamott, Anne Bird by Bird: Some instructions on writing and life (Anchor Books: New York 1994), p. 170.


Shauna Gilligan is a novelist and short story writer who facilitates creative writing workshops and teaches in higher education, further education, and prison settings, and who enjoys collaborating with visual artists and interviews writers about their processes and publications. An explorer of the crossover of art and literature in storytelling, and the depiction of historical events in fiction, and creative processes, she was awarded a Government of Ireland Creative Ireland Bursary (Kildare) in 2021 for a collaborative project, Mantles.

1 Comment

  • Marta Ockuly
    4 months ago Reply

    Stunning. Your words woke parts of my sleeping awareness and brought my imagination into the light of day in a new way. With blessings and gratitude.

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