COUNTERFACTUALS -- the "almost situation" the "could have" the "if, then" hypoothetical, imaginaries. (Note: All of these thoughts are based on my reading of the only pages in "Godel, Escher, Bach" that I could hope to understand. H.Y.)
These are the tools that lead fiction writers to stories, poets to poems, athletes to medals, dreamers to the next set of possibilities.
Let's do a creativity declension, starting with the flat fact that I don't know how to speak or read Russian. I don't, and if I say it that way, who cares? Not even I am allowed to care, if I say it that way. It is just factual. So, live with it.
"How flat and dead would be a mind that saw nothing in a negation but an opaque barrier." (From Godel, Escher, Bach)
The factual is so limiting. It is only when we go into imaginaries, into the vast realm of the counter-factual, that we discover the possibilities. Here, where the imaginaries begin to bloom, is where fiction originates. And it is fiction even if I am not writing a story, because it brings imagination into play and allows imagination to begin considering possibilities that probably won't ever happen unless we think them up in the first place. Without possibilities, most of life would be overwhelmingly tedious and self-limiting.
Here is the first declension, into the conditional: I would like to know Russian. The dream is hatching. That I am allowing myself to desire to know Russian implies that a scenario is forming in my mind in which a facility with Russian will be beneficial or enjoyable.
Second Declension: I wish I knew Russian. With this statement, the dream is invested with the power of a tale, implying the closing of eyes and the drifting of magical clouds and fairy dust. Now the mind is free to consider the wildest of possibilities.
Third Declension (if . . . then): If I knew Russian I could read Dostoevsky in the original. This allows the dream and the tale to structure into a concrete plan that anticipates accomplishment and its distinct possibilities.
Fourth declension (future conditional): When I know Russian . . . I will go to Moscow and meet all sorts of people, and on Christmas Eve, I will charter a sleigh and troika of black horses, and I will skim through new snowfall out into the countryside, waving to all of my friends, greeting them and calling them by name.
The fourth declension constitutes the pledge, the commitment that the dream will be brought to life. For the scholar, this requires years of study and mastery of the language. For the fiction writer, this only brings the beginning of a plot formulation and a vision of characters in action. The writer dreams. The characters do the work. All of the doors are open, now that the imaginaries, the counter-factuals are employed in full force.
Next step, if you want to think more about this, consider the swarm of bees example, also from Godel, Escher, Bach.