A way with worlds: 12 – Finding Inspiration by Steven Savage of Seventh Sanctum

We’ve all had those moments where we’re just not inspired, or worse, inspired but its just not working. Actually, as authors we probably feel we live in permanent writer’s block with moments of actual writing.

In world-building, we have those moments of loss too, and they’re strange ones – we know we’ve got a world, but there are these huge blanks. We know something goes there, but it stubbornly refuses to fill in.

Or perhaps you just feel uninspired. You kinda are building that world, but the mind’s sluggish, the ideas aren’t there. You need a kick-start, and you’re not sure you’re ready to kick. You could fill in your world, but . . .

When I need inspiration, here are sources I use. In fact, I indulge in them regularly just to keep my mind going. They’ll help you build a world, and help keep the old bean primed for world building at the same time.

And, of course, they’re all fun. Otherwise, what’s the point?

THE HISTORY CHANNEL:
(http://www.historychannel.com/)

Don’t laugh.

The History Channel, if you get it, is one of the Holy Grails of world-building inspiration. Complimented by its web page, its a cornucopia of inspiring and interesting stuff. Forget the boring classes in school – this is the real deal, a channel with a sense of humor that delivers heaping helpings of history for all.

You can see shows on weapons and the military, strange events, food, and just about anything else. You’ll learn a lot, you’ll think about a lot – and you’ll get ideas on how to fill in elements of your world. Sometimes you can get questions and answers at the same time. Watching the History of Drinks alone made me think about the frontier world I designed.

Me, I use this as a default viewing channel when I’m bored – it usually doesn’t take long for my mind to get going and for stuff to start happening in my world..

OTHER TELEVISION:
There are other television channels that I find can be inspiring and informative for world-building:

DISCOVERY CHANNEL, LEARNING CHANNEL – Enough said. Everything from science to disasters to history can get you thinking, while medical shows can make you never want to eat again.

PBS – Don’t laugh, there’s plenty of interesting stuff on PBS. I’m especially fond of Rick Steebs shows on traveling in Europe – his tales of different cultures and traveling between them really makes you think.

Sometimes I surf among the various information/science/education channels when I need to get my mind going. I can usually find something to catch my attention and eventually get me thinking.

DISCOUNT BOOK STORES AND DISCOUNT RACKS:
You’ve seen them; stores that sell used books or over-ordered books, and racks of books some book stores need to dispose of. Some may seem them as sources of cheap gifts or a hope to find an usual book – I see them as idea sources.

These are the lottery of weird ideas, stuff you’d never think of buying, but now can, and do so at a low price. If a book looks interesting, you can pick it up and not spend too much money. You can find things you’d never look for purposefully leaping out at you. Just browsing can give you a host of ideas.

You can also find some unusual or unexpected reference books at these places, especially in the Discount Racks. A Dictionary of Symbols may not be something you seek out – but it is useful in creating cultures. I also collect books of facts, history, etc. – books filled with bite-sized bits of information that can send the imagination flying.

And, again, its cheap.

THE INTERNET:
Yes, you’re using it now. Yes, I’m sure you’ve surfed when bored, but have you used the net to improve your writing and get inspired?

I find the internet is also a good place to get inspiration and ideas for world-building. Among things I do now:

Do searches on cultural issues I want to study (which is how I got information for religious practices in my own original world).
Bookmark pages with cultural, historical, religious, technical, etc. references I can use when I have questions to answer or I want to surf around and get inspiration from.
Surf randomly around really unusual webrings and see what I find and what comes to mind.
It sounds strange, but I find a lot of net-enabled writers don’t use the net for research and/or inspiration, at least to the level they could. My basic rule in research – assume it’s on the net somewhere, somehow, or a way to get to what I need to know can be found there.

THE LIBRARY:
Enough said. A good wander through the stacks (especially a big university library) is a great way to get your creativity and world-building skills flowing.

And, its cheap 

FELLOW WRITERS:
Hopefully you have some. If not, find some.

People are the ultimate resource – you can bounce ideas off of them, shoot the breeze, and have fun as well as get your concepts together. A good dialogue over some pop can do wonders for a dead-in-the-water inspiration.

Form relationships with people, online and face-to-face, if you really want to write, and if you want to get your imagination going. Help them out and they’ll help you. A cheesy movie and a friend can do wonders.

Good sources for making writing contacts:

Listservs (http://www.onelist.comhttp://www.topica.com/) – join one or form one. Its easy to do.
About.com (http://www.about.com) – Various groups, issues, etc. from specific subjects to regional places have their own web pages and groups.
Local bookstores, writers workshops, and events. Many bookstores I go to have events, message boards, and even web pages to help you meet fellow writers. Again, perhaps you can do something on your own.
Libraries and campuses sometimes have workshops, events, and non-student or all-come classes.
Besides, making friends and connections is fun. Go for it 

IN CLOSING:
Well, that’s all I have to say for this column, a rather free-form one I admit, but one I hope helps you out!

Take a trip to my own alternate world, the Crossworld of Xai, at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/xai/

Copyright© 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 Steven Savage, sffworld.com. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author.

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