I would often get the following advice from writing coach and thefeistywriter.com founder, Marni Freedman, especially when I was feeling stressed, flustered, and blocked-up in my creative process: take some time to dream. And, of course, it’s great advice and something that I feel like I used to be good at, before I actually became a writer (but more on that some other time). I want to write about the dreaming, because it’s important and it’s something that we often overlook, especially as we get older, and life gets in the way of us exploring our creativity.
A great way to dream that specifically relates to your world-building is to place yourself in your novel. I know that writers have been doing this since Neanderthals were etching charcoal fanfic on the walls of their caves, but sometimes it’s worth remembering those things that seemed to come so naturally to us when we were just baby writers. Dreaming lets you get inside your world from your own point of view (no messy unreliable narrators to worry about) and gives you a chance to explore.
I usually create a persona to delve into my writing, and you might want to try this, too. Maybe you want to be like Melisandre from Game of Thrones, or like Q from Star Trek. I prefer to cast “myself” as someone superhuman so that I don’t die. The worlds we build as writers can be scary, and I’m not about to go running around a place I’ve created without the ability to cast a magic shield or blink into another realm. Save the problem-solving for my actual characters; I’m just there to hang out.
Now you can travel in your world and really explore. Sit down with your characters and read their fortunes in the campfire. Eat the food they’ve made. Do battle with your main antagonist using your Red Lady magic. Maybe you’re writing sci-fi, and you’re an outer-space trickster god who’s posing as a spice merchant and has a chance encounter with your protagonist at a docking station. Let yourself go. Be whoever you want to be and do whatever you want to do, as long as you’re paying attention to your world while you’re doing it.
It’s up to you if you want to take notes on this kind of stuff. Obviously, you’re not going to use other people’s characters in your work (unless you are writing fanfic, I guess), but it’s safe to write down what you’ve discovered about your world and your own characters in the process. In fact, that’s the whole point!
So get out there and dream! Finding time, though…that’s the Holy Grail of writers everywhere. If you’ve got that one figured out, feel free to drop me a line. I’ll be here, dreaming about dreaming.