Orson Scott Card likens writers to fishermen. He claims that they are constantly walking through life, or sailing to be consistent with the analogy. And, he says, writers should always keep their nets ready to catch ideas.
The world seems to be full of ideas. The oddest things will start my brain going, working out a new story idea. Oftentimes these don’t end up being new stories entirely, but rather new parts to already existing ones. Keeping my net down helps me flesh out my world.
Why is this, though? Perhaps it’s because experiencing a fully fleshed out world (the real one) helps in my quest to expand and explain my own fictional world. Obviously, I can’t create a complete world. Even Tolkien, with all his world building, left questions unanswered. Middle-earth may be realistic, but it isn’t real, and one of the greatest signs of this is that there are gaps in the world.
Granted, those gaps don’t hurt the world–rather, somehow they actually help the world. But that’s another post for another time.
The point is that experiencing a full world gives me something to strive for, and ideas as to how to get there. The sea of ideas that is reality has spawned many story concepts. I find that when I’m looking for those moments of inspiration that crop up in everyday life, writing and brainstorming becomes, in general, easier.
This also goes back to the idea of the quote I posted a few days ago on reading. While the point of the quote is that reading good and bad books helps us identify whether our own writing is good or bad, doing that same thing has also helped me find the gaps that need to be filled in my own world. And, in a non-plagiaristic way, of course, it helps me fill those gaps.
How? Ursula Leguin said “There is a limited number of plots. There is no limit to the number of stories.” By watching what master writers have done we can find ways to fix and improve our own writing. Not by stealing, but by learning and observing.
If Card is right that the whole world is a sea of ideas, then why wouldn’t we let down our nets as often as possible? Why wouldn’t we try to learn from other’s writing?
If the world is a sea, and the sea is of ideas, then I know that I at least need to go fishing in it more often.