(for all you “anti-canon” folks and similar, this applies just as much to making tables of possibilities and similar as it does to describing places and things. just saying ;p)
Because every once in a while I get asked how I make things, and — leaving aside that analyzing any of my creative impulses is a foreign country for me anyway, it would boil down to the following:
01. Read. Read a lot.
And I do mean read. Not watch Youtube videos or tv shows or Tiktoks. Put the words into your head. Go back and re-read parts. Chew on them. Mull them over. Compare them to other things you’ve read. Don’t be afraid to return to the material again and again, especially if you enjoyed it the first time.
02. I mean read non-fiction.
Stuffing more rpgs/novels/plays/manga/comicbooks/whatever into your skull shows you how other people implemented their ideas but it doesn’t give you where all that stuff came from. Read about the world; read about things that exist in the world (and beyond the world, for that matter). Which brings us to
03. Read non-fiction widely.
History textbooks are all well and good *glances at part of shelves* but you want more than that. Read anything and everything that looks interesting. Read about plants, animals (living and dead and very dead), rocks and stones; read about food — where it comes from, how its made, what’s eaten or not and why and how it got there. Bathing habits to bees, textiles to tombs, fossils to flowers, soil to space.
An illustration: the holidays are basically when my collection gets notably expanded, because I ask for books. Topics of the 2021 holidays include but are not limited to the Old Kingdom Egypt Pyramid Texts, the use of specific (author-selected) colours in art, an overview of 7000 years of worldwide jewelry, and the sociocultural and political history of the potato outside of the Americas.
The more you take in, the more you can send out.
04. Read outside your own experience.
Go beyond your own country, your own ethnicity; go beyond the modern era. The world’s a big place, it’s always been a big place. Check it out.
05. You don’t need to own it to read it.
In these benighted pandemic times, it can be tricky, it’s true. Nonetheless, a library is your best friend if you have access to one — wander the stacks, see what catches your eye. You might be surprised. Interlibrary catalogues and loans can bring sources to your fingertips that your local library doesn’t have. Many library systems are also online, now, so you can at least browse the catalogue from home (and often arrange book pickups).
If you have access to — or can have a sit-down in even if you aren’t registered (pandemic situation allowing) — a college or university library, these are also excellent sources of often very specific books. I’ve chased down my own copies of texts I used to read to death from my university library.
And that’s basically it.
Yes, yes, I haven’t said what to do with it all — that part I can’t help you with beyond “enough stuff in your head means inspiration to make your own stuff”. (I did say that analyzing any of my creative impulses is a foreign country for me.)
But seriously, this is my advice.
Reading up on all the cool stuff that has existed prompts me along. Maybe it will for you too.