I have found myself with an odd obsession. I love creating maps. None of them are spectacular. I am neither an artist nor a cartographer. I am a girl with a fantasy life. I don’t necessarily have any purpose for these made-up worlds, other than to draw my mind and my heart out of the world around me and into someplace far more extravagant, dangerous, and–most of all–rewarding.
I first suspected my obsession earlier this year. I was organizing my notes for the big novel I’ve been working on and had a pile just for map ideas. I was amazed to see how drastically my map had changed in the past two years. My first map was something simple that I was toying with in Paint. The second map was a pencil sketch of the two countries. Somehow, the many ideas evolved into what I’m using now. But in spite of this evolution–and in spite of my whole-hearted conviction that I am currently using the right map–I find that I cannot distance myself from the other maps. I stare at them, wondering what characters and stories exist therein. If I changed the names of the countries, rivers, etc, these maps would reveal an entirely different storyline than the one I’m on now.
But even this is only the tip of the iceberg. Some time ago, I was talking with a buddy of mine who is also writing a story, and one of his characters jumped out at me. I was journaling one night and was suddenly overwhelmed with questions about this character. I would no sooner pen one question, and three more would pop into my head. I scribbled furiously, and somehow the questions spilled over onto the backside of the previous page with coastline and towers and gardens. Before I knew it, I had another partial map of a world I had never dreamed of before. The brilliant thing about it was that it was so different from the world I’ve created in Ae!
Even then, I didn’t realize how freeing the exercise was. It was last night, when I began sketching yet another map, that I realized how relaxing it was. After an hour and a half, I found myself absorbed in another strange world, itching to meet the folks who live there, to explore the Gatewood Forest, to swim in the Juline Ocean with the merfolk, to visit Orlos Hall and marvel at the history of its walls. Of all the worlds I have mapped, this is the one I most want to visit!
And you know…it really is therapeutic. Am I the only writer-wanna-be who gets kicks out of creating new worlds in maps I’ll never write for? For sure, I cannot destroy them. Perhaps one day I will find stories for these lands.