maxim maps

a public thinkspace for me, usually worldbuilding related :)

At a young age, I started drawing. It quickly became foundational to my self-image: I was the artist in my friend groups; I took drawing and painting classes in my community; I created little characters and comic strips. I loved it. I thought of myself as, and was called, a creative kid. I devoured works like Calvin & Hobbes, SpongeBob SquarePants, and Avatar: The Last Airbender. I dreamt of creating worlds and telling stories, but I didn’t know how to do it—I just liked to draw.

In high school and college, drawing remained part of my identity, but I was drawing much less. Instead, I was asking what I wanted “to do” as an adult, and where art fit into that. Eventually, deciding I would combine art, science, and education, I went to a liberal arts college that specializes in interdisciplinary work.

During my sophomore year of college, I did well in a writing seminar and unexpectedly found myself working as a writing tutor for the rest of my schooling. Writing was suddenly part of my identity—worse, it was in my job title. It felt strange to say; was I a writer now? I thought I was an artist.

For the first time, I was writing a lot, and I was thinking about writing a lot. In college, I wrote lots of essays, and I also journaled a lot (mostly in word documents), and during a time of great change in my life, I found that writing was a new way of thinking for me. Thinking was never my strong suit; I’ve always felt there is too much noise in my head to be able to do much reasoning in there.

When I write, though, thoughts flow with ease from my fingertips to the keys—maybe too much ease, as I’m always left with a jumbled heap of disparate paragraphs. As my writing mentor in college liked to repeat, however, writing is rewriting, and by editing and rearranging my stream of consciousness, I could suddenly give structure and rhythm to what only ever used to be noise in my head. Still, though, I didn’t do much “creative” writing or storytelling in my writing—it was more a tool for thought.

Two years ago, I started playing Dungeons & Dragons, and quickly adopted the elusive helm of game master, or the one who runs the game and tells the stories. I started creating settings for my friends to play in, and before long my creations started to come together and I found myself orchestrating a complex world of places, languages, and timelines. In the last five months, I’ve written more than 50k words in my world, and it has grown beyond what the format of D&D can hold. In addition to my world almanac, I’ve also started blogging about worldbuilding.

This month, I suddenly felt an intense urge to siphon this creative energy into my art and create my first-ever longform comic, a graphic novel set in my fantasy world. It feels like the first time I have coupled writing with art in a big way, and I’m kind of amazed at the ease with which the words are flowing from my fingers again.

I’m reminded of a quote by Bill Watterson in one of his Calvin & Hobbes anthologies, something along the lines of “I think I learned to be a writer so I could draw for a living.” 1. Here’s to hoping.

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I grew up pretty online. I spent a lot of time on Neopets, Yahoo Messenger, Runescape, and Club Penguin, with some dabbling in AOL messenger, as a child and tween, if that tells you anything about my demographic. Later on, throughout my early teens, I spent a considerable amount of time on MOCpages.com, a now-defunct social network where kids and adults shared LEGO creations. A little later I started spending time on DeviantArt, and at some point during middle or high school I got on Facebook and to a lesser extent Instagram and Tumblr.

Then, in college, I fell off of all social medias—because for once I felt socially satisfied and nurtured where I was. Within a couple years of graduating, I had deleted pretty much all of my social media accounts. Not coincidentally, this was during a time in which I started learning about surveillance capitalism and how companies use and sell our data. I started researching privacy-friendly alternatives to major websites and programs.

In the last year, while I have continued to adopt more secure internet habits, I also decided to return to social media.

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Sometimes, like tonight, when I want to worldbuild, I sit down not knowing what the hell to write about. At times it's overwhelming, trying to build an entire world out of nothing.

So instead of worldbuilding fun lore like I want to, I turn to my impending tabletop sessions for inspiration and see what I need to prepare for them. In today's case, I needed to write a letter that my players would find addressed to an NPC they fought. When I was writing the letter, I instinctively went to put a date at the top—and then I wondered what date I would put.

A fantasy calendar

While I knew that months like “September” sure as hell didn't exist in my fantasy world, I've been loath to implement a calendar in my tabletop sessions that my players would have to learn. But I needed to put something down, so I turned to the calendar I had worked on in the past, based on the International Fixed Calendar: 365 days = 13 months of 28 days, + 1 special day at the end of the year. Pretty cool, right?

Right, I guess—but today, I thought: not cool, fuck the IFC!

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Lore for Paiat usually comes out of a need to create content for my players. I have always struggled with decision paralysis, writer's and artist's block, fear of the blank page, etc, but worldbuilding has been very exciting and rewarding because I have had less of an issue with that. It's still a challenge, but I often have more ease creating because I have a deadline and an audience in the form of my tabletop RPG players.

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I’ve NaNoWriMo’d it! In the span of three or four months, I've reached about 50,000 of my own words in the Obsidian vault for my worldbuilding project, Paiat. It has been my most rewarding and exciting creative project of the last year, and I’ve had a blast. The world is getting pretty big now, though, and I am hitting the point in this project where I'm asking myself the why??s.

Why make a world at all? Well, that one is easy; I wanted to create a setting for my TTRPG sessions separate from existing worlds where I had total flexibility and creative power. Plus, it's fun. I still reach points of depression where I ask myself why I'm doing this at all, but it's fairly easy to find my way out of that one—the project of worldbuilding is a transfixing game, and it makes me happy.

But then there are more complicated questions, like

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It's 1:30am here, in my bed, and I should really be going to sleep. I'm logged into write.as for the first time since I discovered it about a year ago, and I'm having fun exploring Musing Studio's various projects. I don't remember what pointed me toward this site again, but it was nice to stumble back upon it, and it feels more attractive to me now than it did before.

I find the idea of publishing writing on here really exciting, and I hope that I can use this space to journal and share ideas. I have been writing a lot this year—mostly for personal creative projects, which I'll talk more about—and it has been great for my happiness and general thinking. I'm not sure what this space will become (in most scenarios, this would be my only post to this site, ever), but I hope to use it more.

I have been using obsidian.md for nearly all my writing for about four months now, and I have been having a blast using it (check it out if you're not familiar!). It feels very conducive to the way I think and has helped me organize my thoughts in ways I didn't think I could. (It can't be done! they said.) The link-based nature of the Obsidian vault felt like a game changer for me, and it made writing feel much more approachable. This platform, however, feels much more linear in nature (like any blog I suppose), so I imagine that my hopes for it will be pretty different. Heck, I don't even feel compelled to proofread this.

I've been using Obsidian mostly for creating and detailing my fictional world Paiat, which I started doing for Dungeons & Dragons games I have been running for friends in recent months. While I have also been putting lots of work into comics, animation, and other artwork this year, writing and worldbuilding have felt like my primary creative outlets, and it has been exciting and refreshing.

I hope to use write.as to share more about my experiences writing, running games, and worldbuilding—and probably some other life and work stuff, too. In this way, it will perhaps be more of a diary of my experiences of and questions about creative ventures than a showcase of the creative projects themselves.

I'm not sure who I expect to be here. If you're on this page, thank you for reading! Please, share your thoughts :)

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