With bardcraft, there’s an obvious inclination to focus on output. Here I am, writing a blogpost… But, to have the output be good, we need to spend as much time as we can listening to and reading other people. Our own perspectives are inevitably limited, and the more time we spend finding out how things look from other perspectives, the better.
Listening and reading protects us from using cliches and stereotypes. It is easier to get away from tired pop-culture habits if we know more about a greater array of people. By listening and reading we can hopefully spot our own prejudices and assumptions and learn to do better.
Social media is brilliant for this. You can follow people with first hand experience of pretty much anything, and learn from them without creating any kind of burden. Learning when not to comment, when to stay silent and read/listen is a powerful skill, too. Finding the limits of what we know, and the points at which we aren’t qualified to say anything is valuable self knowledge.
All too often, creators write fantasies about other people’s lived realities. This is enabled by hiding behind the idea that imagination is everything. All too often, the people who get the high profile creative jobs are white, male, cis, straight, affluent, able bodied and comfortable. Popular culture has far more representation of what this demographic thinks other people are like than it does authentic representation of people. Most of the world is not middle class cis straight white men.
I’m entirely in favour of imagination and making stuff up. However, the more we know, the better a job we can do of that. Imaginations are not harmed or limited by exposure to facts and other perspectives. Feeding your brain information will stimulate your imagination, not hurt it. To imagine from a place of insight and understanding is far better than to just recycle whatever dubious ideas you have unconsciously absorbed from whatever is around you. The person who does not undertake research in a deliberate way is more likely to unconsciously repeat cliches and prejudices.
There is honour in being well informed and creating good representation of everyone who isn’t you.