I remember sitting down and world-building for the first time. I was probably around 10, sitting at the kitchen table with my crayons and paper and drawing Magical Horse world. By the time I could work Microsoft Word, I used clip-art boxes to make different rooms for various building’s layouts. Eventually, I upgraded to creating magic words and phrases inside notebooks.
It doesn’t surprise me that I started with maps and words. It shouldn’t surprise you either. I did it because Tolkien did it. I first saw Peter Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring when I was about 9. And for a long time, he was the only fantasy author I knew. So it’s no surprise that my worlds needed to include the same thing his world did: maps and language.
Well, I’m here to tell you to ignore that.
When you’re world building, flesh out what’s important to the story and what you’re passionate about. Tolkien loved languages, so his stories are full of them. I love literature, art, music, religion, and gender roles, so my worlds are full of those. I might address that there’s different languages to add realism, but I don’t bother developing them because it doesn’t interest me. Any language I invented would be as uninspired as I felt about creating it. And it would show.
I’m not saying to ignore it if you’re not passionate about it. If you think a map helps your story, then add it! I usually do. Fill your world with the detail and cultural aspects needed to bring it to life and tell your story. Just don’t feel like you have to spend tons of time on language and maps because Tolkien did, or any aspect because some other author did. Dig deep in what interests you, because if you’re passionate, it will show and your readers will be passionate too.