“What do you believe about the process of writing (as in, creating worlds and putting them down on paper)? Do you think it’s even more a ‘spiritual’ or ‘soul’ thing than a brain thing? How do memories and opinions and dreams and hopes and desires (etc.) affect this process?”
I didn’t really “discover” writing as a creative process until I went to a little university in Texas. I had a professor there who had a strong love of words (her doctorate is in rhetoric!), and I was forced to write a LOT. Academic writing is, of course, different from other forms, but I grew to develop a process and discipline for combining words to form sentences and convey meaning. When writing for assignments, I was forced to write even when I didn’t want to, but I think that my best work was when I was truly invested in the result. I could turn out “A” papers in a very short amount of time, but those last-minutes works, unless heavily coffee-induced (more on that some other time), often lacked something…
I’ve never finished anything more than a short story, so I’m not sure how much I can speak to the world-creation of the greater writers of Faerie and myth. I have tried to understand, relate, and at times even emulate, but I have come to the conclusion that a truly great story is the result of either a time of fantastic inspiration or a lifetime of work. (I expressed something on my attitude towards writing here, but nothing in too much detail.)
That being said, I do think that a good or “okay” story can be built from the processes of an analytical brain. The greatest writers are often geniuses in their own rights, but the best and most well-loved stories in the world are those that draw us as readers into the story and prompt us to connect emotionally with the characters and happenings. I think that the sort of writing which causes us to love, hate, pity, and generally empathize is drawn from something greater than “brain-work.”
I think that truly great stories require both a great deal of logical talent and a healthy dose of spirit and emotion. Most people are not drawn to a story on robots, unless those machines are trying to become like people. We may find a textbook on rocks fascinating, helpful, and informative, but I think that we very rarely connect with it on an emotional level.
I think you might find the concept of mythopoeia or “subcreation” interesting, if you haven’t read on it before. It was a concept popularized and promoted especially by Tolkien, who has written what is, in my opinion, one of the greatest modern fantasy stories. The personal experiences (dreams, opinions, etc…) of an author always play into his writings, whether he means them to or not. When an author has experienced a trauma or a triumph, she has experienced the depths or heights of emotion required to convey the same in a character. In the same way, authors can use their experiences with the real world to create something unreal, even surreal.
So, in short, I believe that writing requires a holistic attitude and complete concentration of creativity. Technically-poor writing can harm the presentation of a good story, and a perfectly-written, drab story is not worth the bother of receipt!