It’s probably my nature being a librarian that I over-research my creative writing. To the point that although all three of my current projects have fantastic elements, and I’d be perfectly within bounds to world-build from scratch, I’ve spent countless hours pouring over academic reference works on fairy tales and folklore.
I approach writing the same way I do cooking. That is, it took Alton Brown teaching me about the science of how food works before I felt confident improvising recipes. In writing, I research and research and then research a little more, read the material repeatedly, spend time letting it all marinate in my brain, then throw it together and see what sticks. It’s not that I’m creatively incapable of thinking up ideas, but I like the organic, “true” feel I get from pulling things from sources. In particular, I feel it gives my fairy stories depth, rational systems of magic, and a rich historic texture.
Then again, it’s always a danger to spend so much time researching that I’m not actually writing anything. I’ve had to convince myself that I don’t actually have to spend a few months on a large sailing vessel to convincingly write a few ship-related scenes. I’ve also had to realize that if I’m stalled on a particular project because of research, then I need to be writing on another project. Hence the reason I have three projects in the works–one needs much plotting but little research, one little plotting and a little more research, and one that needs much research and much plotting. There’s always something I can be fiddling with in my head.