For me, it happens simultaneously. I can't have a plot without a theme or theme without a plot. They are of equal importance to me, which is why I start writing only after I've figured them both out.
When I think about what things I would love to see in stories and that I should have great potential for interesting tales, those that come to my mind are things like "realizing your own limitations lets you reach your full potential", "good intentions with unrestrained ambition are the source of great horrors", or "accept your losses instead of sacrificing what you have left in vain".
It's only not worth it if you don't write it. Otherwise, it is. It might not turn out very well, but you wanted to tell a story and you did, so there.
I don't think we're ever trapped. We might be bored, stumped, or distracted, but never trapped. We can always blow it up, tear it down, start all over again. Or any of a thousand points short of that. The one that nags at me is the fear that the tearing down and rebuilding will take so long that one of those other things (bored, stumped, distracted) will bring me to a dead stop. When I get to feeling that way, I remind myself I spend several years on Goblins at the Gates in every one of the conditions just mentioned, but I still finished it. That gives me renewed confidence.
It does sound more like a dislike for planned stories in general. If discovery writing works for you, go with that.
Here I'm taking a few liberties - the OP will have their own ideas about what kind of fantasy they want to translate it into - but I'll go with the basic high fantasy sword and sorcery setting.
A story should probably have more than one theme?
"realizing your own limitations lets you reach your full potential,"
And he immediately sees young males, in their twenties, on the brink of venturing out of magic collage into the 'real' world... This would be a fascinating story!
I see a female...
Can you elaborate on this a little more? What do you mean by "placeholder"?
After re-reading a couple of times, I think I get what you meant. I kept everything somewhat abstract and generic because I wanted to ask about general processes or approaches, and not be someone who comes "Help write my story for me!" It also probably makes threads much more useful for other people researching similar obstacles in the future.I would proffer that, at least for the sake of conversation, the OP may be trying to shift from theme to plot and character and all too early in the thought process. Take more time to explore your themes and follow them wherever they lead you.
stop the spirits of nature from constantly tearing down the creations of mortals
Their function in society is to check if newly discovered ruins are a threat to the growing city, to look out for useful magic left behind when they were abandoned, and to interact with the spirits and supernatural creatures that could come out of the woodworks as the city expands.
feel this is a really solid and strong idea.