One of the insights I had regarding a hobby of mine was that the exploration of imagined worlds with a critical mind often opened my eyes to the wonders and horrors of "the real world."
Since one of the things I like to strive for in my writing is verisimilitude, it's depressing how much time I spending researching on the net (and wondering about the veracity of my sources) before writing my story and then realizing that despite my fascination with my researched material, most of it ain't makin' it into the story.
I suppose, however, that it helps that my own mind doesn't complain too much about various questions (what do you feed your mutated tamaraw? what are the underlying principles of reality that can be represented by waveforms? are there special spiritual dangers that ordained female exorcists would face?) by knowing enough that I can extrapolate somewhat.
One other thing that happens is being caught by these same stray questions when driving, crossing the street, or reading an article in a magazine. You being searching for the stories hidden in the tentative swerve of a Revo, the embarrassed smile of a toothless man offering you a handbill, and the frozen half-grimace of the latest ingenue to grace the magazine covers.