Monday, August 4, 2008

Eureka or That Aha Moment

I just finished an article in the July 28th New Yorker called "The Eureka Hunt" by Jonah Lehrer. It was a fascinating article about how the mind processes sudden insight (right brain) and analytical (left brain) thoughts and ideas. Joy Bhattacharya, a psychologist at Goldsmiths, University of London, found from subject studies that alpha waves emitted from the right hemisphere typically correlate with a state of relaxation; hence relaxation makes the brain more receptive to new and unusual ideas. Following that train of thought (no pun intended) one of the best times for creative thought is just before you awaken, when you're half asleep - fuzzy-headed.

Also, more studies by other experts support the notion that in order to solve a problem, it might be beneficial to take a walk or break away - let the mind wander. I've been known to do this when I'm writing and am STUCK. For instance, a while back I had a particularly good idea for a short story when I was walking in the desert. As I glanced up and saw those awesome hills looming ahead I had a sudden "brilliant" idea for a story. It was good enough to place me in the finalist category: short memoir in the PNWA literary contest in 2007. I didn't know what I had done was just what I needed that day - to be in a different place with nothing in particular to think about.

So don't feel guilty if you stop writing to clean out the lint filter in your dryer, or make a cup or tea or watch the squirrels run up the trunk of the pine tree in your back yard. You may get the inspiration for the next great novel or an invention that will change our lives forever.

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