It has always fascinated me that ideas can somehow just ‘pop’ into my head. Creative thoughts, insights into situations, or even solutions to problems can just suddenly appear to me. It’s the light bulb going off in your head. It’s also called an epiphany.

Everyone knows that when you’re obsessing about something and hit a brick wall, you should give your mind a break. You should do or think about something else. After that down time, you’re more likely to see things more clearly. You may even have that “Eureka moment” when a full-blown idea just comes to you. Apparently Paul McCartney ‘heard’ the complete melody of “Yesterday” in his head when he woke up one morning.

Scientific research has been done on this type of epiphany. “Eureka moments are associated with a distinctive burst of high frequency activity in the brain’s right temporal lobe. This burst of activity is preceded by a brief ‘brain blink’ during which a person is momentarily less aware of his or her environment.” John Kounios, “Eureka! Yes, Eureka!”, New York Times, Sunday, June 11, 2017.

So this is a real, physiological phenomenon! But there are two factors that must exist to allow for this to happen. One is that a person must be in a positive, relaxed mood. Anxiety is not conducive to any kind of creativity. The other is that the idea must be based on new connections between things you already know. These insights can’t come out of nowhere in a vacuum. The elements of your ingenious thought must already be floating around in your brain somewhere.

This explains why ‘sleeping on’ something stimulates the light bulb effect. You know, when you go to bed thinking about a problem and you wake up with a fully formed solution. That’s because the relaxed brain during sleep is fertile ground for the Eureka Moment spurt of brain activity.

Very often, when I’m writing a blog or a script, I wake up with phrases or ideas or edits that had eluded me the day before. I keep a pen and pad next to my bed so I can write these things down before I forget them. That’s part of my writing process.

It’s nice to know the scientific explanation for why these mini lightning strikes happen so often. It’s also nice to know that Eureka moments will keep happening. Without them, writing would be much more difficult and far less inspiring.

Categories: Anecdote, Ellin Curley, Humor, intelligence

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13 replies

  1. Someone who wrote beautifully about this Ah Ha moment and its happy or less happy consequences is Elizabeth Gilbert in Big Magic.
    She believes (like you) that in order to respond to the idea that pops in our mind we must be open and ready to embrace the creative work ahead of us. She also thinks that ideas are in the air (I do too) and believes that any idea wants a response. If it doesn’t find it with you it will move to someone else.


    • Elizabeth Gilbert’s ideas are beautiful. I love the concept that ideas are just out there waiting for someone to pick them up and run with them. Maybe that’s why two people can get the same idea at the same time.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I had a eureka, or lightbulb moment, just the other morning. I, too, ‘heard’ the complete melody of “Yesterday” in my head when I woke up. 😀 I was just a couple of years too late. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ellin, I guess most of us have had our Eureka moments and when it comes in the night, if you don’t write it down, it’s gone just as quickly. That is really annoying.


  4. I think a lot of it has to do with being married long enough and well enough that you are in a kind of mind meld. It’s way cool, when it happens.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Garry and I have collective aha moments. I know so do you and Tom and it’s very cool when we look at each other and we know we’re thinking the same thing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Isn’t it cool that your brain can do the work for you while you sleep? It still amazes me though. And sometimes the answer comes to me in the middle of the night and I have to write it down or it’s gone by morning!


    • A joint ah ha moment with your spouse! Is that like an intellectual version of simultaneous orgasms?


  6. Oh, I hear this one. It happens so regularly it’s become second nature. Let it go after a certain amount of energy has been expended, and by the next morning the answer is right there.

    I always have this image of someone knitting furiously while I sleep, and in the morning the Good Fairy has left me a perfectly knitted solution.

    Liked by 1 person

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Tish Farrell

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