Quickie drive-by posting before I get back to the complexities of meat. The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating piece about new research into how we experience “aha!” moments of insight. (The article carries today’s date, but it wasn’t in today’s print edition, so it may be in tomorrow’s “paper.”)
The reporter interviewed a number of neuroscientists and other researchers who are studying how the brain makes connections and solves “problems.” The general drift is that
Taken together, these findings highlight a paradox of mental life. They remind us that much of our creative thought is the product of neurons and nerve chemistry outside our awareness and beyond our direct control.
Several points worth noting. First, one of the interviewees defines the “aha!” moment as including the usual suspects: Waking up with the solution to a problem that’s been bugging you. Driving down the street thinking about “nothing” and suddenly solving a problem. Etc. But the “problem” can also be something you don’t yet recognize as a problem, including
realizing that a friend of yours is not really a friend.
I’m glad to know that because I experienced precisely just that kind of moment a couple of years ago. There was no triggering “episode.” Indeed, my flash of awareness came in the middle of an otherwise pleasant visit with a group of friends. We were all just sitting around talking and suddenly, wham!, I realized that one of them was not only not a friend but was using me in a nearly malevolent way. (I know; I know. How could I NOT know such a thing?)
Anyway, the article also confirms what I’ve known for years: I do my best work when I’m not trying. Eg, when I’m walking, daydreaming, laying on the floor staring at the ceiling, thinking about “nothing.”
All of my book ideas, for example, have come to me in flashes from nowhere. So. Enough from me. Go read the article!
Tip o’ the mug to Jennifer Gilmore, via Twitter (@jenwgilmore). I loved Jennifer’s first novel, Golden Country, and am looking forward to her next one, which I hope will be out soon.