Don’t you just love those flashes of insight, when a new idea gleefully leaps out of your brain all dressed up and ready to party? Wouldn’t it be great if we knew how new ideas happen — how creativity really works? Well, advanced brain research is providing some answers and that’s good news for us as writers. In a nutshell, the split-brain model is obsolete: There really is no right brain focusing on creativity and intuition and no left brain focusing on analysis and logic.
Instead, there is only learning and remembering — “intelligent memory” in which analysis and intuition work together 24/7 to build new ideas. Our brains are like giant warehouses: they constantly take new things in and put them on shelves: breaking down and storing, then searching and combining to form new patterns which we experience as a flash of insight, an aha! moment. A new idea is born through four basic steps:
1) Research and learning: through active study, we gather “examples of history” — bits and pieces of what others have done before and information that seems relevant to a project we’re engaged in.
2) Relaxing the mind: during this stage, we let go and let things percolate, clearing the mind of all expectations and pressure. Letting the mind wander is key: that’s why we often get our best ideas, not when we’re pushing for a solution, but when we’re in the shower or falling asleep at night. Our brain is relaxed enough to search and combine ideas and let our intuition work, instead of narrowly focusing on a particular problem.
3) Flash of insight: in this step, our mind takes what we’ve learned and combines it with what we already now to create a fresh new idea — our aha! moment.
4) Resolution: our flash of insight is compelling enough to push us to act on our new idea despite any obstacles that may crop up.
Comforting to know that both sides of our brain are actually on the same page, isn’t it?