The first known Eureka moment is the stuff of legend: It happened in ancient Greece when Archimedes was about to bathe. Discovering a core principle of physics, he ran naked through the streets of Syracuse shouting, “Eureka!”
“Ah-ha” moments – what a gift they are! Here are a few more to inspire us all:
The Beatles’ Song “Yesterday” – According to his biographers, Paul McCartney composed this melody in a dream at the home of his girlfriend at the time. When he woke up, he rushed to a piano to play the haunting tune so he wouldn’t forget it.
Einstein’s Theory of Relativity: His mind-blowing brainstorm descended upon Albert while he riding a streetcar in Bern, Switzerland. As he gazed out, he was struck at the sight of a medieval clock tower. In that moment, he realized that time can unfold at different rates depending on how fast one is moving.
TV’s Invention: As a teenager, Philip Farnsworth was plowing a potato field when he suddenly realized how television could operate. The back-and-forth motion of the till in his hands inspired him to imagine how an electron beam could scan images line by line – and the first grainy TV sets were born.
Velcro’s Invention: One day in 1941, George de Mestral took his dog for a walk in the woods. Later he noticed burrs stuck to his pants, which stubbornly refused to budge. Curious, George managed to dislodge a few and looked at them under a microscope where he saw that the burrs had tiny hooks that had attached themselves to loops of thread on his pants. He contacted a Lyon fabric maker, and a business was born. “Velcro” is a portmanteau word combining “velvet” and “crochet” – French for hook.
As writers, we too, are inventors. Like the intrepid creative minds giving birth to these wonders, we see what other people don’t – or won’t. Our field of inquiry is human behavior and the unpretending beating of the human heart, but the same “ah-ha” principles apply.
Consider these stories – what threads do they have in common? Relaxation – most of the discoveries occurred in moments of repose, when minds were wandering. Curiosity – instead of letting the moment pass him by, Paul was intrigued enough to capture a melody at his piano and George’s interest was piqued, so he looked at a burr under a lens. Non-judgment: Open and observant, no one dismissed a wayward idea that floated up in their mind – instead, they pursued it to see where it would take them.
Relaxed, calm awareness. Endless curiosity. Observation without judgment. We can bring all these to our writing today and invite our own “ah-ha!” moments. Write on!