What's The Big Idea?

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Do "AHA" moments really come out of nowhere?

Like other wild minds out there, my creativity is off the charts, as people tell me. I like to draw on quirky instincts to come up with unexpected ideas (that probably comes from my "out of the box" start in the world.)

More like "in the box" since that's what prison is. I write about this in my latest article for Hyphen Magazine: Asian America Unabridged.

Along the way, I've developed product lines and ideas, dumped some, sold some, stored the rest, moved on, started over and created more, with some new ones upcoming. But not all ideas stick. Where do these "Aha" moments come from, these flashes of light when we know that a creative idea is a hot one?

The research I've read about creativity and how our brains work confirms what my instincts have told me all along. The more we keep our minds prepared and open to creativity, the more those flash eureka moments come about. While some people are more creative than others, I, like many people, approach problems in two different ways. One is the analytical way, and the other is waiting for that AHA moment.


I've come to believe -- and I know there's research out there to back this up -- that our frame of mind, our brain's state, sets the stage for how we're going to solve a problem.

While some people are wired to analyze a problem with a methodical approach, others will problem solve creatively.

There's a time and a place for everything. The analytical plodders have their place. We wouldn't want a surgeon to wing it and wait for creative inspiration. And the creative "whatever happens' approach doesn't exactly work in accounting and personal finance. That'd be one messy financial statement!

Lucky me. I get paid to be creative. It usually flows for me like a gushing river after a storm, while other times, just a trickle eeks out. I credit my ability to float in many worlds as a multiracial person for helping me look at the world in new ways with a fresh perspective every day.


The most satisfying Aha moments are the ones that pop up, unannounced. New ideas can come in spontaneous moments. The back and sides of our minds are powerful spots for unexpected inspiration.

Look at Archimedes, the Greek philosopher and mathematician who lived over 2,200 years ago. The legend goes that he'd been ordered to find out if the king's crown was pure gold without melting it down. One day he stepped into the bathtub and noticed the water rise as it was displaced when he lowered himself into the tub. It is said that in his excitement he ran out of the bathhouse and yelled, "Eureka!" In Greek it means, "I found it!"

His creative solution crept in at an unexpected moment. He may have used his principle of displacement and buoyancy to determine whether the crown was less dense than solid gold.


From experience, I've come up with five tips for everyday living that can help inspire our flashes of imagination that can lead to creativity - Aha moments:

• Find quiet moments to shut everything down.
• Save time in the morning for a stream of consciousness to take notes on whatever comes to mind. No judgment. You never know where this stream can lead you. Jot notes rather than think.
• Keep a way to record your ideas in the moment, whether in the car, by your bed, in your briefcase or bag. Notebook, scratch paper, recording device, anything to make sure you don't lose a word or phrase that you want to develop later.
• Have someone to spring your ideas off. Other people will surely offer a new perspective.
• Keep an eye and ear open for quotes, images, headlines that can buzz your brain with new ideas.

All in all, pay attention to life and stay open to new possibilities of being in the moment. It's not about forcing our Eureka moments. It's about making room for flashes of inspiration.

You'll be surprised what can happen!

What do you think? Post your comment below.
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This is another Musing for Mutts Like Me.

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Email: deborah.kjs [at] gmail [dot] com