Friday, February 22, 2013

The Flash of Insight

A little over a year ago while I was recovering from my car accident, a former student of mine who was visiting me gave me the book Imagine by Jonah Lehrer.  While it has been criticized for his fictionalized interviews with Bob Dylan, nevertheless, the book is still a great look at the creative process.

Here is a presentation the author gives on Vimeo.

Jonah Lehrer on Genius from The School of Life on Vimeo.

What I like about this presentation is when Lehrer talks about the breakthrough moment.  Now that scientists have been able to predict that the flash of insight (or epiphany) moment is preceded by up to 8 seconds in a particular spot in the brain by alpha waves, Lehrer notes that an artist's laser like focus on obsession with caffeine actually doesn't help them arrive at their breakthrough moments.  What is the best indicator for alpha waves leading up to an epiphany?


Lehrer reasons that this is why so many good idea come to us in the shower (or as Steven Johnson has found while artists and scientists have been out for a walk or doing some other activity other than focusing on the solution).

This made me smile and recall how often when I'm writing, especially in college, just as things were coming together, I would feel this innate urge to take a break and go for a walk around the library or down to the student union for a game of Galaga.

Here I thought I was procrastinating at the most crucial time.  Really it was just my brain trying to help me have a breakthrough!

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