My mail carrier holds onto my copy of The New Yorker to read it before delivering it to me (ha, ha), so I always get it late in the week. Consequently, I’m always a little behind on what’s going on in the magazine (by the time the Barack-Michele Obama cover issue arrived at my house, the news cycle had already moved on). But I would like to recommend the “The Eureka Hunt” by Jonah Lehrer in the July 28, 2008, issue. It’s about how the brain works to give us sudden insights, and much of the research seemed to me to be relevant to the creative process.
Here’s an excerpt:
“The insight process, as sketched by Jung-Beeman and Kounious, is a delicate mental balancing act. At first, the brain lavishes the scarce resource of attention on a single problem. But, once the brain is sufficiently focused, the cortex needs to relax in order to seek out the more remote association in the right hemisphere, which will provide the insight. ‘The relaxation phase is crucial,’ Jung-Beeman said. ‘That’s why so many insights happen during warm showers.’ Another ideal moment for insights, according to the scientists, is the early morning, right after we wake up. The drowsy brain is unwound and disorganized, open to all sorts of unconventional ideas. …”
It’s all fascinating. For ages I’ve been solving writing problems in the shower or right when I wake up. Guess I’m not so special…just another typical biological specimen.