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When and Where Inspiration Strikes

Updated: Jun 26

Princeton scholar Julian Jaynes, the author of THE ORIGIN OF CONSCIOUSNESS IN THE BREAKDOWN OF THE BICAMERAL BRAIN,  reminds us that Einstein had many good ideas while shaving. He also quoted a British physicist who maintained that many great scientific and mathematical discoveries have occurred in bed, in the bathroom, and while riding on a bus. Henriette Anne Klauser also writes about this in her excellent book, WRITING ON BOTH SIDES OF THE BRAIN, which I highly recommend. I think both authors  were expressing the idea that ideas pop into our imaginations when we’re quiet—for example, when awake in the middle of the night or while taking a shower or riding on a bus (car or bicycle).  Both authors are making the point that the right side of our brain is the source of creativity and intuition but is dwarfed by the left side of the brain, which specializes in organization and rationality.  In the West, we live in an extroverted culture where the left side of the brain is championed because it loves data, facts, and sequential thinking. But when we’re in a quiet atmosphere, the right side of the brain has a chance to speak. It’s as if it admonishes us, “Finally, the noise has stopped so you can hear what I’ve been eager to tell you.” Recently on Facebook, I asked writers where they’ve been when an idea has popped into their heads. It’s amazing how many responded that ideas have appeared when they’re awake in the middle of the night or engaged in a quiet, methodical activity like doing dishes.  Along these lines,  the inspiration for my books has often beckoned when I’m kneading bread dough, riding my bike, or experiencing insomnia. Often the title appears first in big letters, as if newly engraved in my brain. When this happens, I’m challenged next to come up with a story to go with the title. For example, this happened with the titles SKELETON HICCUPS, 100th DAY WORRIES, HOORAY FOR READING DAY, and THAT’S GOOD! THAT’S BAD!  As for my new chapter-book series, ADDY McBEAN: NUMBERS QUEEN, the idea for the content actually came before the title and happened while I was standing in line at a grocery store. I’d like to thank Karen Rostoker-Gruber, who for a while was in the same writer’s group as me, for suggesting the name Addy for my main character—a perfect moniker for an 8-year-old math whiz. So, once inspiration strikes, don’t hesitate to brainstorm with friends while creating content—which might be a subject for my next blog!

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