Creative Strategy
March 24, 2021

Aha moments of insight are more likely when we are resting our brain rather than focusing.

Open Reference

There is a myth that artists can do some magic that others can not.  But what appears as magic is a gap in understanding; we don't see how a thing happens, so it must be magic. The real trick is working day in day out to make progress, have a strategy to do creative work, and put it into the world when we don't feel like it.

I hunt for these aha moments of design magic by gathering all my information on a topic, then going on a long walk, letting everything simmer.  With a little luck, some new ideas will arise.

To oversimplify some second-hand brain science on aha moments: Most of the time, we are in focused mode; the brain is in beta mode and is taxed by focusing; this is why you feel tired after a long day of concentrated work. When you relax, your brain enters alpha mode. Relaxing recharges proteins in the brain so it can make better connections. Sometimes when you are in alpha mode, your brain will move to gamma mode, a moment lasting a few seconds when the brain waves move at a fast rate. Gamma mode is when Aha Moments happen.

The general idea is that aha moments are more likely when we are resting our brain rather than focusing.

This takes patients and feels more like a practice than work, but I can confirm this approach works well.  I think with practice, we can all learn to do this type of magic.

When people don't see the process and only the result, it sometimes looks like magic.

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