Our "eureka!" moments are a literal burst of mental energy emerging from calm. Recent research shows that the two main steps in the problem solving process, analysis and insight, use completely different parts of the brain and rhythms of thought. Brain monitors show that epiphanies arise from relative quiet in the brain, followed by a flash of activity.
I sometimes close my eyes for a brief moment when I need to think really hard. Why?
Since about 90% of the brain's input is visual information, I sometimes need to turn off the giant firehose of noise to clear my thoughts and invite the muse.
Reading the research helped me assess my own quirky methods, which people have politely asked about over the years. I try to be very conscious of the shift from analysis to insight. First, I evaluate and synhthesize information, then I try to figure out what to do with it. I find analysis and insight to be related like a house and its foundation, useless without each other and made of really different stuff. I try hard to tune into the shift between the two modes-- they even feel different. Analysis feels like seeking, a hot pursuit of knowledge, a process of elimination and inclusion, of making contextual choices on a path. Insight feels just the opposite, like receiving, a cool process where ideas arrive.
When I make the shift from analysis to insight, I deliberately quiet my mind, step back from the facts, and set my intent to create. I invite new thoughts and try to wait for them. This isn't always easy, as I'm not especially patient.
"Eureka" strikes, or it doesn't. If I'm alone and tackling more complex issues, I am more patient. Often drawing maps of the concepts helps.
Sometimes I want to shout, "Hurry up, damn muse!". But, shockingly, that doesn't really seem to help. And when insight does arrive I fight my next lovely impulses. Like, "Why didn't I think of that before?!". Followed by the inevitable, "Now I have to make up for lost time, stupid".
I think I need to treat myself better-- and certainly the muses. Good ideas like to be invited, not chased.