The Writer’s Eureka Moment

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Sometimes it’s writer’s block, sometimes mental exhaustion or impossible expectations, that drag us to a standstill. A lethargy sets in that smothers ambition and overshadows everything with its ‘I’ll-never-get-out-from-under-this-cloud’ sense of gloom. If you haven’t experienced it, you likely know others who have.

The thing is, it feels as if it will never end, but it always does.

If we’re writers, we’ve struggled for hours, days, maybe even months, to find the key to some plot dilemma. The harder we try, the farther success retreats. The brain is funny that way. It taunts with a conviction that we’re doomed to fail.

When we refuse to be overwhelmed by discouragement, refuse to give up, we inch forward with increasing momentum. We find other places for our minds to dwell while the subconscious works on the problem, until…

Eureka!!!

Endorphins release the elusive creativity… or some similar momentous action occurs. That’s my take on it, anyway. I’m not aware of any scientific explanation for why the brain suddenly allows an idea to explode out of the suffocating grey matter into the bright light of inspiration. I don’t need an explanation. I know it happens if I allow myself a smidgen of optimism and a large dose of patience.

How would you describe that moment of revelation? Where are you at present: nearing a breakthrough, streaking along in the light, or still trying to shove the cloud away?

Never fear. The light WILL shine through.

~  ~  ~

“Remember me in the light of your unfailing love,
for you are merciful, oh Lord.”
[Psalm 25:7]

~  ~  ~

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17 thoughts on “The Writer’s Eureka Moment

  1. Laura Best says:

    I very much like those Eureka moments we experience. As you say it’s remarkable where those sudden thoughts come from, but I can say right now I’d certainly appreciate one of those Eureka moments. I’m sort of at a standstill having just completed another manuscript. I’ve lots of ideas but haven’t started to put anything down. I’ll keep waiting!

  2. laurahartson says:

    love that pic of the sun shining through!!
    http://sandbetweentoes.wordpress.com/

  3. I love the Eureka moments, too. Don’t get nearly enough of them and tend to feel bogged down under clouds waiting for that fragment of sunlight to peek through.

  4. lauradroege says:

    I’ve had a breakthrough on two WIPs. The first breakthrough came when I realized that I needed to rip apart my 2nd novel at the seams. (I blogged about that one.) What I didn’t mention in the blog post was my eureka moment about the 1st novel, the one that I’ve been sending to agents. I’ve learned so much in writing Novel #2 that when I looked at the opening of Novel #1, I saw so many weaknesses that I hadn’t seen before. (Yikes, I thought, have I been sending THOSE first 5 pages with my query letter?!) Back to revisions. So 2 eureka moments in one week. That’s enough for me.

  5. Ryan says:

    Here’s a nice little tool that I’ve developed to help break writers block.
    http://ideagenerator.creativitygames.net
    It’ll deliver you a set of random words and images that you then seek to find inspiration in. Quite a few writers like to use it for writing flash fiction too.

  6. Erica Vetsch says:

    That moment is always such a relief!

    I love the pictures you used to illustrate the post today…but then again, I always love your pictures. 🙂

  7. Katt says:

    I wonder which came first, the picture or the idea? Love this analogy—and those “eureka” moments.
    You are absolutely right when you state that sometimes they are forever in coming. My best advice came from Stephen King’s book “On Writing” where he suggested to throw the manuscript in a drawer. When I first read it, I thought that would never work for me. But guess what?! Not only did it work once, but I’m still using that trick today.
    Great post! (as usual)

  8. doreen says:

    These moments usually come to me very late at night and if I do not take advantage of the moment it will flee…

  9. Brooke says:

    I’ve been in that grey, cloudy place for a couple weeks. And partly I know it’s due to an extremely busy time at my paying job:) But oddly enough, when I gave myself permission to just let my words alone for awhile, stop mentally picking on myself and focus on what my job demands at the moment – – I had a flood of ideas. I’m jotting them down in my ever present notebook knowing my busy time at work will end soon and the writing will flow again. Thank you for your wonderful, encouraging words, Carol.

  10. What great comments to get the morning’s conversation under way! I’m still nursing my morning orange juice, trying to jump start my brain.

    I certainly relate to Doreen’s comment. My best thoughts seem to appear in fragments during those just-dozing-off-but-not-quite-asleep moments. If I’m too far gone to make myself get out of bed and write them down, they’re gone in the morning.

    Erica – ‘Relief’ is almost an understatement when the wait has been an eternity! 🙂

    Laura B, Cathy, Brooke and Katt – I think stress is the enemy of creativity. The harder we try, the less likely an idea is to blossom. Being easier on ourselves, backing off and allowing for pressure-free reflection can sometimes accomplish far more than continuing to strive.

    Laura D – Congrats on *two* recent breakthroughs! Those kind of revelations can be discouraging, but it’s wonderful when they send us back to the page with renewed determination.

    Ryan and Laura H – Thanks for visiting here. I really appreciate your comments. I’ll have to check out that idea generator. Sometimes inspiration needs all the help it can get!

  11. I killed my characters last weekend and my nonstory. But then had such eureka ideas while driving the second car home (3-1/2 hours). So frustrating to not be able to start writing!

  12. joylene says:

    Just today I admitted to a friend that I was exhausted and completely shocked that I’d let myself get this way. Sometimes things happen that you can’t control and you just have to go with the flow. I’ll be fine. I have a loving husband and a cyber-neighbourhood full of wonderful friends. Not to mention my oh-so-wonderful bed. I love my bed. Did I mention I love my bed?

  13. I’ve heard of lightbulbs going off in lots of places, Sandra, but on a 3+ hour drive is a new one to me. I’ll bet you wanted to pull over and make notes!

    Joylene – You have every reason to be exhausted… your book launch and a week-long tour, Vera’s passing, cleaning her apartment and organizing her memorial service… so much stress! You’ve been coping because you had to, and now your system is telling you it’s depleted. Be good to yourself for a while. Get lots of that much-needed sleep! The light will return one morning soon.

  14. karen evans says:

    Ha, maybe I need to add some endorphines to my diet, so the muse will strike again. 🙂

  15. Love this post! And Eyore is one of my favorites–he’s fun to laugh at, even when he hits a little close to home.

    I would call that moment a harvest. You plant, you water, you sweat, and just when it seems you’ll never see a crop, you awaken one day to find your field is full! It amazes me every time. But I have to plant, water, and sweat…

    Did you take the photo? Excellent!

  16. S. Etole says:

    Wonderful light breaking through in that dark forest …

  17. Not sure what the muse feeds on, Karen, but anything’s worth a try! 😉

    Jeanette, the harvest is another great analogy… that, and all the work that goes into a successful one. And yes, that’s one of my photos… taken from our back deck.

    Thanks, Susan. I noticed it the other evening and had to grab the camera.

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